Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.
Narrated Audio Blog
We were feeling very positive about the future of The Pack Track. Weeti was recovering well from her seizures and was slowly getting back to her old self again. It was only a few months now until we were to depart the America's bound for Europe and we still had so much to see. Our voyage across the Atlantic would be in the Queen Mary 2, the only cruise ship in the world with kennels on board. We had so far booked a single kennel for both Weeti and Shadow, but having lost Cinnamon just after her birth and seeing how distraught Shadow became at this loss, we decided that she should keep her surviving baby. So we booked another small kennel, or more correctly we went on a waiting list but to our surprise we picked up a spot in only a matter of weeks. So our plan was now to have Weeti in a kennel by herself and Shadow and Maple sharing.
But for now we were still in Wisconsin and heading towards northern Minnesota. We were slowly making our way over to Yellowstone while seeing as much of the American landscape and absorbing as much culture as we could along the way. The weather was certainly cooling but we were all warm. Weeti and Shadow had good quality coats and Maple had a pink knitted jumper we bought in a pet shop, but in any case her and Shadow were safely zipped up in their T-Bags Pet Carrier.
One night in an isolated area far back from the main roads, we set up camp. We were without facilities but nothing unusual for us having wild camped when necessary in the past. Early in the morning Shadow woke Janell, Maple was coughing and seemed to have vomited. Dealing with a sick dog was not new to us, but we'd never had a puppy before. At this point we probably should have tried to find a 24 hour vet, but we were in the middle of nowhere. We decided to wrap maple up in a warm jacket with her mum and we went back to sleep. The next morning we were devastated to find Maple's lifeless body. It was heartbreaking, Shadow stood over Maple and looked at us to do something and seemed to not understand why we didn't just bring her back. The feeling of guilt was overbearing, we felt completely responsible in our inaction and that we'd let Shadow down in the worst way possible. Both of her puppies had now passed away under our care. Could we ever forgive ourselves?
We wanted to find a pretty spot to bury Maple and decided to ride until something struck us. We saw a lake approaching on the GPS (Leech Lake) and thought it might serve as the perfect resting place for little Maple, when we realised the name of the road we'd park on was called Maple Leaf Drive we knew it was meant to be. This time we made sure to involve Shadow in every aspect of the burial, she walked with us to the burial site and watched as we dug the hole and placed the little body inside. We didn't rush Shadow, she took all the time she needed to say goodbye before covering her over and placing a mound of rocks over the grave.
We sat silently by the lake for a little while allowing ourselves to begin grieving. We're not sure how long we sat there or who decided we should continue but we returned to riding. We made it barely 20 minutes down the road before calling it quits for the day and pulled into a motel. It was incredible how deeply this little dog had touched us in only 4 weeks. The devastation we felt was so strong, we'd now buried 3 dogs on our travels and each time we relived the previous deaths while also grieving the latest loss. We needed time out to reflect and mourn this loss and thought this simple and insignificant motel served as a good place to hide from the world and so agreed that staying a few nights was in order.
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