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West End News Nov. 10

Homer will be missed at Sawbill
Homer will be missed at Sawbill

Finalcut_WEN_20111110.mp38.9 MB

As of Wednesday, Nov. 9, Sawbill Lake is about 75% frozen over. The shallow bays froze the day before and stayed frozen in spite of a sunny, calm day. At sunset that night, the red sky was reflected off the skim ice and as the temperature dropped we could watch the ice form minute to minute. A nearly full moon allowed Tofte's own filmmaker, Carl Hansen, to film a time-lapse sequence of the lake freezing by moonlight. The next morning, I walked down to the lake early to check on the ice progress and was rewarded by a pack of wolves howling in the wilderness between Sawbill and Alton lakes. Their howling was different than the long howls that we usually hear. It was more like moaning mixed with yipping and barking. Our little terrier mutt, Roy, who normally barks at everything, was stopped in his tracks by the sound. He stood stock-still and stared in the wolves' direction, but he kept his mouth firmly shut. Maybe he's smarter than we think he is.

Wednesday, Nov. 16 is "Minnesota Give to the Max" day. This innovative and successful program is an initiative of the Minnesota Community Foundation. It is designed to bring Minnesotans together to raise as much money for non-profits as possible in 24 hours, starting at midnight Nov. 16 and ending at midnight Nov. 17. This creative one-day event showcases the incredible generosity of Minnesotans. It also highlights the power of raising money for good causes by harnessing the convenience of the Internet. All you have to do is visit the clear and simple website at and you can quickly find information about the non-profits in your community and make a donation by credit card with a few clicks. In this era of declining government budgets, many vital community services are being delivered by non-profits. Quite a few of the non-profits here in Cook County and on the West End are participating. Even a small donation can make a huge difference if we all pitch in. Once again, the website is and the date is Wednesday, Nov. 16.

I am sad to report that Sawbill's beloved golden retriever, Homer, passed away this week. Homer was part of a popular litter that was born at Clearview Store in Lutsen back in 2000. The puppy pen was right next to the store and the puppies got more than their fair share of attention right from the start. In those days, Clearview was the transfer spot for the school buses between Grand Marais and the West End. Every school day when the buses pulled in, all the kids would pile out to visit the puppies. Rules had to be established so the poor puppies wouldn't be literally loved to death. Most of the pups ended up in local homes and a few became resort dogs like Homer.

Resort dogs are a special kind of dog. They receive far more socialization than ordinary family pets. They become the symbols of the resort, star in many photographs, become expert moochers and are generally loved up by staff and visitors alike. They are real ambassadors for our beautiful area and are minor celebrities in their own right. Homer was the epitome of the resort dog, friendly, gentle and reassuring. He was petted so much, that I often wondered why his fur wasn't rubbed off. He inherited the mellow personality that some golden retrievers are known for, but took it to a whole new level through thousands of happy interactions with visiting people and dogs. As one former Sawbill crew member said, "Take away the drool and the smell and you have the world's most perfect dog." I can picture Homer in heaven right now, lying on the porch and having his ears scratched by an angel. Happy trails, old friend.

Don't forget the Birch Grove Foundation dinner/dance fundraiser at Papa Charlie's in Lutsen on Friday, Nov. 18. From 4 until 8 it is good food, good folks and a fabulous silent auction. At 8, the local band, D'Merritt, plays for foot-tapping and dancing. Be there or be square.