Listen Now
Pledge Now


 
 

Lady and the Scamp # 2 - Cilla Walford

Travels with Sarah - Part 2
 
Sarah-the-dog loved me long before I learned to love her. I had not realized the depth of her love for me until the spring morning I left her outside the May Day Café under the supervision of the outdoors coffee drinkers while I went inside to buy a cup of tea and a pastry to share on our walk. When I came out, Sarah squirmed with relief on seeing me again. She was still learning that when I left her, I would always come back. 
A woman sitting at one of the outside tables said: “She adores you” as I gathered up Sarah’s leash. “Yes,” I said, “she does” not feeling totally appreciative yet of that burden. As I walked Sarah to Powderhorn Park, I reflected on the commitment I taken on, because clearly my son’s dog had become my dog. The love of a dog. And how long for? Ten years? Sarah ran ahead sniffing the park’s aromas. As I waited for her to nose at the pee stains streaking the exterior of the nearest garbage can,  and lift her leg to pee up as far as she could, trying to emulate the big boys, I thought: Ten years of this is going to be a very long time.
 
Of course, it wasn’t only ten years of just sniffing other dogs’ pee, although there was a lot of that. In fact there had been fifteen years of walks, and morning tea and Digestive biscuits in bed together, and sitting together on the couch reading, or her sitting at my feet while I wrote, and both of us frolicking in the snow and the autumn leaves and flopping in the shade on hot summer days or swimming together in a lake or the St Croix River, when l decided that now Sarah was getting so old and infirm, I would take an unpaid sabbatical leave from teaching, and spend as much time with her as I possibly could during her last months. I would find that camper van I’d always wanted. We would take a road trip.
 
Ever since I was a child and my friends and I were allowed to sleep in a caravan kept at the bottom of the garden for visitors, I have always wanted to live in one. One of my life’s ambitions was to travel in a small camper van and wake up to a different view every morning. Sarah was already a good travel companion; she loved the car and would sleep on her bed on the front seat while I ran errands. In between errands, we’d stop at one of her walk spots; the Witch’s Tower at Prospect Park, or down by the Mississippi River, or any of the green spaces that abound in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. By this time I was single again, my son was grown up and off on his own, and Sarah and I drove around in an ancient red Mazda Miata. We enjoyed puttering around with the top down. Every early summer I would load up with plants from the garden center and drive home with Sarah surrounded by flowering annuals. Later, she would nibble compost and chase squirrels while I planted.
 
When I bought a 13’ Scamp fiber glass trailer in the spring of 2013, I was fulfilling an old dream.
 
The Scamp became part of the garden for a couple of months while I looked for a car to tow it. My friends would visit and drink tea in her. Sarah and I took afternoon naps in her. Gradually I learned the Scamp’s systems which became less arcane one by one: how to fill the water tanks. How to switch from the 250 volt system to the 12 volt one. How to turn on the propane tank. By the time we were ready to leave on an exploratory road trip, we were both seeing the Scamp as a home from home.
I booked a camping spot for July and August at Grand Marais in northern Minnesota and kitted out the Scamp with new cushion covers and blinds.
Journals, books, laptop, art materials, tea and tea kettle, Digestive biscuits, Marmite and other essential provisions, dog food and clothing were all packed away. After a lesson in hitching up the trailer and towing (I never did get the hang of reversing it) Sarah and I set off to spend the dog days of summer on the cool shores of Lake Superior.
 
The Scamp, Sarah and I are installed in Grand Marais Recreation Park and campground. My neighbours are from Texas and have a 25 foot long top-of-the-line Safari Airstream trailer. The Scamp looks absurd parked alongside; a small, grubby, off-white fibre-glass nobody next to the gleaming aluminum superstar. They are all married couples around me with monosyllabic names; Bob and Shirl, Don and Pat.  One of the husbands has promised me fresh fish the next time he takes his boat out. They are all being very nice to me, the single English lady with the elderly black dog. The woman across the way (new Airstream also) greeted me when I arrived with, “The regulars are glad that you have a small rig; you won’t block our view.” My view is blocked by her humungous Toyota pickup truck, but that’s OK; I’m the newcomer here and grateful for the little patch of scenery I can see between the trucks and the pine trees of the vast lake.
 
Lake Superior stretches away and around and across over to Canada in a great swath of ever changing color; sometimes pewter like the North Sea off the East coast of England where I spent my adolescence, sometimes emerald, sometimes various shades of white or blue. On the shore line, tethered boats rock in front of a sea of pick up trucks, SUVs, and Rvs; trailers with canopies and porches and front gardens and outdoor carpeting and barbecue grills and gadgets: all the paraphernalia of grownups’ playthings. For this campground is a giant playground full of thousands of dollars worth of toys. It is Shangri La.  Everybody is on vacation and there is the unhurried atmosphere of people with not much to do. People stop and chat, admire the dog, comment on the smallness of the Scamp. She is a minnow among Leviathans here; a tiny fish. A Scampi.
 
 

Listen: