…Going North

By Lisa Littell

“Are you going to Canada this year?”  This is the most frequent question I receive this time of year.

I first went to Canada at the tender age of eleven in 1988.  I remember each part of the trip to the Epp dog camp as if it were yesterday.  Which is pretty good considering I probably couldn’t tell you what I did yesterday.  I remember driving across the prairies with my dad and brother, wondering if we would ever get anywhere, but not minding the ride.  Passing the hay bales and Saskatchewan Wheat Pool elevators, miles of nothingness interspersed with small towns. When we got to camp, Ed, Roy and Ray were working on building a new barn that still stands today.  We rode all day and took breaks blessed with moon pies and peanut butter.  When it came time to leave, Dad carved my name and the year into a tree and took my picture.  I had tears in my eyes, holding on to the tree in a vain attempt to stay with it forever.   There has not been a year that I have left Canada without a tear in my eye.

I did not make it back until 2000, this time I got to drive.  Stopping in Rend Lake and crossing in Portal, anxiously awaiting seeing camp again for the first time in over a decade.  It looked exactly the same.  I made it up again in 2004 and 2005 where I got to go to the Mortlach trials.  Can you really lose a dog in all of this open country?  Yes, you can.  Hay bales and valleys begin to run together, and the vastness of the land plays tricks on your eyes.  Donna Eastmond, who lives on the grounds told me that I would never get lost if I followed the power lines that run parallel with Highway 1.  Mazie Davis taught me that if I was way out scouting and found the dog on point, and the handler could not see my hat in the air, to run around in circles and they would come running.  

Watching the pros and running with the amateurs, all a family in this great wide open have given me fond memories and bonds that I will never forget.  There are not enough words or pages in print that can fully tell all of the stories, smiles, heartaches and victories that deserve to be told of the special journey north.

My last trip to Canada was last summer when I helped Roy and Laura drive up.  I only got to stay at Camp for one day before I had to return to a very successful job interview.  That drive is one I will never forget.  Listening to music, stopping at Rend Lake, running into Ricky Furney and his crew at the old rodeo grounds in Iowa and trying to keep up with Laura through to Minot, and John Neeley’s total amazement at the vast and thriving corn fields.  

Going to Canada is just as exciting as coming home and watching the trailers roll back to the South signifying a start to a new season at home.

This year will be my two year old niece’s first trip to Canada.  I hope her memories will be as sweet.

So, my reluctant answer to the question is, “Not this year, I have to work.”  However, my thoughts and prayers will be going north with every dog, horse, trainer and crew, wishing them a safe and successful summer.  I will be in Alabama, but my heart will be in Canada.  Good luck to everybody and come home to us safely.