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  • Pup was our first dog as a family. The island had emptied that November, after hunting season. Carly was not yet two and a dog seemed to be the answer to a winter alone on a small island. Carly and Claire picked her out at the SPCA, a wriggly, black lab cross with some kind of coonhound.

    Never being much for names she was a pup and Pup she was. She was loyal, determined and stubborn. Fine characteristics in a dog but not without their drawbacks.

    I felt strongly that a dog should have its own bed. Downstairs.

    We had a huge woodstove but only spruce to cut for firewood. Fires burned hot and fast. It wasn’t an issue. Wood was free except for the cutting and hauling and we didn’t have plumbing so no need to worry about pipes freezing.

    Each night when we blew out the lamps, Pup watched us with mournful eyes from the bottom of the steps. The loft was warm and she knew it. Every morning we came down to a minefield. It was appalling the amount of shit that came out of that one young dog.

    I gave in first. Pup stretched out with a sigh on the bed. From then on she was housebroken.

    Going ashore is a big event when you live on an island without roads, ferry or wharf to land supplies. In the winter we went off about once a month when tide and weather cooperated. Every bag and box had to be rowed ashore in the punt and hauled up the beach and then in a cart up the hill.

    Pup loved the water but she was a miserable passenger in a rowboat. There was no way I was going to haul a dog back and forth each trip.

    Pup's misery at being left was tremendous. Monumental.

    We tried locking her in the house the first trip. Got back to a ransacked house and a door half off its hinges and decided she’d do less damage outside.

    After that she followed us down to the shore and swam after the boat as we putted out of the harbour until the engine warmed up enough to get to a cruising speed.

    I couldn’t bear to look back at her little black head bobbing above the chop, her face earnest and hopeful beyond any human measure. Finally the needle on the temperature gauge would shift from 0 and I cracked onto the throttle. The big diesel roared and Pup swam in a wide arc back to shore.

    Shook herself.

    Sat back on her haunches and howled her rejection and bitter disappointment to the universe and trotted back the long road to the house.

    Carly had a set of Chiquita banana stuffed animals. Banilla Goat, Banocerous, Banelephant…. They were garish and bright. A grandparent gift.

    Every time we returned one of the poor bananimals would be ripped to shreds and scattered across the rough field around the house.

    Pup stood in the wide open, big back door until she was sure we had seen her waiting and then launched herself off the little deck. Tail high, grinning. Welcoming us home.
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