On the Road Again, Caleb’s Western Tour

Our Guide Dog pup travels four states, sniffs a T. Rex and turns one-year-old
By Megan Minkiewicz, September 2011

It’s 8:02 on a Friday night, we are in a hotel room in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and I am the only one still awake. We have been on the road for a week; Caleb is officially a road warrior. Last Sunday, we packed up our car and headed west. A few years ago, my husband Alex went on a fly-fishing vacation to a lodge in Montana and had an amazing time. Since then he’s been trying to work another trip into our schedule and really wanted me to join him. I agreed on the condition we take Caleb with us; I don’t fish so I figured I’d need a buddy to hang out with for the 12 hours a day Alex and the other guests were on the water.

We mapped out a route that would allow us to stop and visit Alex’s parents in Boise before continuing on to Twin Bridges, Mont. I wanted to make sure none of us were in the car for more than six hours at a time day. It worked out perfectly: Each travel day was about 300 miles or less. Caleb was excellent in the car; he slept or chewed on one of his many toys. We stopped about every two hours for a stretch, walk, potty and water break.

Overnights in hotels are a breeze for him. As long as he’s got us, a bed and his meals, Caleb’s a happy pup. When we finally arrived at Healing Water Lodge, we all knew the drive had been worth it. Beautifully manicured grounds, a vegetable garden to die for, perfectly appointed rooms with plenty of room for Caleb’s giant crate, a gorgeous dining room and a pond complete with a resident beaver!

Caleb was welcomed with lots of love from the guests and staff and was part of every activity, from long walks and outdoor adventures to cocktail hour on the sun porch and gourmet dinners in the dining room. We hit some local museums, shopped and took a ton of photos. We spent a day in Bozeman with a friend and her two lovely Labrador ladies. Before heading back to the lodge, we made a visit to the Museum of the Rockies, where Caleb came face-to-face with some very large dinosaur bones. I am happy to report not once did he try to lick them.

The highlight of the trip for me was the opportunity to take Caleb out on a drift boat for a day of fly-fishing. We’ve spent a lot of time going with Alex to fish the streams and rivers around our house, but it means just grabbing a camp chair and setting up with a book on the water’s edge. Caleb had never been on a boat and frankly I’d never been on a drift boat trip but Alex’s guide, Cassandra, and the lodge, were phenomenal in coordinating this little family outing for us.

Caleb is comfortable enough around water I figured he’d do fine but I wasn’t prepared for how awesome he was. Within minutes of me putting him in the boat he was resting at my feet watching the world go by. Occasionally, he’d sit up or rest his head on Cassandra’s seat to see what was going on. We stopped on banks to let Alex work the water and land some fish, giving Caleb some time to explore and enjoy the scenery. We did have to raft through some small rapids but Caleb was fast asleep so he missed it completely.

By afternoon Caleb and I were relaxing in the boat while Alex was landing fish after fish in a small riffle. After a while, Cassandra brought over the fish for me to see and photograph. Guess who wanted in on the action? Caleb. We introduced him to a brown trout. He was not aggressive or overly interested; he sniffed, gave it a quick lick and looked back at me for approval. Since it’s all catch-and-release, no fish were harmed in the experience. Here’s a video glimpse:

This trip really solidified how grown-up our pup is. We’ve given him just about every opportunity to experience life as a working dog. I can confidently say Caleb has handled everything thing we’ve put him up against. We are getting closer to his recall date and know we probably only have a few more months with him. His first birthday is this week. Happy Birthday Caleb, you rock!

Megan Minkiewicz has raised six puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Over the next year and a half, she'll write about her adventures as a volunteer puppy raiser for The Bark blog. She lives in Bend, Ore., with her husband Alex, a Quarter Horse named Chip, and a one-eyed goldfish named Flobie and Caleb.

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