FLD Gus travels restfully, as long as he can get out of the van periodically to "park." Everything works out because we need to stop every hour and a half so Andy can walk around (in avoidance of future blood clots). This routine lengthens our northern-route-drive through the U.P. to Green Bay, Wisconsin to visit Andy's grandkids, but we don't mind. Little traffic, snow-covered woods, and ice flows lapping the waters of Lake Michigan make for a beautiful journey. A snow-squall here and there south of the Bridge is the only menace to road conditions; sun and blue skies bless us west along U.S. 2.
We stop at a family restaurant just outside of Manistique for lunch, where we were welcomed with FLD Mike last summer during our family camping trip. The long and narrow dining room is cheery with homemade Holiday decorations. Scissor-cut snowflakes dangle on fishing line from the ceiling, sparkly stars are taped to the Christmas-light-ringed windows, and green or white mini-pine trees stand guard next to crafted wood condiment holders at each table.
I worry that FLD Gus will keep me busy settling him after five hours in the van, but, as usual, he surprises me. This scary-smart puppy always seems to know that when he's working, he has to behave. Gus lies down at my left side as soon as we take our seats at the small square table in the middle of the restaurant. He is the main attraction to the few diners and staff this quiet Sunday afternoon.
"Do you know how hard it is for all of us right now?" the waitress says as she brings us our menus. "We are dog-lovers here and we all just want to get down on the floor with him and snuggle him up."
I'm not anxious to ruin FLD Gus's good behavior just yet. You can pet him when we get ready to go, I respond.
"Oh no," she says. "I know he's in training. We want him to be a good dog for someone one day."
Over 400 miles from Leader Dogs for the Blind downstate in Rochester, Michigan and we find an educated public!
We decide to stop at Green Isle Park and hike the East River Resch Family Trail with Gypsy and FLD Gus before arriving at Chris and Rachelle's, who not only have two boys, Keegan and Alec, but two small dogs as well. Remember my post "A Tired Puppy is a Good Puppy?" We don't want to start our visit with a bad first impression!
A mile slug through typically deep Green Bay snow and we succeed.
Chris meets us in the snow-blown driveway with a trembling Brecker nestled in his arms. Brecker is a black, three-year-old Cockapoo. Inside the front door, Rachelle cradles Chloe, an apricot 13-year-old Malti-poo. "What should I do?" Chris asks as I put a rearing FLD Gus into a tenuous SIT. Give me a hug! I reply, and just ignore him for now. Merry Christmas greetings for all the humans; after a few moments, FLD Gus settles and we enter, both dogs controlled on leash.
Big and little dogs hold a wary distance, and no incidents mar the rest of the evening.