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feeling this

Watching Aidan grow up. He’s 12 now. Saw Linklater’s Boyhood. Feeling this…

cabin dreams underway

So the day has come! We’ve been planning for our log cabin project for a while now—well for about 20 years actually; however, we’ve been making the dream a reality now since June 2011 when we purchased 40 acres of northern woods just outside of Marquette, Michigan. We had taken a road trip the summer before through the UP and fell in love with the place. After a year of searching, we found our land and have been trying to move a building project forward ever since. There have been a number of challenges and delays. We had to work with our neighbors (whose private property we cross to get to our land) for deeded easement rights over their property. It took a while to build some trust there, but in the end they were very gracious and granted us these rights in perpetuity.

[singlepic=1225,300,center]Print of Camp McGuire

We then had to figure out where we might build on this chunk of wilderness. While it’s a nice 40 acre piece, there are really just 3 and a half acres that are “buildable” in any sense of the word, as the rest is cut off by creek and granite ridge. We decided that if we moved the existing road back away from the creek, we could open up a nice building site for our cabin so that it would overlook the creek nicely and give us a little privacy from the road (a private dirt road that sees maybe 3 cars a year). We spent about a year trying to get permission to cross about 30 feet of land owned by a timber company in order to avoid unnecessary hairpin turns in our rerouted road, but they were not very reasonable, so we thought hairpins are fun.

There was some significant delay in getting the required permits from the DEQ to lay a temporary bridge to cross the creek on the way in. (The existing bridge wouldn’t take the weight of the construction vehicles.) Dan from Oberstar was really helpful in this matter. He contacted a logger he knew who had a bridge we could use, worked with an outside consultant to write the permit application (apparently it’s got to be just right for the DEQ, and it isn’t cheap), and consulted us on how to make it all work within our budget.

The fun part has been working with Hiawatha Log Homes out of Munising. We’ve been designing the cabin with them all the while we were working out the many other details. Garrett from Hiawatha has been great. He helped us take our vision and adjust in such a way that it made good building sense and became financially feasible for us. On July 23rd, they delivered the logs to our property.

Finally, this July, everything was in place and we broke ground. First the road—a bit of a challenge given the rocky terrain—and then clearing and excavation for the cabin foundation. Days later, Scott, our builder from Northland Builders had the foundation and subfloor in place with his crew stacking the walls the next day. How exciting! It’s underway. We hope for the exterior cabin to complete by November.

love, canine style

A few weeks ago Chris and I got it into our heads that it might be a good idea to get a family pet—a dog. I’m not sure exactly what we were thinking. At first, I was totally against it. A dog?! Ahh, man, I didn’t want to have one of those “dog houses;” you know the  Briggs, our New Friend type–hair everywhere, scratches all over the floors, the persistent stink of dog at every turn. And then there’s the yard–patches of yellow from concentrated dog piss, piles of poop awaiting the unsuspecting shoe, craters of mud where the neatly manicured lawn once grew. But then Chris wore me down.

I started looking at the photos of the dogs available at local shelters and rescues. I got my mind wrapped around it. Aidan had been asking—despite his mild fear of dogs. We thought this would be a chance for him to overcome this fear, to learn responsibility, and to have a truly loyal friend and companion growing up.

After much searching and several visits to adoption events, foster homes, shelters and rescues, we found Briggs (formerly known as Pilgrim and then Copper). We found him through the All Herding Breed Dog Rescue of Illinois, and first met Briggs at the home of his foster family. We arranged the meeting and spent a good bit of the afternoon getting to know him at their home. We threw the ball with him (fetching came preinstalled), fed him treats, walked up and down the street, talked with the family to learn more about his disposition and overall personality. It was clear that the foster family loved him very much. In fact, it was their intention to adopt Briggs (they called him Copper) but as it turned out their older Lab didn’t like sharing their attention and the match wasn’t quite right.

Once we decided to adopt Briggs, I could sense the mix of feelings coming form his foster family. While they were happy to find him a good home, they didn’t want to let him go—especially the college-age daughter. She would always dress him up in different colored bandanas, cuddle him like a child, and love him like her own. As we stood their in the driveway and the family said their goodbyes, it was hard. Clearly they loved him so much. We asked if they wanted more time or if maybe they wanted to reconsider, but they said no and assured us that it was for the best at that they were just happy that we could provide a good “forever” home for him. We were sure going to try our best.

He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.
– Anonymous

So, it’s been about five weeks now. Briggs is getting adjusted. He’s so smart. I got a few books and do my best to work with him everyday to keep him learning and stimulated mentally. We plan to enroll him in some training classes at the end of this month. Briggs is coming along just fine, but I’m not sure we can say the same for Aidan. About a week or two back, Briggs found his voice and now will bark on occasion. His barking sends Aidan into a panic; he runs squealing from the room or—believe it or not—scrambling for higher ground atop our kitchen table. Briggs, of course, finds this alarming and so barks more; thus begins the cycle. Aidan skulks around, scurrying here and there, which kicks off Briggs herding instinct and he begins to bark at the unusual little “calf” running about. Aidan squeals and runs, Briggs barks more and chases him, and on and on. This may sound a little amusing, but it’s actually quite troubling and is causing all kinds of stress. We’re hoping either Briggs and/or Aidan adjusts to one another soon.

I, for one, would hate to give Briggs up. First of all, I would feel like a complete failure contacting his previous foster home and telling them it didn’t work out. But more significantly, I would certainly feel the loss of a truly loyal companion and good friend. I’ve only known Briggs for a little more than a month, but we’ve really bonded. He is a smart, loyal dog—always so happy to see me. We’ve become fast friends, running partners, confidants. I know I sound like one of those crazy “dog people” now, but what can I say, he won me over. I just hope he can do the same for Aidan.

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