During the mega-storm back on July 17, two dogs were lost in the BWCA Wilderness. A collie named Tomah was lost on Brule Lake, and a border collie named JJ was lost on the portage south of Cherokee Lake.
Tomah was found a few days later by members of the Minnetonka High School cross-country team and returned safely to his owners. The feel-good story was reported statewide.
Meanwhile, JJ stayed lost. And here, as Paul Harvey used to say, is the rest of the story:
Rich Werner is an American who lives and works in China. Every year, he returns to Minnesota to visit friends and take a solo canoe trip in the BWCA Wilderness. He enjoys taking a dog with him in the wilderness, so for years he has borrowed a dog from his good friends, Nicole Paradise and Greg Rohleder. This was the third trip that Rich had taken JJ on, with no problems in the past.
July 17 was the day of the mega-storm that included giant bolts of lightning, deafening thunder and torrential rain. Rich and JJ were making their way out of the wilderness on the 180-rod portage south of Cherokee Lake, headed for Sawbill Lake. Partway across the portage, they experienced a terrific flash of lightning with a simultaneous crash of thunder, while at the exact same moment another person came into view on the portage. The combination was too much for JJ and he bolted into the woods.
Rich stayed on the portage for 24 hours, searching and calling in vain for his friends’ dog. Heartsick, he returned to Sawbill, left word of JJ’s loss and headed back to the Twin Cities to break the bad news to his friends and their two children, ages 10 and 11.
Two days later, a canoe party saw JJ on the portage, but he ran off when they called to him. For the next 9 days, no one saw hide nor hair of JJ, and hope started to dwindle for his safe return.
Then, on July 29, a couple day-paddling on Sawbill Lake reported seeing a border collie when they stopped for lunch. They called to him too, but once again he ran off.
The Sawbill crew updated all the social media sites where the family had posted lost dog notices and within minutes, the owners were in their car and on their way north. Early on the morning of July 30, they headed up Sawbill Lake to the campsite where JJ had been spotted.
Meanwhile, two men from Lakeville, Dave Krings and Mike Raub, had been camped on Sawbill Lake for several days. While Nicole and Greg were searching at one campsite, JJ appeared at Dave and Mike’s campsite, about two miles farther south. They recognized that he was probably a lost dog and tried to call to him, but he was wary and kept his distance. They were able to feed him some pancakes, but he turned his nose up at the apples and carrots that they offered, so they cooked up some broccoli cheese pasta. JJ accepted the pasta but wouldn’t let them get close enough to capture him.
Soon, word spread that JJ was at their site, so several members of the Sawbill crew showed up with a couple of packs of hot dogs. By then, JJ had taken off again. Word reached his owners and they came to the site, where they waited and called for the rest of the day with no success. Discouraged, tired and bug-bitten, they paddled back to Sawbill and returned to their lodgings in Lutsen.
Less than an hour after they left, JJ returned to the site. At first he just watched the two men from a rock across the bay, but eventually he appeared at the edge of the site. Dave and Mike patiently coaxed him closer and closer with a trail of hot dog bits. After many false starts, they finally got JJ to enter one of their tents, which they quickly zipped shut behind him. Although he could have easily in there, eating hot dogs and drinking water from a bowl.
The next morning, July 31, Nicole and Greg headed out early and arrived at the campsite for a joyful reunion with JJ. He was in amazingly good shape - his coat was sleek and clean, he didn’t have a scratch on him and he seemed to be in good spirits. Other than a couple of wood ticks on his ears and looking a little skinnier, he was fine.
Nicole and Greg had the great pleasure of calling their children, and their friend Rich, who was already back in China, with the wonderful news.
If only JJ could talk, I wonder what stories he would tell? I know for a fact that there are a lot of wolves in that area, but somehow he managed to avoid them.
Mike captured the moment of reunion between JJ and his owners on his iPhone and you can find it on YouTube by searching for “Lost Dog Reunion 7/31/13,” or go to Sawbill.com where it is posted on the newsletter page. I highly recommend having a hanky handy before you watch the video.
(Photo by Dave Raub)