Ilze Berzins

Snow finally on the ground. We went for a walk at Thomas Point Beach and visited our favourite band of animals. Folk art... er, chain-saw art is wonderful here. Santa sent Laachuk a brand new leash for Christmas. Good dogs stay in Ottawa, bad dogs go everywhere...

The weather in Maine is unbelievable! Mid November and it's 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Laachuk and 'Mum and Dad' enjoy a day at Popham Beach.

We passed a blissful week at the Driftwood Inn.

Our last night in Spruce Haven cottage was a humdinger. A major storm was brewing and waves of excitement rippled through our little colony. Dave boarded up doors and windows as most of the guests ran for their cars, fleeing to the mainland. But not us. We couldn’t wait for the mother of all storms to hit. Dad said that the Nor’Easter is one hell of a storm that usually comes in winter. Mum went on and on about storms she’s lived through in northern Quebec and in the Maritimes. In short: BRING IT ON!  

In the end it turned out to be a big build-up, but not such a big deal. Sure we awakened to crashing surf, but it was no national disaster.

It was also the time to leave our cozy cottage and the grounds of the Driftwood Inn. Pictures were taken, goodbyes said, and we pulled out of the parking area to head for the mainland.

It was raining and it was windy but, as the road wound its way along the western side of the islands, the bays actually looked quite peaceful.

Once we reached the mainland there wasn’t much of a storm. Or, actually, the storm became interpersonal. In a huff, Mum and Dad ditched the naval town house on Mariners Landing.

They deserved better and they got better. Presenting themselves to Morton’s Real Estate on a holiday Monday, they were immediately taken by the hand of dapper Paul Clark (the third) and guided to a most appropriate townhouse.

We had finally found a semi-permanent resting place. Dad brought the marital bed out of U Haul storage and we were back to our old routine.

I sleep on the floor.

A single bed's not so nice for me. Dad doesn't like twin beds either. Mum is mesmerized by yet another Ann Rule true crime book.

Mum raises a glass. I’m cozy on the futon.

Little did we know that Columbus Day was almost upon us. (That’s Thanksgiving for us Cannuks.) And due to this important holiday long weekend, we were turfed from the stinking hole of Days Inn due to previous reservations. Great news in some respects. But what now?

“Let’s get the fuck outta here,” Mum and Dad said in unison as they threw our meager possessions into the Volvo.

“Where we going, Honey?” Mum intoned. She wasn’t worried. After all, Dad was a former Mainer. He had to know what he was doing and where he was taking us.

“To where this land ends,” he replied cryptically.

Puzzled, Mum shrugged, but then, minutes later, she began to gush.

“Oh my God! This is soo gorgeous! I can’t believe it! It’s soo gorgeous!”

She carried on like this all the way as we proceeded up the winding, hilly, spectacular Route 24 which was to end at—you guessed it—Land’s End.

The vast expanse of the ocean was before us. We were on Bailey Island. Paradise found!

Some five minutes from Lands End we reached the hidden treasure called the Driftwood Inn– hidden only because of the narrow, winding lane that leads to the inn. We soon found out that Driftwood Inn had quite a reputation. It was almost fully booked. Almost was good enough for us. Dad eagerly booked whichever room or cottage was available.

From the moment we breathed the bracing salt air and set foot on the grounds we knew we had found respite. Maggie the ‘inn keeper’ enchanted us with her somewhat zany take on office work. With a toss of her lavish blondish hair and a twinkle in her merry eyes she relegated us to Harbour View cottage (dogs allowed in cottages only).

I did feel a bit unappreciated what with Mum carrying on about how wonderful everything was and Dad ready to pull out his wallet and Maggie and Dave and the real owner of the whole outfit whose name was MENACE.

To me he was just a plain old ordinary tabby but everyone kowtowed to him. Scared of my shadow he was and too inconsequential to be chased. But all the tourists at the inn were gaga over him. He was everywhere, being picked up and cuddled and cooed over. Quite nauseating when you consider that dogs were barely tolerated, had to be on leash all the time yadda yadda. But whatever made Mum and Dad happy. And they were indeed happy.

Mum and me at Popham Beach.

The days at Days Inn dragged on and on. The smell never got any better. It was clear that we couldn’t stay there forever. Besides, it was expensive.

Dad had noted that the airbase at Brunswick was closing and it looked as if there might be available housing for rent on the naval base. So off we went to Mariner’s Landing at Cook’s Corner.

Right away I had a bad vibe about the base. All three of us are born free types. Still, we had to get out of that polluted yet expensive motel room. Dad was desperate. Mum zoned out into her own little world. I heard her say, “Whatever you want, Honey,” and Dad was left to lead the way.

After a short interview with a fast-talking, young New York transplant realtor, Dad took the plunge and made a move on a two bedroom townhouse. He raved about the tiny fenced-in parcel of weeds at the back of the townhouse saying it was just great for me. At first I was aghast. Then I formulated a plan. A bit of digging and I would be free to roam the shopping mall right at our doorstep and then venture forth to wherever my fancy took me.

Awaiting approval (criminal check on Dad) (thank God they weren’t investigating Mum) we toured the coast.

The sand was great to play in. The water looked inviting especially when Dad threw a stick. But was I ever shocked when I took my first slurp! Yuk!

Check out the picture of Mum and me at Popham Beach.

Love the king-sized bed. Best thing at Days Inn.

I thought that no smell on earth could be more vile than the revolting stench of pig manure. I was wrong.

After a sleepless night for all of us at Larry’s we had made it to Cook’s Corner in Brunswick.

As we were driving along Bath Road, Mum suddenly threw up her hands and squealed: “STOP! There’s a Days Inn!”

As if mesmerized by the promise of stench-free sleep, Dad immediately pulled a sharp turn into the parking lot. This was going to be heaven.

Er… what was to become of me?

Despite Mum and Dad’s cheery hello there was a cool reception at the desk. Cool became cold when they mentioned me.

“Dogs by permission and then only in a smoking room,” intoned the clerk. Mum and Dad looked at each other. And then at me. What to do? Options:

  1. put me back in Pauline’s horror kennel
  2. make me sleep in the car
  3. take the smokers’ room

There was no need to vote on it since the very memory of Pauline made my paws start to shake and my teeth chatter. The car was out too since someone could nab someone as gorgeous as me. (Believe it or not, there’s a waiting list for my puppies. I’ve been waiting too. Where is the bitch of my dreams? Where is she?)

We settled for option three. After paying a fee for my inclusion in the smokers’ room we climbed a set of narrow stairs and proceeded to our room.


The stench pushed the three of us back into the hallway. This can’t be. Dad went back to reception to negotiate. Finally the clerk was persuaded to put me down as a cat, and as such, snuck us into a non-smokers’ room.

We went out for lunch.

Back inside we were approached by another clerk who noted right away that I was most definitely not a cat. So back to the foul-smelling room for us.

Windows were opened and an ionization machine was provided for our use. But that thing had a nasty smell of its own. As did the AC system. Dad said it smelled as if some human had pissed into it. Along with this also came the noxious fumes from the parking lot right under our window.

But at least there were a few redeeming features: a king-sized bed, wireless Internet, a bar fridge, a microwave and a big TV with cable.

Check out the photo of Mum and me on the bed. Mum is drinking again.

“Life’s so short,” she mutters when Dad tells her to cut back.

“Well if you ever take up smoking, it’ll be a lot shorter,” Dad retorts.

And he means it.

No sweat. Mum was simply photographed and fingerprinted and then ‘released’ by the US Department of Homeland Security.  Who knows what Immigration will do about her. I’ll miss her, of course.

Once again we’re on the road. Gazing out at the lush foliage of autumn in Maine I had no way of knowing then that the most traumatic event of my young life lay just ahead.

I didn’t have long to wait. Some three hours across the border we pulled into Larry’s pig farm.

A dismal rain had started again and the bed & breakfast Dad had been promising us looked like Bleak House (apology to Charles Dickens).

Mum and Dad leaped out of the U-Haul (well, Dad leaped;Mum crawled). They looked around and spied a heavy-set  elderly lady carrying two pails walking towards them. Dad recognized Larry’s wife Pat. He had met them both before.   Instantly both Mum and Dad started their friendly chatter. But I pulled back, feeling a sense of foreboding. In fact the fur on the back of my neck stood straight up in the air. Something bad was about to happen.

I overheard Pat say: “No dogs in the house.” She didn’t say this nicely. I could sense the aversion and disgust in her body language as she glanced my way. She looked as if she’d sooner have me slaughtered with the sows than have me set paws on her tidy front porch.

And so it was.

Minutes later, daughter Pauline, pulled up in her pick-up truck. Already I was gagging from the smell of pig manure. I wondered how Mum was taking it. I glanced her way and noticed her holding her pashmina over her nose. I had to laugh. This reminded me of the Muslim ladies I had seen at Billings Bridge Shopping Mall with only tiny slits revealing their downcast eyes.

Things happened so fast. Before I knew it, Pauline was upon me. She had me by the leash and was dragging me away. Mum and Dad looked sheepish. I couldn’t believe that they would let this strange woman abduct me in broad daylight.

But I was in too much shock to protest and was shunted into a cement bunker and then pushed into a cage.  

I wasn’t the only one. There were other prisoners too. Little yappy ones causing a racket but at least, being small, they had more room than I had. This was certainly no Comfort Inn like I’d seen so many times in TV ads. In fact it was the kennel that dared not speak its ghastly name. 

Any time Pauline checked in on me I growled at her. I wondered if she would be the one to slaughter me since I had heard her point out to Mum the next pig to be slaughtered.

I didn’t sleep a wink.

The next morning I guess some sort of ransom had been paid for my release since I was freed from the cage and reunited with my pack.

I couldn’t help but overhear Mum and Dad discussing their discomfort and their amazement at Larry’s operation. Larry had erected a chapel on his property some distance from the pig enclosure. Regular services were held, including mass confessions and the sale of sacred candles that had been blessed by the visiting prelate.

There must be a lot of sinners in them here hills, I thought to myself. Then, as if reading my mind, Dad pronounced: “They’re good people,” as we headed for the turnpike.

If I live to be fifteen, the night spent at Larry’s pig farm will remain one of the most hideous memories of my entire life.