Mushing Bulletin # 102 – Another Border Incident

Since arriving in Canada two weeks ago, we have made three forays back across the U.S. border. All have occurred at Madawaska, Maine. One has been uneventful.

On that occasion, we ran into a young, lady member of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency who asked us several logical questions, took one look at the Sgt. Preston of the Yukon sled attached to the roof, the trailer containing two aluminum trunks, and the four sets of canine eyes peering out of the shaded windows in the back of the Honda CRV, and concluded, correctly I might add, that, whatever nefarious activities I might have planned, the odds of my making a quick getaway with that kind of baggage were between slim and none. So, she waived us into the States with the appropriate warming “Have a nice day!”

Based upon this experience, we, and I use the term “we” meaning essentially “I”, concluded that all subsequent trips back into our native land would be equally uneventful.

So, today, in the company of exactly the same human, canines, and inanimate objects as before, we drive across the St. John’s River Bridge from Edmundston, Nouveau Brunswick, to Madawaska, Maine. The primary purpose of our trip is to have lunch at Dolly’s Restaurant, where their motto is “Home Cooked Food” and includes the quotation marks. But don’t get me started on the use of quotation marks.

After nose-ing the car up to the line on the pavement and waiting for the green arrow to flash, we pull up to the border-crossing toll-booth. I hand the middle-aged agent our passports and return his stern-look with a stern look of my own. I figure he would interpret it as a sign that I am (and all the occupants of my vehicle, human and canine are) seriously concerned about border security issues.

Instead, he looks at me and says: “Do you have leashes for all of those dogs?”

What kind of a question is that? Is he worried that we’ll have to take the dogs out to pee one at a time while we’re in the States?

So I say: “Yeah, I’m sure we have four leashes somewhere in the car. Why?”

Then he says: “Well were going to have to search your car and you’ll have to bring all four dogs into the office.”

The last time we went through this the dogs remained in the car.

At this point, I’m thinking “What are they going to do, paw-print the dogs?” But I keep this thought to myself knowing that, on the sense-of-humor scale, this guy probably ranks somewhere between Benjamin Disraeli and Napoleon Bonaparte while he was on Elba.

Then he says: “Why don’t you pull the car over there by the curb and take the dogs into the office?”

And I say: “Why don’t I just pull it around the side of the building like I did last week?” figuring that this will tip him off to the fact that we have been through this nonsense once before. Maybe it’ll even cause him to check his “Official, and Comprehensive-to-the-Point-of-Uselessness, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Connect-the-Dots Data Base” and discover that, seven days ago, all our human and canine paper work was in order, we didn’t knock over any liquor stores when last in the U.S., and, by the way, those trunks on that trailer hitched to our car that we said were empty, actually were empty.

No such luck. I suspect the data base was down. He just says: “OK, pull it around to the side.”

Five minutes later, I’m heading toward the office with 110 pounds of Siberian Huskies named Fenway and Chinook. They are secured to leashes which in turn are secured to a belt around my waist. The head Musher is following with the more reserved two-some of Kodiak and Aura.

As I am dragged into the office by two huskies that are supposed to be tired from their 30-mile run yesterday but apparently nobody has told them, the lady agent behind the desk, who obviously hasn’t been forewarned of our arrival, looks at me as if to say “What are those dogs doing in here?”

Seeing the look of panic on her face I simply say: “The guy out there told us to bring the dogs in here. Where do you want us?”

She says “Have a seat.” and Fenway promptly jumps up on one of the cushioned chairs and looks back at her as if to say “How’s this for a sit” and punctuates it with one bark.

Chinook takes a seat at my feet and lets out one of his classic “snoars” (you remember the snoar – the cross between a snarl and a roar) while raising his nose straight up in the air. This is his way of saying “I’m not comfortable with all this.” The agent says “He’s a beautiful dog!” evidently figuring she had better get on his good side.

Now the agent wants one of us to fill out one of declaration forms so that they can get us for perjury if the agent finds $10k hidden in one of the dog crates.

I’m now the custodian of four dogs while the Head Mushers fills out the second such form in two weeks. I’m secretly hoping that she accidentally reverses two of the digits on her social security number so that we can witness the meltdown of the entire border protection operation.

Shortly thereafter, the agent, who has been searching the car, enters the office and, through some sort of secret body-language, informs the boss that he has been unable to find any incriminating evidence in the car, although from the look on his face it is clear that he sees no reason to conclude that we are innocent of at least several apparently undiscoverable violations of the Criminal Code.

As the agent, who is wearing a stocking cap pulled down over his ears, walks by us, Chinook lets out another snoar and stares right at him. I tell the agent: “It’s the hat. Lose the hat.” I temporarily forget I’m talking to Benjamin Disraeli.

So now we are on our way to Dolly’s for lunch and a discussion ensues about why we got searched. The Head Musher comes up with the off-the-wall idea that it is my beard. Did I mention that I’ve been growing a beard? Well I am and I think it’s going rather well.

Head Musher: “You look like Yaser Arafat”. That’s why they searched us.”

Me: “Wait, are you saying that I look like Yaser Arafat when he was healthy or when he was heading to France for medical treatment?

I’m being thrown under the bus by the woman I’ve been married to for, let’s see, well…borrow ten…carry the one…borrow another ten…well…for many years.

Jeez, I thought I was looking professorial. I thought I could un-retire and teach a philosophy course entitled “On Being and Mushing”

You be the judge. A picture is included below. Send only complimentary comments please. My ego is easily shattered at below-zero temperatures.

I’ve got to go battle the forces of evil at the Edmundston Coin-Operated Laundromat where the motto is “Keep your U.S quarters to yourself. They are only worth 24.25 cents”.

The One-Man Pit Crew

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Mushing in Ocean City MD