Sunday, April 5, 2009

"Trail Magic"

When I first saw Luke, I didn't know what I was seeing!

I was driving around a curve just past our farm. I could make out something white in the driveway of an old farm house next to our farm lane. Now, I didn't have my glasses on, so that added to the confusion. As I got closer, I wondered if I was looking at sheep, or maybe even a llama lying down. Then I could see it was 2 Great Pyrenees dogs and a man's legs, as Luke was lying down. I saw the backpacks, so I knew they were travelers. I was in a rush to get to Louisville for an appointment, so I didn't have time to stop to chat. My girlfriend, Paula Stoner, called me the next morning to ask if I had seen them and to say they were just down the road from there. Well, then I knew they had spent the cold night very near where I had spotted them. I felt bad that I hadn't offered them a place to stay. Later that morning, Paula called again and said they were at the BP in Hanover and she was going to stop to find out what they were about. She met Luke and the boys. She called me again to come meet them. I fell in love with Murphy and Hudson immediately. They are soooo sweet. We found out about Luke's cause, 2Dogs2000Miles, and that he was walking from Austin to Boston in memory of his dog, Malcolm, who died of canine cancer.....

I said, "What did you say your dog's name was?" Well, believe it or not, about 10 years ago there was a gal named Betsy Castle walking across country with her dog, and his name was Malcolm! She and I crossed paths as well!

Betsy came through Madison in the fall of 1996. She had left Seattle in April 1995. I had received a call from a friend in the neighboring county that they were coming through. I picked them (Betsy, her dog, Malcolm, and friend Jerry) up at a local veterinarian's office, as Malcolm had developed a sore paw and they ended up there for treatment. Jerry had flown into Louisville, KY from Idaho to walk with her to Cincinnati. They needed to rest Malcolm for several days, so we took them home with us. I thought it was quite incredible that this gal was walking all the way across the country and ended up at our home! She stopped at schools along the way to raise awareness about protecting natural resources, focusing especially on water. Betsy had a particular interest in protecting salmon. I brought them to school with me one day to speak to my science classes, as I also had a particular focus on natural resources and the environment. At the time I was a science teacher at the Madison Jr. High School, also an avid hiker and environmentalist. I worked seasonally as a naturalist at Clifty Falls State Park taking people on nature hikes. I lead exercise hikes, belong to a local hiking club, and the Sierra Club, and have hiked many trails in the Smoky Mountains, and out west, including Rim to River to Rim in the Grand Canyon twice with my husband, Mike Modisett. So, I thoroughly enjoyed Betsy's walking/hiking/camping and travel stories. Her journey was to be 2,550 miles and was to end at Cape Henlopen, Delaware . She finished her journey and she and Jerry got married afterward near the Salmon River in Idaho, where they met and now live. We were invited to the wedding, but sadly could not attend, as it was during the school year. We corresponded for several years after meeting them. We love telling our story of Betsy and Jerry. I always say it was like going on vacation, but the vacation came to us! And I still marvel at the events that caused our paths to cross.

OK, back to Luke and the Boys. We loved the dogs...and oh, yeah...Luke seemed like an OK guy. We put them all in Paula's van to take them to their hotel. We were later chastised by friends for picking up a total stranger from the road...but we could tell in just a few minutes that Luke is a real dog lover, we believed in his cause, and we felt immediately at ease with him. We wanted to help all we could. Paula has been involved with animal rights for many years. We called the local newspaper and took Luke to a hotel. We also notified the shelter that he wanted to come over to volunteer while he was in town. We took him out to dinner that night in historic downtown Madison and told all the local people we saw about his cause.

I picked Luke up the next morning and we went to the post office to get his box of pet food. We scouted routes out of Madison, as the locals didn't think a crossing over the Madison/Milton Bridge would be possible. I offered to take him to a Mexican restaurant for lunch, but he said he was from Texas and was used to authentic southwest food, so I figured I better pick another restaurant. We went to Clifty Falls State Park for lunch instead. We had time to see a couple of the falls, and there is an incredible view of the Ohio River from the Inn. Mike and I took Luke out to dinner again that night.

Luke volunteered at the shelter and did a Madison Courier interview the next day. There were a couple of set backs which caused delays in leaving town, SNOW and very cold weather being two of them, so Luke and the Boys came to our home for 3 nights. We have four rescued dogs. Sadie is a deaf pit-mix. We found her nearly starved to death a few years ago. Lobo and Indy are retriever mixes, and Scout is a shepherd mix. Lobo was a hungry stray puppy found in a swamp by Mike. Indy and Scout are from our local shelter. We introduced them to Murphy and Hudson in the large fenced-in back yard. The Boys were very happy to get to romp and play in the snow, and then come in and sleep on the couches in our room with the wood stove. That evening we took Luke downtown for his interview with Shadow and Mike Cooney for the Vevay newspaper. Luke fixed us a wonderful Southwestern breakfast at our home the next morning. It was YUMMY!

The next day I took them to their starting point and Mike picked them up at the end of a good long day. And, believe it or not, on the way back through town, there was a GUY walking with TWO DOGS through Madison!!! Mike and Luke stopped to meet him and his pals. He had walked from Ohio to Georgia, and was heading back to Ohio. His name was James. He wasn't walking for a cause, but just chose walking as a way of life after leaving Ohio for various reasons. It was cold that night, and we worried about them. The next morning after I dropped Luke off at his stopping/starting point and said good-bye to them, I went back and picked up James and his boys and turned around and drove them 16 miles to Vevay. They accepted rides whenever they could. James said he got rides mostly from dog lovers. I gave them some food and money for supplies and they were on their way. My niece says word has gotten out that if you're walking across the country, to find me when you come through Madison!

We were so thrilled to have been a small part of Luke's incredible journey! What a HUGE commitment! What incredible dedication to a cause he believes in. Betsy had told me that just when she needed something on her journey, just the right people or things would appear. She called it "Trail Magic." Luke told stories of experiencing the same kind of phenomenon. I told him it was called "Trail Magic" and I hope it follows them all the rest of the way. I believe it will.

Happy Trails & Wagging Tails Boys!
Puppy UP!!
Jan Kleopfer


Uncle Big Dog said...

It was indeed Trail Magic, Jan, & how blessed we were that we crossed paths... H & M miss you guys

College&CareerWoman said...

I met Betsy when I first moved to Seattle and began attending environmental conferences. I was one of her cheer leaders here and photographed her departure from the Pier. We corresponded by email and I attended her return celebration and the slide presentation of her trip. She had a great send off. I'd love to contact her - catch up on about 13 years. I was just telling the story (once again) to friends and decided to blog her name - came up with your story.

jananscout said...

WOW! Thanks for your comment! Maybe we will hear from Betsy someday if she sees this!