Red Dog Inn

by Val Browne from Medicine Hat, Alberta

Seventeen years ago my husband and I started off on honeymoon. I remember looking down at our hands admiring the shiny gold bands…excited about signing “Mr. and Mrs.” in a hotel registry.

It was getting late and towns and lodging options became fewer the further north we travelled. It was 9:30 pm. when we finally reached Terrace Bay, Ontario. The only hotel available was the Red Dog Inn. Gathered around the hotel, en masse, were rows of black Harley’s. 

“You’re very lucky,” said the woman behind the counter. “We’ve only got one room left. There isn’t another hotel for at least another hour away.”

As we walked away, she added, as an afterthought, “Did I mention, the room is in the basement? Just go down the hallway, turn left down two sets of stairs.”

We opened the door to painted cement blocks, dated curtains, and a malfunctioning television. The chocolate mints on the pillow were thoughtful, but stale. Dinner was a shared sandwich and doughnut from a convenience store – the only business open on a summer Saturday night.

We had a sleepless night, listening to revelers in rooms above and beside us. 

The next morning the Harley’s roared out and we soon followed after.

After loading our luggage, my young husband turned to me and said, “Someday I’ll make this up to you. I promise.”

A memorable albeit unusual first soon became part of our early history. Months, then years would follow. Children, jobs, homes, family, church, school and mortgages would soon make up the stuff of everyday life. Occasional mints on a pillow would bring giggles of remembrance.

Last year was a difficult one. Illness, job loss, and loneliness made for changes and challenges of a sometimes-insurmountable sort. It had been a year more of sickness than health, more poorer than richer, more worse than better. To add insult to already considerable injury there was the loss of a wedding ring in the snow.

A few days before Christmas, I was given ambiguous direction to make a small overnight bag. We’d survived and we were off to celebrate. After a delicious meal, I entered our room. It was obvious someone had been there in preparation. Candles were lit, music was playing, and the wine was chilling.  

A small box was on the night table. My groom of 17 years knelt down, opened it up and asked, “Even after this year, if you had to do it all over again, would you marry me?” A teary yes followed. Opening up the box I found a golden Irish Claddagh ring “In my hands, I hold your heart and crown it with my love.”

Taped on the wall was a simple written sign on hotel stationary- “Welcome to the improved Red Dog Inn.” A promise kept. A promise received.