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Northwest Passage

Lower Columbia River endures nature's complete weather package
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by Gary Koehler

Black Labs are underfoot. The head count is four, which qualifies as a herd in just about any duck camp. We have retreated indoors, and there is only so much space available around the wooden rocking chair in front of the brick fireplace. Moreover, the canine throng is becoming increasingly restless. Tails are thumping, ears are flapping, wet noses are nuzzling, and paws the size of catcher’s mitts are scratching at the floor.

After I make the mistake of rubbing one dog’s chin, the other three take note and are now maneuvering broad shoulders into narrow spaces to receive similar attention. The close quarters help remind us that wood smoke spiked with 300 pounds of damp retrievers creates a unique aroma. But two hands are not nearly enough to accommodate the herd’s cumulative pleas. This post-hunt bonding could turn into a free-for-all.

“Now you’ve done it,” says Don Guthrie from across the room. “They’re never going to leave you alone.”

Chaos is averted and order restored when host John Affolter sends Sage, Simon, and Roxy outside to their assigned quarters. Harley, the current resident, flops onto his bed under the picture window. 

“They know they’re not supposed to be in here,” says Affolter, “but, hold that door open too long, and they will be. Every time.”

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