A ruff month alone in the BWCA, Luigi the dog comes home

A black dog lays down.
Luigi the dog has been home since Monday, after being lost in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for a month.
Courtesy of Zane Brunette

A big black dog who goes by the name of Luigi, returned home this week after spending a month in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The dog was separated from his owners during a portage near the Sawbill Trail.

Luigi’s owner, Zane Brunette, joined Cathy Wurzer on Morning Edition to share the story.

The following is a transcript of their conversation. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity. To listen to their conversation, click the audio player above.

So glad this story has a happy ending. How did it start?

The story of Luigi the dog

So it's been wild. Yeah, we lost him up by the Kawasachong [Lake] basically, there was a crazy busy portage. We thought he was with the lead person. He came back to follow us and was playing with some other folks’ dogs. We walked by him, saw he wasn't with the lead person. came back. He wasn't anywhere, walked up and down the trail for a good six hours calling for his name.

We camped in this spot closest to where the Kawasachong Lake as close to the portage as possible. It's kind of a burn zone. So you can really hear for long ways. And essentially, after a certain amount of time, we figured he wasn't in that area and we'd better go somewhere else and start flyering.

We put up flyers, Facebook posts, everything we could. Everywhere north of Two Harbors. Post office, sheriff's office, things like that. Eventually he came out and found a sweet lady named Marie, who was willing to give them some cheese. She called me and … I went up and got him that night, brought him home and he's been putting on weight and getting happier and happier every day.

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I'm glad to hear that. And I'm sure after a month, you were thinking probably the worst, right?

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we kind of thought that there was no way he was coming back at this point. That's a long time to be away, but he doesn't have barely a scratch on him. He's already starting to put back on weight. It’s wild.

A black dog lays down.
Luigi the dog has been home since Monday, after being lost in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for a month.
Courtesy of Zane Brunette

The lady who found him, who was she? Where was she?

Her name is Marie and she was up at a place called Loon Lake Lodge actually on, like the Gunflint Trail. He's about 39 miles away as the crow flies. A lot more if you count all the lakes and rivers and things you would have to go around to get up there.

Wow! Almost 40 miles he made from where you saw him to where he ended up?

I'm of the opinion, he was actually likely taken by some canoes and then later dropped off because of all the pressure just because … there's a lot of reasons I believe that. But mainly the distance and he doesn't have more than a scratch on him.

So the lady saw him. She tried to get him to come to her with cheese?

He was a little bit skittish at first, but she sat out with him, like 20 minutes. Then after getting a piece of cheese, he started doing the thing he does at coffee shops around here where he’s just sitting and trying to shake over and over again. Just “more please?”

What did Luigi do when he saw you?

A black dog lays down.
Luigi relaxes with his owner, Zane Brunette, after returning home.
Courtesy of Zane Brunette

He just ran directly into my arms and I just cried with him. He just kept whining and crying and then I just held him he was so thin. I just held him up so he wouldn't have to be on his feet. And he just cried and cried and then eventually looked at the car like “We getting out of here? Open up the door.” He got right in and he's been very happy. He's cried at all his friends who've come to see him at the door. He's been beyond happy to be home.

The next time you go to the BWCA, are you going to bring him?

I don't know. We are working back up to like regular camping. He is a good camper. He goes every year. I don't know if he's gonna want to? I don't know. We'll see.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.