Visitors to the Isle SuperValu several weeks ago might have met a couple of friendly dogs (a border collie and a cocker spaniel mix) who set up residence there for the afternoon. Thanks to some SuperValu employees and some volunteers with the Northern Lights Humane Society, those dogs eventually found their way back home.

According to Ginger Houle, who works at SuperValu, the dogs showed up on Wednesday night, June 28. Throughout most of the next day, they camped out in front of the store, where Houle and fellow employee Carla Anderson gave them food and water.

Fortunately, the dogs were wearing vaccination tags. Houle and Anderson called the Cloquet Vet Clinic, which was named on the tag, to help track down their owner, Jay Strombeck, of Duluth.

Anderson called around to some of the local resorts to see if Strombeck was staying in the area, but to no avail. Eventually, they called the Northern Lights Humane Society. Robin Hoffman of the humane society made some additional calls, and volunteer Katie Benson picked the dogs up on Thursday night. She brought them to the home of Crystal Shirley, who lives south of Brainerd.

It turned out that the canines had been staying with a friend of the Strombeck family in Finlayson while their masters were on vacation in South Dakota. The dog sitter contacted the Strombecks and was frantic that the dogs were missing. Jay decided not to tell his 12- and 15-year-old daughters the dogs were missing.

No one knows how they made the journey from Finlayson to Isle, but there is a theory about why they ended up at the Isle SuperValu. The Strombecks used to own a cabin on Mille Lacs, and they often stopped at SuperValu when they passed through Isle. Perhaps the dogs thought their masters had gone back to the cabin.

The dogs also accompany their owners to the grocery store in Duluth, and they wait outside while they are shopping. Maybe they recognized the smell of the groceries – or maybe they just read the sign. Either way, their instincts served them well. The grocery store was a good place for them to stop.

After Robin got the Strombecks’ number, their house-sitter heard their message on the answering machine and contacted the family to them their dogs were safe and sound. They were overjoyed and immediately called Crystal Shirley, who told them not to cut their vacation short. She was happy to watch Ranger and Sadie for a few more days.

On July 4, the Strombecks stopped at Shirley’s house to pick the dogs up on their way home from vacation. It was a happy reunion for all.

Jay Strombeck figures the dogs must have crossed the Snake River State Forest and the Mille Lacs Wildlife Management Area before they got to Isle. “They were happy and healthy and all they had to show for it was a couple ticks. Thank God I had tags on them,” he said.

Robin said, “We don’t have a lot of happy endings to situations like this. Fortunately, we’ve had some good citizens and humane society volunteers who helped take care of the dogs until we could track down their owners.”

The Northern Lights Humane Society is currently short of volunteers. If you want to help out, call Robin Hoffman at [number redacted].

Staff note: Messenger records indicate that Northern Lights Humane Society closed in 2002.

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