It was a wintry proposal witnessed by a team of sled-dogs and their owners.

Shanna Bastiaanssen and Matthew Legal, of Unique Adventures based in St. Malo, give personal excursion rides for enjoyment and on Sunday, January 21, a couple about to be engaged.  

Bastiaanssen says she first met Jonathan Sawatzky and Gillian Dueck two weeks ago when the couple booked a ride using a gift certificate, but the day ended up being very cold. Bastiaanssen tells what happened,

“So, the ride that was booked before him had run a little late, though he was on time, and I had apologized for being a little bit late, so I offered him 30% off his next ride, and the next day he was messaging to book again, I'm like, wow, he must have really enjoyed the ride.”

Little did Bastiaanssen realize what Sawatzky was planning. She continues,

“A couple of minutes before the (2nd) ride, Jonathan had come out to us, and he's like, “Oh, can I ask a favor?” I said, “Sure” He said, “I'm hoping to propose to my girlfriend on this ride.” And we all just looked at him. “Oh, that's cool.” And then I'm like, “Sure, no problem. We could make that work.” And then Matt asked, “Well, would you like to do it like on the trail?” And he's like, “No, I was hoping at the end. And then if, you know, Shanna could take a couple of pictures.” So, we all knew it was coming.” 

Bastiaanssen says, Sawatzky’s emotions were running high,

“Oh yeah, he definitely looked pretty nervous and excited at the same time. He had a big smile on his face when he first got there. He had a big smile on his face when he got off the ride. Then you could see the nerves popping in a little bit.”

Bastiaanssen was waiting for the couple to return from their ride, when she saw the sled round the corner and come to a stop, she asked if the couple wanted some pictures.

“They said, yes, definitely. And Jonathan said, "well, let's take them by the dogs." So, they got out of the sled, and she (Gillian) knelt down by Raymond, one of our wheel dogs, and she was petting him, and I had the camera, and yeah, Jonathan took out his ring and asked her if she would marry him and she said like, “What? What?” And then finally, she's like yes, yes. Yes, I will.”

Jonathan and Gillian, newly engaged coupleJonathan and Gillian, newly engaged couple (Photo credit: Shanna Bastiaanssen) 

Bastiaanssen confesses, she was as emotional as the new bride-to-be.  

“And oh my goodness, I almost cried. It was so beautiful and cute.” 

Matt, the musher noted afterward that during the ride he had noticed that Jonathan was checking his coat a couple times. “Patting his pocket, you know, double checking that the ring was still there.” 

Bastiaanssen says Dueck was in shock at first, “There was a lot of “What? What?” But she was super excited with a big smile on her face.”  

To wrap up the proposal, she gave the newly engaged couple some treats for the dogs.  

“It was absolutely beautiful and amazing to see. It was my first time having an engagement on a ride.”

Sawatzky shares the proposal story from his point of view.

He says he met Gillian met at a local church, “Then we just kind of hit it off when we started working together and we’ve been dating ever since.”

Sawatzky continues, “I've known for a few months now, probably 3-4 months that I really, really wanted to marry her. So, then I started planning and going from there.”

Gillian admires her great-grandmother's engagement ringGillian admires her great-grandmother's engagement ring (Photo credit: Shanna Bastiaanssen)

 He says his plan fell into place about three weeks ago,

“Well, when I asked her dad for his blessing, he had offered Gillian’s great-grandmother's wedding ring, and I just jumped on it right away.”

Sawatzky continues, “So then, I just had gotten the ring back last week from getting it shined and polished up, and then, we had just gotten back from doing the dog sledding last week (during the deep-freeze) when I thought it would be a great idea to do it again, and then catch her off guard, this time with new pictures.”

Then on this past Sunday afternoon, coming up to the proposal moment, Sawatzky says,

“I was pretty nervous. The whole time I'm thinking. Wow, I'm actually about to do this, and well, here we go. So I'm glad I did it.”

He shares what the ‘yes’ moment was like for Gillian.

“There was a bit of snow on her face, so she didn't quite see what was going on, so it took her a few seconds, but then she was quite flabbergasted and didn't quite have the words to say.” 

Yes! Was one of them. 

Sawatzky says they have already shared the news of their engagement with family and friends,  

“I hadn't actually told very many people that I was going to propose. So, then it was quite a big surprise to just about everyone. I mean they all knew I was going to ask her, but a lot of them were asking, “when are you going to get married? So, now we are.”

He adds, plans already underway, “we want to get this show on the road, and hopefully be married by summer.”