Like any good parents, we bought a used canoe for our dog on her first birthday.
My husband Kevin and I have been kayaking for years. We have matching flat water boats; medium-sized so that they work well for excursions on Lake Champlain as well as on smaller slow-moving Adirondack rivers.
Our previous dog, a black lab, didn't go along on kayak trips; he was more of a power boating sort. But we've been dreaming of multi-day family hiking/camping trips by water, portaging our boat from lake to lake, along with all of our gear, and our newly adopted doberman/shepherd puppy, Katie.
We can't fit a dog into our kayaks, so we decided to procure a used canoe that would have enough room to carry us, camping gear and one medium-sized dog. After acquiring said canoe, we decided to make sure it was in good operating condition (read: didn't leak). So we tied it onto the top of our van and took off for a short test run on beautiful nearby Lincoln Pond.
Lincoln Pond, located between Elizabethtown and Moriah in the Lake Champlain Region has a number of private seasonal camps and a popular New York State campground and sandy beach that is quite busy all summer. In the fall, however, it is a quiet paradise, complete with spectacular foliage.
Our first mistake was limiting our attention to testing whether the water stayed OUTSIDE the canoe. Turns out, we were actually testing the dog's interest in being INSIDE the canoe.
We set the canoe at the water's edge, Kevin walked to the seat in the bow, and I encouraged Katie to get in the boat before I pushed us off into the water.
She jumped in, landing in the center of the boat, and bounced right back out over the opposite side into the water and continued swimming. I called her back and after repeated attempts, she stayed in the middle of the boat until I launched us into the pond.
We paddled along the shoreline, and enjoyed the serenity of floating on the mirrored surface of the water, surrounded by stunning reds, yellows, oranges amidst the evergreen trees on a sunny, 70 degree day.
This wonderful, postcard-worthy experience of Adirondack fall lasted approximately three minutes.
It was clear, as she repeatedly, tentatively stuck one paw overboard to test the rigidity of the surface of the water, that Katie wished she was on shore. She was shaking, and running from Kevin in the bow, then to me in the stern for comfort, always returning to the center of the boat and peering over the side. We were able to "convince" her to calm down for few moments, but we then passed some floating lilly pads, which were silently taunting Katie. (I imagined she was thinking, "If they can float on there, why can't I just walk on water?") Quicker than my brain can send words to my mouth, her second front paw followed the first and she was gone - completely submerged under water.
She burst up to the surface and started swimming toward shore, then quickly remembered that she liked her people and headed back toward the stern of the boat. I grabbed her collar and easily pulled her in, she shook a gallon of water onto me and into the boat, and began the process of shaking and testing the surface with her paw again.
We didn't go too far, distance-wise. We focused on the process; paddle, stop, pull dog back into boat, protect camera lens from shaking dog, rinse, repeat.
Eventually, Katie became accustomed to the idea that the boat was a safe haven, and laid down for a while. (Of course, we made sure to remain far enough from shore to avoid temptation.) It was a good first test of both the canoe and the dog. Only one of them is ready for our dream camping trip, but both are quite resilient, and definitely waterproof.
Now...what to buy Katie for Christmas?
-Kim Rielly is the director of communications for the Lake Placid CVB/Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.