Tuesday, February 14, 2012


At some point last fall the water got cold enough that Fang wasn't super psyched to spend huge amounts of time in it. He'd wade in for a drink, or to chase frogs or fish, but he definitely got to a point where swimming was 'out'. It surprised me that his reaction was to try to climb onto the boat while I was battening down the spraydeck.

I love my dog, thus I'll not force him to do anything he doesn't *really* want to do.

It occurred to me that we'd get where we were going faster if he was on the deck instead of swimming alongside.

All through the fall that's what ended up happening. If he wasn't keen to swim or if the crossing was too long, I'd let him plop onto the deck and away we'd go.

Now that the ice is (mostly) off the lakes we've been out paddling a bit. The water is at it's coldest right now, thus once he got over his "WOOHOO--we're BACK!" phase, he's been climbing onto the deck a few times every outing.

Here's how we do it:

Looks like no big deal, right?

It isn't a big deal, but there are a few small steps that you'll want to pay attention to, lest both of you end up in the drink.

Most important is to stabilize the boat. I typically bring one side up right against the shore, wedge my paddle into the muck on the opposite side, then use that paddle to lever the boat firmly against the shore. Once I'm stable I give him the OK and he steps up and plops down.

Easy enough.

The only other thing to pay attention to is how well balanced the boat is. Fang is 80# and being atop the deck his center of gravity is pretty high. If he leans we both lean! So I make sure before setting out that he's centered--usually a tug on his tail or a push on his rump gets him more or less in the middle.

With those two steps in mind, here's another look:

We learned the hard way that if he's not comfortable and tries to shift mid-stream, we're probably both going for a swim. No biggie in July, sub-optimal on 35*-and-snaining days like today.

When we get to the other side I give him a little nudge with my knees and he hops right off.

If the landing is anything other than beach sand It's best to get him off stat--before wind or current can push me somewhere I don't want to be. Kind of a bonus that as he hops off he shoves me back out.

We've used this technique to cross big alpine lakes and slow but cold rivers. My boat is small thus there's not a lot of space for both of us, making longer crossings or rowdy water a bad idea.

L is shorter than I *and* her boat is bigger, thus she and Fang are a little more comfortable together.

Putting it all together on a local tailwater this afternoon.

I find it endearing (what parent wouldn't?) that whenever I leave the boat inflated and unattended you-know-who ends up asleep inside.

They say that a true retriever is a born water dog. Fang loves water, but I think the memo he got said something about boats too.

Thanks for checking in,