Adventures in Dog Boating

In preparation of a future Buffalo River trip, we decided to spend the morning on Lake Ouachita. We could try different kinds of kayaks and canoes, we figured, and we could check out how well the dogs would do on the water.

Ivy likes water but not too much, and she's a little afraid of riding in cars, and she generally likes to sit up straight and be admired. I predicted that Ivy would sit still in the middle of a boat and allow herself to be paddled around the lake like the princess that she is. I was right.


Hayduke likes water more than anything, ever, and his great overarching personality quality is a sort of ridiculous doggy exultation. I predicted that Hayduke would be fantastically awful in a boat, and that he'd tump us over almost immediately, and that after that he would continue to leap out of the boat at every available opportunity even in the very middle of the lake, until we all wanted to strangle him. I was right about that, too.

Bryan and I started out in a badly designed rental canoe. Hayduke lurched violently from side to side, even when I was holding him. He tried sitting on my lap. He tried standing on my seat behind me, with front feet on one side and back feet on the other, while I huddled miserably over my knees trying to paddle. He sat on the gunwales, causing the boat to shift violently to one side. He dumped us out into the cold water and somehow managed to get stuck UNDER the canoe. We got him out into daylight but he was so startled by the incident that he tried to ride back to shore on top of my head.

We switched to a double kayak, which was more stable. Stability made us feel better, but it didn't seem to make him any happier about being in boats. Hayduke sat on my lap again, which would have been a great solution if I'd wanted my vision to be entirely obscured by a giant butt attached to eighty pounds of wet fur.

Once out of the boat and in the water, Hayduke had a marvelous time. He just swam in circles, for the sheer joy of propelling himself through the water. He swims with the efficiency of a creature meant for that purpose, holding his nose just above the surface, snuffling water out like some kind of giant happy otter in a red vest. He swam out to random people in other boats, just to say hello. We'd hear their voices across the water. "What's that?" "It's a dog, I think." "What is it doing?" "I think it wants to visit us." (Please note Hayduke in the photo below, cheerfully swimming all across the lake, NEXT to the kayak.)

Meanwhile, Ms. Ivy sat as still as a statue, her delicate forty pounds balanced perfectly, surveying her domain. Kathy claims that she shifts around a bit and has to be encouraged to sit still, but I don't believe it for a minute. She's just a lovely, lovely dog.

Hayduke is not a lovely dog. He's awful. It was a completely stupid day, and we enjoyed it so much that both our families are shopping for kayaks so that we can do it more often.


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