Saturday, April 27, 2013

Canoe Tripping with Dogs

Igloo, a friend's West Highland Terrier has often accompanied
us on canoe trips. Is it now time for me to
 bring a dog as well?

I know there are many of you out there that love dogs, and I bet there are just as many that take them on canoe trips. Well, you've probably already surmised by now that I don't have a dog, since I've never mentioned one in any of my posts. Well, that was before - pre-marriage. Since that fateful day, I've apparently (Unbeknownst, unknowingly, unwittingly, you following?) become the adoptive father of 2 small poodles - sigh. Okay, I admit, it's not that I didn't know Anita had dogs, but I did know that after we got married, the dogs were going to move in. I by no means hate dogs, or animals for that sake. Growing up, our family has had many pets, including dogs. It's just that my lifestyle has made it difficult to have one lately, and admittedly, I've gotten use to not having one for many years.

I'm firmly of the belief that dogs are not 'additions' or even just pets. I mean that in a way that dogs are like family, therefore they are a big commitment. They require a lot of attention and time, just as a child would. (Okay, maybe not as much, but pretty close.) I'm pretty sure many of you consider your dog(s) family, whereas others, not so much. I'm not here to get into a debate about where dogs stand in importance or their place in family hierarchy, (Note: My spot just dropped 2 places after the dogs moved in!) but I knew that I wouldn't be able to give enough of myself to own one. That's just me. I'm pretty sure you'll agree, that realization is much better than owning a dog, and neglecting the poor thing.

Here's Toby, our resident old man
who is still cute as a button!

As it stood, I really had no choice in the matter. It really was a case of "the dogs come with me". Not that I had any big objections, but I did air a few concerns, which have been sorted out. So it is official, I am now a bona fide dog owner. (Except when they do something bad, and then they are Anita's - wink, wink.) It certainly has been an adjustment, but I've survived pretty much intact. Maybe a bit worse for wear at times, - I'll have more to say about this later - but otherwise pretty good. I've quickly discovered we don't need a doorbell, an alarm clock or a kitchen broom. There are definite benefits, but there's the flip side. Headaches with all the extra unnecessary barking, can't sleep in, and do you know, I sometimes actually have to wipe their butts! (My gag reflex is tenuously holding.) 

As time goes on, I'm developing a fondness for them, as I think they are for me. Albeit, I'm sure it will take some time, as I've only lived with them for just over 6 months now. But still, it's hard not to notice the dog's antics. When Anita comes home, the dogs literally go ballistic. Howling, barking, whining and going just plain haywire. When I come home, they quickly come running while barking, until they realize who it is. After which, once they confirm Anita is not around, trot back off the way they came, jumping onto the comfy couch, and literally laying down in a funk! Despite my, "Hello? I'm here!", they just look at me with stone faces - sigh.

I may have come home, but these two rascals couldn't care less. They 
actually are sulking because Anita hasn't arrived
yet, do you believe that?!

In any case, there has been progress. There has even been progress in terms of my reluctance to take them on canoe trips, as was my initial stance. However, my position has slowly changed (I must be going soft with the dogs.), and I have actually suggested to Anita about taking them. She was surprised at my suggestion, probably as much as I was at making them, but I figured why not? Although, I've been told the older one, Toby, the toy poodle wouldn't be allowed to go due to his age, his cataracts, and his inability to swim. Poor guy, but Anita thinks a trip may kill him. I didn't really object, considering I also found out that he does not stop whining in the car due to motion. Could you imagine all day in a canoe? So unfortunately, he will be spending quality time with Anita's parents when we head out. 

Teaching the boys the basics of canoeing. Can't
you tell how thrilled they are?

So now, I've been told that I need to focus on getting Teddy ready for an eventual canoe trip. That means getting his stamina up, teaching him commands, and establishing myself as the alpha dog. (Me, alpha dog?! Okay, so where do I pee to mark my territory.). Anita will admit he is a momma's boy, skittish, and "a bit spoiled", (Bull - stifled cough.) so it will take some time to get him toughened up for the wilderness. I've already taught him a few commands, such as stay, paw, sit and down, but they only really seem to work when I have treats in my hand. I've also played around with him, to try to get him more active, such as getting him to leap, fetch a ball, and just plain running around. Although, I never expected that this kind of interaction carried risks.

One day, I found if I jump and run around, he follows, barks and jumps too. Although unexpectedly, he started to nip as well. It seemed harmless as he would briefly grab your clothing and let go, but one day after I sat down, I felt a soreness on my shin. I pulled my pants up to reveal a colourful Loonie-sized bruise on my shin. Anita was shocked that I got bit, but I was doubtful as I never felt anything at that time. I was positive the injury was from me knocking my shin into the bed frame the night before, however, Anita was not convinced. On closer inspection, it became evident of the tell-tale markings. Blood soon came to the head of three distinct puncture wounds. The bugger actually bit me!

A war wound from playing with the dog.
Who would have guessed?

Well, the injury wasn't a big deal, but the actions of the dog concerned me. I wouldn't want any of my niece/nephew's, or anyone else for that matter to be accidentally bit while playing around with him. I wanted to make sure Teddy knew it wasn't right to bite, so of course, smart-ass me decided I needed to "work with him". (Anita gave me a funny look and shook her head.) So the next day, we played again, as I hopped and jumped around him. As he got excited, I voiced my displeasure when he tried to nip again. I had thick fleece pants on, so I figured it would help keep his teeth off of me. Needless to say, it didn't work. In literally a split second, as focused as I was on his mouth, he lunged between my legs and bit down. This time, there was no mistaking what happened. It was Easter weekend, so let's just aptly say he got my 'egg'! On top of that, he still managed to break my skin! Don't worry, I'll save you the picture, you'll just have to take my word for it.

Here's Teddy, our "red" miniature poodle who we eventually 
plan to take on a canoe trip. He may be more of a
threat to me than wildlife!

Despite this incident, I still consider Teddy a good dog, and I am beginning to like him a lot, despite his propensity for scarring me. I can't comprehend why he does this, but hopefully in time (and no further wounds), we'll work something out. I really do want to take him on a canoe trip, so it just means I have to put in time with him, you know, to bond and 'figure' him out. For the time being, I decided to let my wounds heal and take a break. Like seriously, who do I think I am? A dog whisperer, like that guy Cesar Milan? I paddle canoes, not train dogs. Although next time, I should really consider wearing a jock; I wonder if Cesar does? Anyhow, the injuries are healing nicely, but I had to endure more than enough giggles and sarcastic remarks at the Easter dinner table. Boy, does word travel fast about one's misery! Oh well, might as well laugh about it, considering one of my 'eggs' is no longer blemish free!

t(slightly limping)PP

And yes, it was THOSE teeth!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Canoe Trip for a Honeymoon?

Now that the wedding is over, it's time to literally
'paddle' out for our honeymoon!
Photo: Anice Wong

Anyone that has gotten married, knows how much work, both physically and mentally it takes for a wedding. Yes, there are exceptions, like going to a JP, or eloping in Vegas, but other than if you are super organized or rich enough to have someone else organize it for you, wedding preparations can take a lot out of you. Therefore, a honeymoon is especially deserving to the newly wed, especially if the wedding day was stressful too! But more important and exciting, a honeymoon is the opportunity to consummate the marriage in an ideal and stress free environment. For that reason alone, who wouldn't want a honeymoon?

I mentioned in the Year in Review post about our original plans to take a honeymoon canoe trip. Well as you all know, it didn't happen. Now coming from me, after having a canoe wedding, it would only make sense that I would follow through with a honeymoon canoe trip, right? Certainly, but like the wedding, it was only appropriate that I asked my soon-to-be-wife, what she had in mind. (I certainly wasn't going to suggest a honeymoon canoe trip, even though I was thinking it!) Unexpectedly, she really didn't care, as long as we got to spend time together. I couldn't resist, so I nonchalantly suggested my idea to her. Surprisingly, she was actually fine with it! In some sense, I was not totally caught off guard. We are neither the type that go to all inclusive resorts to sit and be waited on. Anita doesn't drink and I'm a cheap drunk, so the higher costs associated with these types of resort benefits would be wasted on us. Not only that, we had just bought a house and paid for a wedding, so our funds were pretty depleted. So considering everything, a canoe trip for a honeymoon was an easy decision. Except one big thing, it never happened.

Anita has already had many opportunities to canoe trip 
across Ontario; now it's time to take her on
 canoe trips across Canada!

Six months later, I still don't have a honeymoon story to share with those that ask about our post-wedding celebrations. Not that I feel pressured by anyone or my spouse, but I feel a sense of urgency to get the deed done. (Not to be confused, 'the deed' has been done. You didn't think I'd wait this long, did you?!) Anyhow, it feels like unfinished business, like something that just wouldn't sit right if I didn't do it. Maybe it's the expectation of societal norms, or maybe it's just another reason to go on a canoe trip (No kidding!), in any case, I am set on doing it. 

Anita and I have gone on roughly a dozen canoe trips together, so how would a 'honeymoon canoe trip' be different? That's where I come up with creative, or as Anita puts it, "crazy ideas". First of all, being a honeymoon, the canoe trip should be unique, right? Secondly, why should a honeymoon only happen once? Sure, for argument sake, it really can only happen once, (Unless of course you marry again.) but why have only one blissful opportunity with your partner? It's a wonderful time that I personally think should be cherished more often. I'm sure I have your curiosity now, but before I disclose the plan to you, here's some more information of where this idea came from. 

During the formative years before I got enraptured with canoeing, there were several prominent canoeist that inspired me. Gary and Joanie McGuffin were two of them. They not only inspired me with their incredible paddling exploits, articles, books, and photography, but their honeymoon as well. As you probably already guessed, yes, it was on a canoe trip, but theirs was across Canada! I was not only awed at the grandiose of the idea, but even more impressed that they fulfilled it. After reading their book, "Where Rivers Run" years ago, I fondly recall day-dreaming and wishing for both a life-long paddling partner and a honeymoon like theirs. 

If you don't know who the McGuffin's are, or have read
this book, it is definitely worthwhile
 checking out.

Fast forward many years, I have lived and breathed an amazing paddling lifestyle in many ways I've never expected. Sure, that wishful dream has not been fulfilled, but I am more than grateful for all that I've got to experience in the paddling world so far. At times, I (nor my mom) thought I would ever get married, but fate obviously didn't see it that way. I couldn't be luckier that I'm now married to a wonderful woman that also enjoys canoeing. I don't ever expect her to be as crazy and passionate about canoeing as I am, but thankfully, she's agreed to be a part of this almost-dream-come-true honeymoon. 

I'm sure most of you now have a vague idea of what I'm hinting at, so it's time to let the rabbit out of the hat. As much as I would have liked to fulfill the original dream, I had to make some changes in order for it to be feasible. Due to both our work requirements, it would be next to impossible to get that kind of time off for one long trip, so instead, the plan is to take several smaller ones. And instead of a trans-Canada paddle, our plan is to take a honeymoon canoe trip in each and every province and territory in Canada. Sure, it's not the same as the original dream, but it would still allow us to experience every part of our beautiful country in a canoe! 

Now that I've been given the green light for these multiple honeymoon canoe trips, there are several big questions to answer. First off, where? Well, that's the fun part. Anita and I will have to take the time to search out routes from maps, route books, the Internet and other paddling friends. I would think a route which would showcase the province/territory's landscape would be ideal. This will of course be ongoing, so there will be more posts to follow on this. The next big question is when. Well, I couldn't think of a better time then this year. I certainly don't want to delay the honeymoon any longer! One other thing, I had thought to put a timeline in for these honeymoon trips to help move things along, but there are too many variables in our lives that can change year to year that may make it difficult to adhere. So instead, I've decided to try and commit to taking at least one honeymoon canoe trip per year, if not more when possible. There are definitely other details and things to consider, but they will be sorted out later on. 

There are many paddling books that provide info on canoe
routes across our vast country. We just have to
figure out which ones to take!

Lastly, this is where my readers and followers can help us. My main audience are primarily from North America, so this can obviously be both very insightful and helpful. To help this process along, since corresponding on the blog can be challenging, I will soon be setting up,....surprise, surprise,...a Facebook account! I've never been much into social media, but I have to admit, it can be very useful in many situations such as this. It will also be easier to keep in touch with my audience and update everyone with the in's and out's of my tripping life that often don't make it on the blog. I won't be setting up under my name, but under "The Passionate Paddler", so please look out for me and help me get this ball rolling! It may also be a great way to meet up with some of my readers (who may or may not be paddlers) during our travels!

So that's it! It's a sealed deal. I'd imagine we are probably going to unofficially be taking the longest running honeymoon, but hey, I don't mind! If it takes me paddling around the country, I'm all for it! Wouldn't you? It's now time to figure out our first honeymoon canoe trip in my home province of Ontario. After that, it's time to venture out beyond these borders! 

 The Paddling Honeymooners!

Anita and I anxiously looking forward to
our paddling honeymoon!