Up The Creek: Adventures In Canine Canoeing Part 1

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While most of us just went to the beach or cottage, Kevin Roberts spent his summer vacation canoeing with his husband and three dogs in the Canadian wilderness. In this series, he journals his adventures.

Taking three dogs on a canoe trip? Some might call you crazy, but it is possible (and fun). This is the story of how I spent my summer vacation.

It all started when my husband and I loaded our three dogs and ourselves into our SUV, strapped a canoe to the top, and headed north for adventure.

We knew we wanted to go to Northern Ontario, but we needed to find a route. Canoe routes can be a little hard to find – the best routes and campsites are often closely guarded secrets. Quite simply, people don’t want to share the location of their favorite spot, because they may show up only to see it has been taken over by a group of rowdy campers.

Marking the Spot

My criteria for a spot was further complicated because I wanted to find a route that offered some islands for overnight camping and was far enough north to avoid contact with Massasuga Rattlesnakes

What? Rattlers? Yep – the province of Ontario (Canada) is home to a number of snake species, but the Massasugua Rattler is the only venomous snake. They are a docile snake that will usually sit still or slither away when people approach. The Massasugua Rattler wants to be left alone and will leave you alone in turn. The only issue, of course, was the dogs. They don’t know about the snake’s boundary issues. Burger has limited exposure to snakes, and we don’t want to put him, or a snake, in a situation where one of them gets hurt. That’s why we opted to make our canoe trip away from snake country.

We chose Marten River provincial campground as the ideal place to launch the canoe and leave for our journey. Our adventure is underway!

A Full Boat

adventures-in-canine-canoeing-part-1-1Packing with the dogs in mind is pretty simple (we’re old pros at this):

  • Ceramic water filter: The risk of the dogs contacting giardia is very real. If we don’t drink the water, they don’t either.
  • Bear bells: These bells are easy to attach to the dogs’ harnesses, and make it so we can always keep track of our dogs. Even if we were to lose sight of them for a second, we can still hear them and keep them out of trouble. We think of bear bells as insurance. The dogs spend most of their time on leash anyways, but if there is a choice spot to let them stretch their legs, we give them some freedom.
  • Poop bags: Dog waste does not belong in the wilderness, so if they poop it, we pack it. No one wants to camp on that.
  • Leashes with clips on each end: We can secure the dogs anywhere with this set up. The clips can go around trees, or around our waist, plus we can use one leash for two dogs with a clip on each end.
  • Dog food: We pre-pack each dog’s meal into an individual Ziploc bag, which keeps the food dry. When the bags are empty, we reuse them to clean up after the dogs.
  • Dog pack: The dogs carry their own backpacks.  Each pack is filled to between 20 to 30% of the dogs’ body weight, depending on the trip. The packs clip easily onto the canoe, and the dogs help carry gear on portages.
  • Foam mats: To keep the dogs out of the bilge water on the bottom of the canoe, and to keep them from shifting around looking for a comfortable spot once we’re on the water, the dogs sit on foam mats. The mats define their space in the boat and make double as camping beds at night.

Once we have all that stuff packed up and sorted, we sort our own gear, and away we go!

Travel Tip: The area we planned to visit was only a few hours away by car. Before we take a long car ride with our dogs, we feed them about half of their normal ration. This proves to be just enough food that they have something in their stomachs, but not enough food that they will get car sick or be uncomfortable for the ride.

In my next article, find out how the first day of our canoe trip went, as I set out down the river and encounter some Canadian wildlife.