I believe one of the greatest gifts we can give our dogs is our time. When I paddle with Riley and Kona we’re spending time together. It’s just us with our board on the river. I know they appreciate it. Riley’s excitement and willingness to hop on the board tells me so. He loves to swim, and it’s the best exercise for an aging dog with bad hips. And Kona, she gives me a look with her big, ever-loving brown eyes that melts my heart and says, “thank you for bringing me.”
I love the moments of solitude that come to us on a paddle, when the world is quiet and still, and all I can hear is the sound of the water breaking off the nose of my board. I look down at my dogs, with their bodies relaxed, their ears up and their eyes scanning the river bank. We’re a team.
From time to time we’re joined by others, including former students. It’s a treat to see the paddlers and dogs that we’ve taught through the years out enjoying themselves on the water, too. And it’s helped us build a sense of community.
Sometimes my husband comes out with us, and we let the dogs wet exit from one board to the other. They have a hard time deciding who to paddle with, and it’s gratifying to know they love the sport – and both of us – so much.
Most evenings, we’re graced with the presence of a majestic bald eagle that soars overhead and dives into the water for fish, Riley and Kona always tuned in and respectfully observant. It never gets old – for any of us – and these are the moments we feel completely at one with the nature around us.
And then there are the talkers – the folks we meet who aren’t sure what to make of a girl on a board in the middle of the river with two big dogs in tow. It’s fun to share the sport with them and retell our story. When they inevitably say they could never get their own dogs to sit still on a board, I get to tell them about my book, How to SUP with your Pup, and hopefully I’ve planted a seed and inspired them.
Our summer nights end with towel-monster wars, belly rubs and the sharing of the last few soggy treats in my pocket. On the way home, there’s the smell of wet dog and the scratch of the sand that’s landed in every crevasse of my car. But the windows are down, the sun has just set and no words are spoken. We’re filled with the mutual feeling of peace and content.