A Lesson Learned from My Canine Paddling Partner

My dog helped me find even more enjoyment in my favorite paddling destination.

The first time my Dad and I decided to bring the family dog, Dunkin, on our annual Boundary Waters trip, my Mother was worried. “Aren’t you going to pack his water bowl?” she asked, to which my Dad replied with a laugh, “I’m sure he will be able to find plenty of fresh water to drink.” Dunkin is a Border Collie and Black Lab mix with a surplus of energy and an insatiable love for fetching sticks, which we knew would make the Boundary Waters his paradise.

As soon as we pulled up to the entry point and began taking the canoe off of the truck, Dunkin seemed to know he was about to embark on a new kind of adventure. His eyes lit up and he started running around in search of a stick to play with. After some initial restlessness in the canoe, he settled in for the paddle to our first portage. When we finally reached land my Dad and I donned our hefty canoe packs and began the demanding hike while Dunkin trotted ahead eagerly on the trail, stopping every once in a while to look back and give us a taunting look that said, “What’s taking you so long?!”

During that first trip I saw Dunkin at his happiest; chasing sticks, swimming in the lake, and rolling in the dirt was all he did day-in and day-out. I soon realized that like Dunkin, my Dad and I were in the Boundary Waters seeking enjoyment in life’s simple pleasures. While we refrained from rolling in the dirt, our enjoyment came from paddling through beautiful scenery, cooking fish over the fire, and watching the sunset after a perfectly relaxing day.

With the fast pace of modern life, it can be hard finding time to enjoy simple pleasures like these. There are not many places left in the world where you can venture away from the reach of highways and cell phones and forget about all of your worries. While Dunkin has the luxury of not having to think about meetings, traffic, and to-do lists for his entire life, we are not so lucky. The Boundary Waters allows people to get as close to the simplicity and joy of a canine life as possible, which is perhaps why it attracts over a quarter of a million visitors annually.

Dunkin is now almost ten years old and has six Boundary Waters trips on his record, and his age is starting to show.  He runs less, sleeps more, and his fur is turning gray. But every year when we start packing our gear and load the canoe on the truck, he immediately acts like a puppy again. I’m grateful for the important lesson that Dunkin has inadvertently taught me: it is necessary to find that place in the world where you can forget everything else, relax, and enjoy. For my Dad, Dunkin, and me that place is the Boundary Waters, and I will continue to cherish the time I have spent there and look forward to many, many more trips to come.

​  My Dad and Dunkin Fishing at Sunset on Cherokee Lake  ​
​  My Dad and Dunkin Fishing at Sunset on Cherokee Lake  ​