I realize the above photo has nothing to do with stand-up paddle boarding, but it was difficult to take photos on our adventure today. I figure I can’t go wrong with cute Puck + Bandit photos.
So…today I attempted to paddleboard with Puck.
It didn’t go well but I laughed a lot.
Let me back up. As you have probably figured out, Puck is my constant companion. The thought of doing a sport without him feels wrong. So, when I decided to buy a stand-up paddleboard (SUP), I immediately started devising a plan to be able to take him with me.
Today was our first attempt.
We arrived at the lake and I inflated my paddleboard and suited up. It was a lovely warm day, and no one was there. Perfect.
I got Puck into his wetsuit. Yes, he has a wetsuit. Let me explain: The lakes in Colorado are cold. When he had all his knee surgeries, swimming was part of his PT and we did some of that swimming in lakes. Hence the wetsuit.
You may recall I had taken Puck and a borrowed SUP out for about 5 minutes the day before I blew out my knee last August. On that SUP there was a line attached to the back and Puck quickly figured out that if he grabbed this line he got a free ride.
My brilliant plan was to attach one of his water toys to the back of the paddleboard. When he swims, he likes to have at least one toy in his mouth, so I figured he could grab onto the toy when he got tired and hitch a ride.
I launch the SUP and start paddling away from the shore. Puck starts swimming. He hasn’t seen the toy yet, so he is looking a little worried. He’s not a natural born swimmer. But after a few more seconds he spots the toy. He grabs it. My plan is working! Then I notice that I’m paddling forward but moving backward. I look over my shoulder and Puck is swimming as hard as he can toward the shore, toy in mouth, SUP in tow. Saving Mom from the lake. This is unexpected. I can’t help but sit there and giggle as he tows us all the way back to shore.
I decide this time I have to paddle harder and try to keep Puck swimming in the right direction. I take off. He jumps in and starts swimming. This time he grabs the line that is holding the toy, but he’s hooked on, so I keep paddling. Quickly I realize that paddling with a large dog attached to the back is difficult. He’s swimming behind me, but we are lurching all over the place. I suspect I look like I am paddling drunk. Finally, I give up and let him pull us back to shore.
My last resort is to convince Puck to get ON the board. It is very common to see dogs sitting quietly on the front of a SUP, enjoying the ride. Of course, those dogs are not 90 pounds of crazy, but we have to try. I sit on the SUP and hang my legs over the side, so I can steady the board. It’s easy to get him to put his front paws on but that’s as much as he is willing to do. After several attempts, I grab his wetsuit and haul him on. Now I have 90 pounds of wet shaking dog on the board.
At this point I realize there is a major problem with this plan. Puck can’t really sit like a normal dog. Because of his highly modified knees, his sit is more of a squat/hover; his butt never touches the ground. It’s not a position he can spend more than a few seconds in.
I have let us drift away from the shallows and Puck is standing on the board like a newborn foal not sure of his legs. I’m sitting. He is leaning on me, so it is impossible to paddle. He lasts a few minutes but as the shore drifts further away I can see the panic take hold. I see him thinking: Mom! The land! Mom!?!?! I can’t keep him on any longer: He launches off the SUP and starts swimming madly to shore.
I follow, admitting defeat for the day.
I realize I may have to face the fact that Puck is not a SUP dog, but we aren’t giving up yet. I’m already planning my next attempt: There is a lake in Crested Butte that is long and skinny, so he could be near or on shore the whole time and I could paddle parallel to the shore. I will put both his wetsuit and his life jacket on to give him lots of buoyancy. We’ll have the toy attached to the back of the SUP for emergencies.
It could work…