An hour after my canoeing companion of 12 years had been euthanized, I put my feelings about her life on paper. I wrote up a list of Bailey’s faults and strengths, her crazier character traits and the stunts she pulled during a life that included more than 600 nights out on canoe trips.

I posted my thoughts on my blog that evening and by the end of the next day I had received more than 500 emails of condolences from people who either knew of Bailey or were trippers who also rejoiced in canine company.

I wouldn’t have guessed that so many people knew my dog (or read my blog, for that matter) but I suppose it makes sense, since she has appeared in a dozen books and countless magazine articles.

More surprising was the number of people who wrote about willingly subjecting themselves to the maddening appeal of canoeing with a dog.

Bringing Bailey along on trips was a challenge. I carried her specially designed pack full of kibble and chew toys more then she. She was the first to have breakfast, lunch and dinner. Her sun umbrella strapped to the gunwale and foam cushion glued to the belly of the canoe made portaging difficult. She insisted the bug shelter be put up for her immediately once we reached camp. I lifted her in or out of the canoe at every single put-in and take-out.

Bailey was chased by skunks, porcupines, a lynx, raccoons, hawks, snakes, swarms of hornets, one nasty chipmunk, and a couple of black bears (some of which followed her right back toward me). She loved rolling in crap. When she was in the canoe she whined to be lifted out and once out she whined to be put in. Every time I hooked into a fish the ever-helpful dog would try to retrieve it for me.

Canine Canoeist | Photo: Kevin Callan
Canine Canoeist | Photo: Kevin Callan

So, why did I, and all those other dog owners, put up with dog paddling? It wasn’t just because by attracting all the bugs she made a good shoofly-pie, or that she could sense a thunderstorm better than any polyester-clad weatherman or that if it weren’t for her ability to sniff out a trail I’d still be on one particularly confusing portage on the Steel River.

I loved tripping with Bailey because she never once left my side. She was a constant companion, no questions asked. My daughter, Kyla, even nicknamed her my shadow. How I miss my shadow. I doubt that canoe tripping will ever be the same without her.

Rest in peace my dear friend.

KEVIN CALLAN won’t comment on rumours that Bailey was named for his favourite drink.

This article appeared in Canoeroots & Family Camping, Early Summer 2009. 

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Kevin Callan is the author of 16 books, including the bestselling, The Happy Camper and Wilderness Pleasures: A Practical Guide to Camping Bliss. He is still presenting across North America and has been a key speaker at all major canoe events. Butt End first appeared in Canoeroots magazine 16 years ago. Kevin lives in Peterborough, Ontario.

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