It’s a pretty picture—the photo of the outdoorsman in the plaid shirt. He’s rugged-good-looking, in his forties, perhaps a few days’ worth of perfectly even stubble adorning his rich tan and deep, soulful eyes. His vintage cedar strip canoe sits poised on the calm shores of a placid lake. Virgin forest stretches into the warm horizon of an immaculate sunset. A hearty fire throws up heat and light. And who lies quietly and obediently at his feet? The pièce de résistance—his dog. What a load of crap!

You paddlers with your stupid barking dogs, you are selfish, not soulful. There is no peace or tranquility whilst your ill-bred and even-worse-mannered mutt rummages through my dinner scraps, howls at the moon and pisses on my tent. It might paint a nice picture, but dogs and paddling don’t mix.

We paddlers come together at campgrounds, river-banks, and festivals. Often this means that we have our tents very close to one another. Strangely, we all get up at the same time. Ever wondered why? It’s not because we want an early start on the river. It’s because at 5 a.m., some yippy collie sees a chipmunk and begins to bark, and the other 15 canines join in.

Or, back at the campground after a hard day’s paddle, you’ve made yourself a fine meal and realize you don’t have a drink. So you set your plate down on your camp chair to go for a soda or a brewha. When you return to your seat, somebody’s slobbery mutt is scarfing down the last of your beef stroganoff.

Whose fault is this? Well a dog owner (if you can find him) will either deny it—”my dog would never do that”—or laugh—”what did you expect for leaving your plate on the chair?”

I won’t even get into cleaning up after your dog, but let’s just say that many of us like to walk around barefoot.

I’m no dog psychiatrist. I can’t go into details on why doggie A with no balls is acting out frustration on doggie B who still has balls. What I do know is that about every 10 minutes, some dog owner is jumping up screaming and running across the campground to tear his dog off the bleeding neck of another. Very tranquil! At any given river festival there are so many dog fights that maybe we should forget kayak tossing and paddle tricks. Maybe we should build a ring and sanction a fighting league—à la White Fang—with all house proceeds going toward river conservation.

Now let’s talk about the river dog. You know the drill. Owner goes paddling and dog chases him down the river. This isn’t so bad on it’s own—kinda cute—except the dog is stressed and barks the whole freaking time. Very peaceful! Again, the owner knows this will happen yet does nothing (like leave the animal at home). Result? We think the owner’s an inhumane idiot.

Which brings me to my final point: Who is at fault in all this, the dog or the owner? We all know the answer. Dogs are creatures of habit: they don’t have a set of manners for eating with the boys and another set for eating at the girlfriend’s parents. If your dog eats people’s food, goes through garbage and begs, it’s because you, the owner, have brought it up poorly. You, the owner, have failed this beast and, consequently, you have failed us.

Don’t bring your dog to the river.

Ben Aylsworth likes things on all fours but still leaves it at home. 

Screen_Shot_2016-04-21_at_9.38.52_AM.pngThis article first appeared in the Fall 2003 issue of Rapid Magazine.


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