A Paddling Pup

A Yankee Notebook with Willem Lange

I should have known that Kiki wouldn't stay in her little hatch in the rear deck of the kayak, even though I'd thoughtfully padded it with a big fluffy towel. As soon as we left the dock, I could feel her thrashing around back there, and then, out of the hatch, standing on the deck behind me, leaning against me. Her nose rested on my left shoulder. She was not happy.

I wasn't, either. I didn't fancy a dip in the Cocheco River, tame as it was downstream of Dover, especially with my wallet and vaccination card still in my hip pocket. So I paddled over to the crew boat, where the producer and videographer were busy filming, said, "Here! You take her," and paddled back to the middle of the river to resume my recorded conversation with Erik Frid, a competitive sculler who in his spearlike single shell was our subject of the day.

Everything was going just fine, when I heard an obviously urgent "Will!" I looked around, and spotted, swimming amazingly fast toward me, what appeared to be a beaver. Poor Kiki had succumbed to separation anxiety and was on her way to rejoin me.

There was no way I could take her aboard without flipping, so I paddled back to the crew boat and somebody there hoisted her out. "Watch out!" I cried. "She's going to –" Too late. But they got her leash on her, and this time she stayed. The rest of the shoot passed uneventfully.

On our three-hour drive home, however, watching her doze in a coil beside me with her chin resting on the low console, I got thinking about the nature – and the wisdom, too – of an almost exclusive human-canine relationship. Together almost around the clock, with very little outside stimulation – can it be healthy for either? We know each other's moves and moods, and only rarely surprise each other. What happens if – actually, when – one of us is no longer there for the other?


As I sit here at my desk a few nights after Kiki's aquatic display of please-don't-leave-me-behind, she's snoozing in a ginger-colored coil on a folded fleece throw about eight inches from my left elbow. I'm not sure she ever really sleeps; at least I've never caught her at it. She had a good supper. Now and then she sighs softly. In a little bit, she'll get up. stretch, rotate, and lie down facing the other way. She's a far cry from the lively person I shared so many years and stories and insights and obituaries with, but she's all I've got now. And, now I think of it, I'm all she's got.

I will be forever grateful to the long-ago Inuk, probably in Siberia, who looked out the front of his shelter, saw a gaunt, frowzy Arctic wolf staring at him from a distance (trust me; that's what they do when you're sitting down eating in the evening), said to himself, "That poor amaroq looks awful hungry," and threw him a morsel. The wolf no doubt started away. But the morsel was gone by morning. And the next evening, even if miles farther on, the wolf was back.

It took two: the one inclined to compassion, and the other daring to trust. They started it. Consider the millions of permutations of that relationship ever since. Our two species have shared our food, our work, our problems, and our pleasures ever since. Our dogs are litmus tests of our character: They love us so unreservedly that we can do to them pretty much what we will. Some of us abuse that trust shamefully, even gruesomely; others prove themselves worthy of it.

I watch Kiki meeting new people. An irrepressible extravert, she cottons instantly to folks whom I later find I like. I watch them, too. Their reactions are like "tells" in a game of poker.

She's little, and uses my bulk as a safe space. When I'm standing, she's usually between my feet, scanning left and right; if I'm sitting, it's in my lap (which, coincidentally, is often at the level of any available groceries). A couple of weeks ago, confronted by a very large and over-friendly chocolate Lab – I swear his head was the size of a soccer ball – she retreated behind where I was sitting and peeped cautiously out from under my arm.

So we mog along together, she and I, toward an inevitable and unknown end, each of us ready to jump into the river if the other should happen to drift too far away.

Windows to the Wild is generously supported by the Alice J. Reen Charitable Trust, The Fuller Foundation, Inc., The Gilbert Verney Foundation.


Watch Online

A Hike With Friends

Host Willem Lange is with friends on the Tucker Mountain trail in Vermont.

Watch More A Paddling Pup

Latest Updates

TV Schedule

Full Schedule



More Video

Hiking Back In Time With Tom Ryan

Hiking Back In Time With Tom Ryan

Host Willem Lange is off to Cape Cod w/ Kiki for a hike with bestselling author Tom Ryan.

Winter In The White Mountains

Winter In The White Mountains

Outdoor Afro volunteer leader Mardi Fuller will take viewers on a winter hike.

Hidden Treasures

Hidden Treasures

Jason Berard is the Stewardship Director at the Upper Valley Land Trust.

Hidden Treasures (Preview)

Hidden Treasures (Preview)

Some of New Hampshire's "hidden treasures".


My Hike With Laura Waterman (Preview)

My Hike With Laura Waterman (Preview)

In 1971, Laura Waterman and her husband Guy decided to leave behind a corporate life.

My Hike With Laura Waterman

My Hike With Laura Waterman

In 1971, Laura Waterman and her husband Guy decided to leave behind a corporate life.

High Places

High Places

The skill it takes to climb NH's breath-taking cliff faces.

Outdoor Classroom (Preview)

Outdoor Classroom (Preview)

Outdoor educator Scott Ellis is passionate about connecting people with the outdoors.

Outdoor Classroom

Outdoor Classroom

Outdoor educator Scott Ellis is passionate about connecting people with the outdoors.

Preserving A Way Of Life

Preserving A Way Of Life

Host Willem Lange visits one of NH's spectacular public properties.

Preserving A Way Of Life (Preview)

Preserving A Way Of Life (Preview)

Host Willem Lange visits one of NH's spectacular public properties.

Memorial Hike

Memorial Hike

Rachael decided not to let their dream die.

Memorial Hike (Preview)

Memorial Hike (Preview)

Rachael decided not to let their dream die.

Build It And They Will Come

Build It And They Will Come

When Marianne Borowski retired, she had a dream to create an adventure trail.

Build It And They Will Come (Preview)

Build It And They Will Come (Preview)

When Marianne Borowski retired, she had a dream to create an adventure trail.

A Trek Through Scotland

A Trek Through Scotland

Host Willem Lange explores the history, culture and natural beauty of Scotland.

A Trek Through Scotland (Preview)

A Trek Through Scotland (Preview)

Host Willem Lange explores the history, culture and natural beauty of Scotland.

Mountain Safety

Mountain Safety

Host Willem Lange spends the day at Pinkham Notch where he learns about staying safe.

Forest Therapy With Dogs (Preview)

Forest Therapy With Dogs (Preview)

Forest Therapy Guide Nadine Mazzola and their dogs.

Forest Therapy With Dogs

Forest Therapy With Dogs

She shows how to have a deep connection with our dogs and nature.

Taking On Mount Washington (Preview)

Taking On Mount Washington (Preview)

Mount Washington is a New England icon that dares people to challenge it.

Taking On Mount Washington

Taking On Mount Washington

Mount Washington is a New England icon that dares people to challenge it.

Classroom On The Connecticut (Preview)

Classroom On The Connecticut (Preview)

Vermont teacher Scott Ellis believes that real learning happens outdoors.

Classroom On The Connecticut

Classroom On The Connecticut

Vermont teacher Scott Ellis believes that real learning happens outdoors.

On The Trail With Tom Ryan (Preview)

On The Trail With Tom Ryan (Preview)

Host Willem Lange and best-seller author Tom Ryan hike to Sawyer Pond, NH.

On The Trail With Tom Ryan

On The Trail With Tom Ryan

Host Willem Lange and best-seller author Tom Ryan hike to Sawyer Pond, NH.

Kayaking With Outdoor Afro

Kayaking With Outdoor Afro

Host Willem Lange kayaks NH's seacoast with members of Outdoor Afro.

Kayaking With Outdoor Afro (Preview)

Kayaking With Outdoor Afro (Preview)

Host Willem Lange kayaks NH's seacoast with members of Outdoor Afro.

The Mountain Wanderer

The Mountain Wanderer

Lincoln, NH bookseller Steve Smith takes host Willem Lange on an adventure.

The Mountain Wanderer (Preview)

The Mountain Wanderer (Preview)

Lincoln, NH bookseller Steve Smith takes host Willem Lange on an adventure.

Dartmouth Outing Club

Dartmouth Outing Club

The Dartmouth Outing Club is the oldest collegiate outing club in the country.

Rico The Hiking Cat

Rico The Hiking Cat

The family dog wasn't up to the task, so Michael turned to his Siamese cat Rico.

Rico The Hiking Cat (Preview)

Rico The Hiking Cat (Preview)

The family dog wasn't up to the task, so Michael turned to his Siamese cat Rico.

Hiking for Hunger - Wild Moments

Hiking for Hunger - Wild Moments

A chef hikes Mount Major with others to raise awareness about hunger.

White Mountain National Forest - Wild Moments

White Mountain National Forest - Wild Moments

It's the 100th anniversary of the White Mt National Forest.

Trailblazing Sue - Wild Moments

Trailblazing Sue - Wild Moments

Sue Johnston accomplished a hiking feat no other woman had done before.

Trekking Norway

Trekking Norway

Fjords, Viking ships and the Lofoten Islands. Perhaps we're not in Kansas anymore.

Trekking Norway (Preview)

Trekking Norway (Preview)

Fjords, Viking ships and the Lofoten Islands. Perhaps we're not in Kansas anymore.

Friday Night Lights (Preview)

Friday Night Lights (Preview)

After the sun goes down, the fun ramps up at Black Mt in Jackson, New Hampshire.

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights

After the sun goes down, the fun ramps up at Black Mt in Jackson, New Hampshire.

Trailblazing Sue

Trailblazing Sue

Sue Johnston accomplished a hiking feat no other woman had done before.

Trailblazing Sue (Preview)

Trailblazing Sue (Preview)

Sue Johnston accomplished a hiking feat no other woman had done before.

Mountaintop Wedding (Preview)

Mountaintop Wedding (Preview)

What does a hiking couple do when they decide to get married?

Mountaintop Wedding

Mountaintop Wedding

What does a hiking couple do when they decide to get married?

Hiking With Tom Ryan

Hiking With Tom Ryan

What happens when the mind is willing but the body is weak?

Hiking With Tom Ryan (Preview)

Hiking With Tom Ryan (Preview)

Host Willem Lange and best-selling author Tom Ryan discover ways to keep on moving.

Finding Your Way

Finding Your Way

Learning the art of ancient navigation can save your life.

White Mountain National Forest

White Mountain National Forest

It's the 100th anniversary of the White Mt National Forest.



Visit video.nhpbs.org to see even more local and national video.


More to Explore

Bird Tales

Bird Tales

Counting On Birds

Counting On Birds

Journey of the Broad-Winged Hawk

Journey of the Broad-Winged Hawk

Lighthawk: Destination Conservation

Lighthawk: Destination Conservation

Plight of the Grassland Birds

Plight of the Grassland Birds

Saving New England Fisheries

Saving New England Fisheries

Saving Songbirds

Saving Songbirds