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.


Return to the
Windows to the Wild
Main Page

WINDOWS TO THE WILD WITH WILLEM LANGE is generously supported by the Alice J. Reen Charitable Trust and the Bailey Charitable Foundation

Willem Lange’s wardrobe is generously donated by The Kittery Trading Post


Watch Online

Moose Whispers

Willem goes looking for moose with long-time moose researcher Charles Willey in Colebrook.

Watch More A Paddling Pup

TV Schedule

Full Schedule



Learn More...


Podcast

Listen on your favorite podcast platform

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts Subscribe on Google Podcasts Subscribe on Podbean Subscribe on I Heart Radio Subscribe on Amazon Music

 

Thanks to our podcast partner: The Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication at Franklin Pierce University


More Video

Long Trail Hike In Vermont

Long Trail Hike In Vermont

A trip along Vermont's Long Trail.

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Join host Willem Lange on a tour of a Cambridge oasis -- the Mount Auburn Cemetery.

Journey Across Ireland

Journey Across Ireland

Willem and a group of people from throughout New England took a trip through Ireland.

Scenic Railriders

Scenic Railriders

What do you do with a section of 170-year-old abandoned railroad track?


Adventures With Floki

Adventures With Floki

Melissa Elam has hiked all of NH's 4,000-foot mountains with her cat, Floki.

Eco River Run

Eco River Run

A North Conway family shares what they learned about the effects of climate change.

Changing Winter

Changing Winter

Gabriel Andrus will ski from the northern border of NH to its southern border this winter.

Rockhounds

Rockhounds

There are gems in the hills. Host Willem Lange learns there's a lot to rock hunting.

Record-Setting Hiker

Record-Setting Hiker

Arlette Laan is the first woman to hike all eleven of the National Scenic Trails.

Kayaking With Cookies

Kayaking With Cookies

Kayaker Betsy Wish set out years ago to meet the people who catch our lobsters.

All Persons Trail

All Persons Trail

The Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve is considered an ecological gem.

Coastal Trek

Coastal Trek

Host Willem Lange is at sea on the American Eagle schooner.

Hiking with David

Hiking with David

David Krueger is a Language Specialist / Interpreter, you may have seen him.

One Thousand Hours Outside

One Thousand Hours Outside

New Hampshire resident Susan Dromey Heeter is competitive.

Rowing the Erie Canal

Rowing the Erie Canal

Competitive rower Erik Frid takes a break from competition to row 300 miles.

Outdoor Classroom

Outdoor Classroom

Susie Spikol is a naturalist at the Harris Center for Conservation Education.

Community Outing

Community Outing

Mt. Eustis Ski Hill opened in 1939 and was a community gathering place until it closed.

Sectional Hiker

Sectional Hiker

Redline guide Ken Hodges hikes with Debby "Bear Repellent" Roberts.

Summits In Solidarity

Summits In Solidarity

Willem hikes with partners and participants of Summits in Solidarity.

Wood Island Lifesaving Station

Wood Island Lifesaving Station

The Lifesaving Station at Wood Island was used for sea rescue prior to the Coast Guard.

Wood Island Lifesaving Station (Preview)

Wood Island Lifesaving Station (Preview)

The Lifesaving Station at Wood Island was used for sea rescue prior to the Coast Guard.

Paddling The Saco

Paddling The Saco

Conway photographer Joe Klementovich uses a paddleboard to explore 130 miles of the Saco.

School at Sea

School at Sea

Students attend school aboard a schooner.

Season 17

Season 17

Join us for an all new season of Windows to the Wild with Willem Lange! Wednesdays at 7:30

A Hike With Friends

A Hike With Friends

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

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

Forest Therapy With Dogs

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

Forest Therapy With Dogs (Preview)

Forest Therapy With Dogs (Preview)

Forest Therapy Guide Nadine Mazzola and their dogs.

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

Classroom On The Connecticut

Vermont teacher Scott Ellis believes that real learning happens outdoors.



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