Dog Paddling: Ed Pierson and ‘Wake Up’ Maggie

At eleven pounds, Maggie enjoys riding in the front hatch of a sea kayak

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Like in the Rod Stewart song, Ed Pierson, 63, an attorney-at-law in Seattle, Washington, wakes up Maggie…to go paddling. Maggie, an 8-year old mutt, is cat-sized at 11-pounds 6-ounces, so she's not built for high seas. The pair paddles early to avoid the chop. Maggie might be small, but she is mighty. Pierson had Maggie's DNA assayed and she's wire-haired Jack Russell, long-haired dachshund, Shih Tzu, and pit bull (just a drop at one percent). Her Shih Tzu weight has her preferring calm water, but her Jack Russell pluck has her preferring paddling, whatever the weather.

"Once, on a cold day with seas I thought were too much for her," Pierson recalls, "I left Maggie on the shore with friends while I launched my kayak for a short paddle off Hornby Island. Seconds later, Maggie jumped into the water and swam out to me."

They paddle on Lake Union and the Ship Canal in Seattle, Port Madison on Bainbridge Island, and Hornby Island in British Columbia, but the best laid plans of mutts and men can be blown away.

"Several times in the inside passage of Hornby Island we've taken off on a calm day with water like glass. When I've paddled a mile from the launch spot, however, the winds have kicked in and the water has turned from glass-like to whitecaps."

One time, waves had Maggie wide-eyed.

"Once I paddled far from the launch spot in a direction where there are cliffs and few landing spots. A storm blew in. Though she usually faces out to see the sights, Maggie turned to look at me for the duration of the return trip with a worried face that said, 'Please get us home.' There were howling winds and whitecap swells, but we made it. After that, I resolved to paddle closer to home and watch for weather changes."

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Maggie might not like whitewater, but what really rattles her are the black eyes of seals.

"Once off Phipps Point on Hornby Island, we kayaked during the spring herring run, and Maggie and I found ourselves at a spot with the two of us and about 100 seals. They all popped their heads out of the water and just stared at us, as if to say, 'This is our spot.' Maggie started to tremble and we quickly retreated to safer waters."

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The pair paddle a Necky Chatham and an Atlantis Titan with a slight modification.

"The front hatch comes off and I use a piece of Styrofoam on the floor of the hatch for her seat/bed. I am considering adding a piece of foam to the deck at the spot where she likes to rest her head."

She doesn't leave home without her doggie PFD.

"It's all about her PFD for Maggie. When she sees it, her tail wags. When I put it on her, she walks to the water's edge to get lifted into her spot in the hatch."

In her spot, Maggie can begin watching for herons and flying fish. If you have a pocket-sized pooch and are considering paddling with your pal, Pierson has some training advice.

"Try putting your dog in a basket on the front of your bike and go for short rides so she connects with the concept of traveling together with her as the navigator out front. This is how we started (and how we still travel together most every day on land). Plus, put her favorite blanket or short material in the spot where she will sit and congratulate her when you finish and land."

It doesn't hurt to paddle to a place that caters to canines.

"We sometimes paddle up the Ship Canal to Ballard, where we land and walk up to a great bar that welcomes Maggie with water for her served in a champagne glass."

One day, Ed and Maggie might paddle past the Alaskan glaciers and up the canals of Venice, but there are places Ed won't go with his little buddy.

"I've given up on big crossings and rougher water, and I avoid paddling near orcas."

Being with Maggie is worth missing some orca sightings, however.

"We are together doing something we both love."

— More DOG PADDLING stories on CanoeKayak.com