B: How does Willow compare to Webster as a trail partner?
KH: They’re quite different characters. Webster was very mellow for a Border Collie—unbelievably quiet and very patient. Though he was active, he could also just lie down for hours. Whereas Willow, partly because she’s younger but also because she’s just wired differently, is high strung, with more typical Border Collie traits.
B: What kind of relationship does your son Zev have with Willow?
KH: The two of them are about the same age. We acquired Willow about the time Zev was born, and they’re very familiar with each other. I think it’s great for a baby or young child to grow up with an animal. Like most small children, Zev needed to learn how to interact with Willow, and she taught him a few lessons in respectful behavior.
B: In retrospect, what would you say was the primary benefit of traveling as you did?
KH: Leanne, Zev, Willow and I were together 24 hours a day within the very close confines of a canoe and a tent, in every kind of mood and weather. Zev was so intuitive and instinctual, in tune with his true animal nature. At the time, it was hard to see what he was getting out of it, but now, we notice that he has a sense for movement on water and a tolerance for the elements that he wouldn’t otherwise have; he understands that being wet or cold is temporary. Ultimately, the trip built an incredible foundation of shared experience that we constantly draw upon, whether through memories or what we learned or the people we met.
B: From the philosophical to the practical, tell us how you taught Willow to ride in the canoe, and how she occupied her time while she was in it.
KH: We didn’t actually teach her. Even to this day, she’s a little bit nervous in the boat, but she had a vested interest in staying with us, and as the trip went on, she settled down. All of us did, really. We’d been on a few day trips together but none of that was any benefit when we set out to “find” Farley. The routine with Willow was that she would hop aboard as we were leaving shore, then try to get as close to the front as possible—sometimes hilariously so. She’d have all four paws on the tiny front deck and be balancing precariously on the gunnels of the boat, leaning as far forward as possible. Then we’d find a more workable location for her, usually atop the load amidships. If there were waves, she’d get excited, leaning over the edge of the canoe and snapping at the water. She’d also snap at flies and mosquitoes; when bumblebees came by, she’d badger them, then go flying off the boat—she’d fall in, not purposefully jump in. We discovered that she’s a pretty amazing swimmer. Sometimes, when we were in appropriate areas—on public land and when birds weren’t nesting on the shoreline— we’d put her onshore for a bit of a run. She’d lope along, glancing back at us and watching us come down the river. Then she’d choose a good spot and swim out to us, and I’d haul her back onboard.
B: What would you say was the most challenging aspect of the trip? KH: Managing Willow and Zev. They’d be clambering around—he’d be stepping on her or she’d be stepping on him. Sometimes all Leanne and I wanted was just some peace and quiet, but that wasn’t usually an option. The bugs were another challenge. When the flies got bad, we couldn’t do much for Willow. Some of the travel arrangements were also an issue. For the maritime section— 30 hours from one land mass to the next—we lucked upon a perfect guy who was willing to take us on board. He was a total dog lover and didn’t object to having Willow on his ship, or to the accommodations we felt she needed. We made little bouquets of spruce branches and grass and left them in out-of-the way places so Willow would have something familiar to go on if she needed to.
B: Were you surprised by anything that Willow did?