KH: One thing that particularly impressed me was the role Willow assumed as Zev’s guardian. We didn’t train her to do that, she just took it upon herself. For example, on occasion, Leanne and I had to portage the canoe past rapids; we’d put Zev down in the safest place we could find, and Willow, of her own free will, would park herself right alongside him. They were never out of our sight, but we were sometimes many hundreds of meters away, and that was bear country. Willow’s a Border Collie crossed with a livestock guardian dog, so she has some of those guarding attributes along with her herding instinct.
B: Did having Willow along enhance the trip in other ways?
KH: Dogs really enrich the experience of these sorts of trips. Besides companionship, which is high on the list, their senses are much wilder and more acute than our own. They’re able to alert us to things we wouldn’t otherwise see, smell or hear. Willow was also a great early-warning system. One night, we were inside the tent and heard Willow growling. I looked outside and there was a black bear rooting through our stuff. We chased him off before he got into our food. Since we were about six weeks from our next cache of supplies, it would’ve been pretty serious if he’d cleaned us out.
B: How would you compare the Y2Y experience and this trip?
KH: Y2Y was completely different, partly because I was on foot most of the time rather than in a boat, but largely because I was usually alone with Webster. Those quiet, pensive moments that we all kind of imagine happen in the wilderness are rare with a two-year-old around. You find your mind drifting for half a second and then you’re pulled up by an emergency. On the Y2Y trip, I felt like I could go deep. On this expedition, I had a few of those moments, but they were infrequent.
B: Tell us about Farley and dogs.
KH: Throughout his life, from his first dog, Mutt, Farley’s had at least one dog— he’s just crazy about them. He mentioned that he has some unfinished manuscripts; one involves a Lab, Albert, who was apparently a great water dog. His current dog is named Chester, and Farley was always speaking to Willow on Chester’s behalf. Chester was mildly interested in Willow, but much more interested in Zev. At the beginning of the trip, we got quite a bit of media. One of the stories was a front-page article with a color photo. We sent him the clipping along with a letter to let him know we were off. We’d been exchanging letters for a few months before the trip, but he didn’t know what any of us—including Willow—looked like. In his next letter to us, which we couldn’t pick up until we reached Saskatchewan six weeks later, Farley said Willow reminded him of Mutt. “This could be the dog that would be,” he said.
B: What’s next? Are there more “incredible journeys” on the horizon?
KH: Our trips have all come about pretty organically—we tend toward experiences that have good stories and promote causes we believe in. Essentially, these longer trips are part of who we are. So we’re not searching out new ones, but if a good opportunity presents itself, we’re open to it.