Doing the dog paddle – literally Article was in The Record (waterloo newspaper on Sat Oct 2/04 NANCY SILCOX (Oct 2, 2004) Canoe trips include time to relax. But the real fun is on the water as paddlers and their dogs demonstrate. Dogs in canoe. As an avid dog-lover, I'm always on the lookout for dogfriendly attractions. The Internet is a gold mine for such information, and sites like dogfriendly.com list accommodations, beaches, stores and even restaurants where Fido is welcome. Most lie south of the border. However, the website for a Markham-based company made me sit up and take notice. "I've signed us up for a canoe trip with the dogs," I informed my spouse, Louis, who arched an eyebrow. Dog Paddling Adventures, owned and operated by Eren and Kathryn Howell, offered its first canoe trip in 2000. Since that time, they have added activities including skijorring. As Eren Howell explains: "When you put a harness on the dog and clip it to a crosscountry skier, you have skijorring." (In the likely event of a rabbit or squirrel coming into the dog's field of vision, the skier can press a quick-release button on the harness.) Kathryn Howell, the self-described business personality of the company, said weekend canoe trips to five provincial parks, all within a 100-kilometre radius of Toronto, have been their most "popular" attraction. Eren Howell, a whitewater and flatwater paddler, is the manpower behind Dog Paddling Adventures. Having worked for several years as a professional guide on humans-only excursions, he saw a niche howling to be filled. "After we got Jessie (a blue-eyed husky-Akita cross breed), I started taking her on the hikes and paddling trips I led," he explained. "People would say they wished that they had been able to bring their own pet along." The Howells now cater to every level of activity and expertise. Beginner-level outings don't require paddling, hiking or camping experience for either human or dog. Everything is provided, from tents, canoes and lifejackets to meals and snacks. A one-day hike, including lunch, admission to parks and a guide, runs about $50 per person and dog. Extended hikes or paddling trips run to $699 per person for a seven-day Algonquin Park canoe trip. This year, the Howells added a five-day "ruff water adventure" on the Madawaska River for more adventurous clients. It costs $525 per person and dog. For us, the one-day Toronto Harbour Paddle seemed to be a good place to begin. Although Louis and I are experienced canoeists, our two golden retrievers are less comfortable in a boat. Indeed, one of our "girls," Amber, is downright unpredictable on the water. On her first canoe outing down the muddy Nith River late last summer, she sailed over the side of the craft and headed for a small island off in the distance in hot pursuit of a bird. We hoped for less commotion in the big city. Eren and dog Jessie, and assistant Donna Steele and her pooch, Rose, welcomed 13 humans and 12 dogs at our meeting place, the Toronto Harbourfront Kayak and Canoe Club. We were an eclectic mix. The canines included a pug lapdog, two timid beagles, a high-sprung springer spaniel, one wheaten terrier, our two goldens, a handsome Bernese mountain dog and a several pooches of undetermined parentage. One such beast was bent on mounting all four-legged canoeists, regardless of sex or size. Our craft for the day was a large Voyageur canoe. Our destination: the Toronto islands, just off the shoreline. Only a 15-minute journey by ferry, the islands are a leisurely one-hour trip by canoe. For the most part, while humans paddled and got acquainted, the dogs hunkered low in the bottom of the canoe. Both guides kept an eye out for speeding motor boats and ferries throwing off their substantial wakes. Having advertised "swimming opportunities for the dogs," the company did not disappoint. Twelve exuberant canines rushed Toronto Island's public beach. Fortunately, the weekend had been rainy and few human swimmers were testing the waters. Paula and Sharon Welke of Guelph recalled their recent hike to Mono Hills with their sheltie, Snickers: "Shelties don't like the water and aren't known for their swimming ability, but for some reason Snickers decided to follow a bunch of labs into the pond. He flew into the water like he knew what he was doing, and sank like a stone." Tess the Bernese and Bubba the pug provided our comic relief. As we relaxed while our guides prepared a lunch of cold cuts, bread, veggies and cheese, Tess snatched a generous stack of Piller's roast beef in her jaws and headed for the hills, with Eren in hot pursuit. Generously, the Bernese shared his tasty beef with several other hounds. In late afternoon, we paddled back to the mainland. Several minutes into the trip, a splash and a shriek, ''Bubba!'' came from the back of the canoe. Dog overboard, someone yelled, and Howell scooped the surprised pug back into the canoe, showing us why the dogs' lifejackets have handles. After a goodbye snack of watermelon for the people and Meaty Rollover for the dogs, it was over -- for now. Exercise, good food, like-minded companions and fun. What more could a dog-lover ask? Next time, we plan a day of hiking in the fall colours of the Albion Hills -- dogs welcome, of course. Nancy Silcox lives in New Hamburg.