Kayaking with CJ…Another Life Lesson

The sky was overcast this morning as I loaded our gear and strapped the kayak to the roof. I wasn’t sure how our day would turn out as the weather was calling for a chance of rain or thunderstorms. However, living in this part of Pennsylvania, random thunderstorms this time of year are normal. Despite the bleak outlook to our morning CJ and I pressed on. This was going to be a special day for the two of us. It was going to be a new adventure in this journey we continue on together.

CJ loves the outdoors. I mean why not, he’s a dog and what dog doesn’t enjoy being outside. A sunny warm afternoon with a fresh cut lawn means rolling around several times while walking across the backyard. Or stopping by the rabbit cage to say hello to his fuzzy friend Easter always brings a smile to his face as his short stubby tail wags. And when the timing is right and his keen eyes and nose catch it, he loves to chase the chipmunk that comes into the yard to stuff his cheeks with birdseed. But what CJ really loves the most about being outside is being with me. Whether it be a simple drive to the store, through the country or walks around the park, if I’m going some where CJ is by my side.

He’s like any other dog, but then again to me he’s not. He’s a trusted friend and companion. He never lets me down and has been with me through great times as well as really tough times. And for the past year now we have been on a journey together overcoming some tough obstacles in life. When people meet CJ for the first time they notice one trait about him that brings the same comment every time; “he seems so needy.” Is it really him being so needy? Or is it something else? What appears at times as him being needy is in reality him watching over me. Sure he’s a mini schnauzer but he’s small and mighty, protective, compassionate, loving and loyal. Sometimes I forget he’s a small dog because his heart at times seems bigger and is filled with more love then some people I know.

Take a look at magazine ads for outdoor gear and you don’t see a mini schnauzer. For CJ hiking a trail or camping is something he really enjoys. His size gives him an advantage at times as he’s able to easily scoot under fallen trees across a trail. Though his legs are much shorter then mine he’s usually the one stopping to look back at me as to say; “Hey, are you coming? We’ve got a lot of trail to explore and we’re burning daylight.” CJ and I have shared many hiking trips together but today was going to be a whole new adventure for him.

When we arrived at the lake the clouds gave way to bluer skies but it also brought on more humidity. Being out on open water in the sun and humidity could mean a miserable day on the lake. Especially for CJ. I was worried the heat and humidity would be too much for him and he knew I was worried. He has a way of knowing when I’m worried or stressed.

1236775_10151661430532998_2018308125_nAs I unloaded the gear I saw the look in his eyes, he was ready to go. We made our way to the water where I’d drop in and set off for CJ’s first kayaking adventure. As he reached the waters edge his little legs leaped into my arms and he quickly settled into a stern seated position facing the bow of the kayak like a captain in command of his ship, and off we went across the lake.

CJ doesn’t have much fear of anything except thunderstorms. When it storms, lightening and thunder will cause him to curl up as close to me as he can get while shaking uncontrollably. It’s in those moments during a storm when he needs me to be the protector, to let him know everything will be okay. But on the lake today, paddling on calm water with larger boats surrounding us on all sides, CJ took his position as my protector and leader even though it was his first time out. It’s the same way when we’re hiking. He leads and I follow. He watches and I acknowledge.

With every adventure we learn something new from each other. Today as he sat in the kayak taking lead it reminded that in my own storms CJ is always right by my side protecting me saying; “don’t worry, I’m right here with you and I’m not going anywhere.”

We have a partnership he and I. Companions on a hike through life learning from each other. And as I sit here typing out these words he’s still by my side, this time stretched out sleeping. Weary from a full day of kayaking and dreaming of our next adventure.

So remember, life is one long hiking trip that is best taken with a friend that will be by your side through any adventure. Even if he’s a small fuzzy schnauzer who’s only fears are thunderstorms.

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