Earlier this month, Brendan and I took the dogs on their first river float down the American River. It was also the first time for Brendan and I, so in my true “be prepared” nature I did a lot of research.
Finn really like standing on both rafts at the same time… this made him fall in the water more than once
Dog nails can easily ruin your fun on the river by popping a raft with their claws so it is important that the raft’s plastic is very durable. After a little amazon review reading I knew I wanted products by intex. We chose a river run II — a twin tube design with a cooler in between. We also purchased a 92″ inflatable boat that was supposed to fit three people. I figured between the 5 seats and a cooler we would have enough space for Brendan, myself, Finn and Tesla. We also purchased duct tape and had the dogs’ nails ground down as precautionary measures.
Our fearless little beagle on a raft in the American River
I know dogs are supposed to inherently know how to swim, but I wasn’t too sure about Mister Finn being able to swim very well, so both dogs got life vests.
I bought them at Petsmart (Brendan was surprised that doggie life vests were so easy to find); Tesla is wearing a large and Finn a medium. I think they definitely helped them keep their faces completely out of the water while swimming. I really liked this version because it came with Velcro secures, plastic buckles, and two handles on the top. It was much easier to lift the dogs into the boat because of the handles on their backs.
river float? No big deal.
It took us about 2 hours to get up to the river site. The dogs slept for most of it, but when we got closer to Sacramento it was hotter and the dogs started to get more excitable in the cargo area. It then took about 30 minutes to blow up the rafts and tie them together; this have been impossible if there was only one of us responsible for the dogs. It was too hot to have them in the car, and too hot to have them stand on the paved area so one of us had to take them down to the riverbank, where they both insisted on drinking the water–remember this for later.
Once our friends had finished inflating the rafts, we were ready to launch our raft chain. Finn was okay with being handed off to Brendan, but Tesla wanted NOTHING to do with the boat raft she and I were supposed to sit in. A stranger actually had to hold the boat for us so that I could get in before she could jump back out. I think in general she was just worried I was leaving her, because once we were both in the boat-thingy she settled right down.
Finn jumped in a couple times to inspect ducks and quickly regretted it. Tesla slept in the raft with her head on the edge. She wasn’t very interested in anything, she just took it all in and was glad to be by my side, being fed snacks occasionally. The second half of the trip we switched rafts and she and I sat in the tandem tubes, she wasn’t a huge fan of this because her butt was in the water. After about 2 hours of that she was definitely ready to get out when we reached the shore.
Beagles like to cuddle on the river.
The float was 4 hours in total, which was twice as long as we expected. I have made a separate post on all the things I think someone should bring if they’re going to attempt this type of trip with their dogs … it was not easy on any of us. Tesla, my dear little love, got very sick the following day, and didn’t hold down anything for two days after that. Our guess is that she consumed something that she shouldn’t have — or most likely, drank too much water right at the river bank and slurped up some nasty bacteria. It was pretty awful. I had to give her pepcid and pedialyte to make sure the acid and bile production in her stomach wasn’t going crazy, and worked hard to keep her hydrated.
Brendan is not as comfortable in water as I am and he would tell you he was incredibly concerned with the dogs and his own safety the whole trip. For me it was totally fine, but everyone has their own limits. (EDIT: Brendan wants me to note that he’s reasonably comfortable in water but is a secret control freak. The drifting-along-with-no-control part of things is where the problems came in for him. Anyone with similar tendencies be warned!)
In general: Floating is a whole lot of waiting and hanging out. There were a lot of really drunk people around us (we actually saw someone almost drown, someone in our group rescued him), a lot of dogs swimming and playing along the banks, and lots of loud people playing really loud music. If you think any of this will bother your dog or if you have a dog that’s not okay with sitting for long periods of time, this is probably not an activity you want to take part in.
I think next time we’d rather have just a lake day and allow the dogs to romp around on land and in the lake but I wouldn’t be completely against doing another river float either (EDIT: Brendan says I lost my voting privileges).
But it was a beautiful day.