Redneck Hillbilly Pontoon

We were booking a vacation at the lake and this was intended to be a dog trip. Unlike most road trips where the dogs get penned up in somebody’s living room for a week, the dogs were going to go swimming and kayaking with us.

Our dog Dakota had been kayaking before and she LOVED riding in a kayak. The trouble was that she shifted a lot: Look to the left, look to the right, spin around a few times lest she miss something, and it wasn’t exactly comfortable for whoever she was kayaking with.

Now my husband in all his ingenious glory came up with a brilliant invention to solve the problem: the Redneck Hillbilly Pontoon. The intent was to turn our two kayaks into a pontoon with a center platform for the dogs to ride on.

Rednick Hillbilly Pontoon for DogsAfter a great deal of thought, he decided on a heavy duty camping cot for the dog platform. It was perfect! The camping cot provided rails for straps and Bungee Cords.

Its design allowed PVC pipes to be threaded through to help create stability. The camping cot was also portable and temporary. You could put it together in minutes, and it didn’t harm the kayaks. The concept was pure genius.

The first test run was at our own lake. We lived on a subdivision lake so we took our Redneck Hillbilly Pontoon and put it in the water next to our dock. Bear was in his cockpit and I headed up to get our two dogs.

I harnessed the dogs and grabbed their leashes, but I only leashed Sierra as I knew we’d never get her on board a kayak without it. This dog did not embrace new things and she’d never been in a kayak before. Dakota on the other hand loved adventure, so I let her go down to the dock by herself. That was the first big mistake.

Dakota-dog beat me down to the dock and instead of waiting for me, Bear called her to board the Redneck Hillbilly Pontoon. He figured she’d be smart enough to know where to put her feet. Never having boarded such a bizarre contraption, and never having boarded a kayak on her own, she didn’t live up to his high expectations.

In her exuberance to go for a boat ride, she stepped on the nose of the kayak and immediately slid down into the water. NOOOOOO! I hollered from afar, running as fast as I could with Sierra on a leash next to me.

Once Dakota was in the water we couldn’t get her out. I hooked Sierra’s leash around a dock handle and hoped she wouldn’t attempt to join Dakota, while I tried my damnedest to get Dakota out of the water and back up onto the dock. She would not budge.

I pulled the leash. I tried to haul her up by the dog halter. I wheedled, cajoled, and commanded, but all to no avail. Dakota had no intention of climbing back onto the dock. She’d gotten the notion that the dock meant missing out on a boat ride and by golly, she was NOT going to miss out!

We couldn’t take her to shore because our lake had a retaining wall and if she was unwilling to climb back onto the dock, we’d never get her up over the retaining wall.

We tried getting her to climb directly onto the Redneck Hillbilly Pontoon but Dakota-dog couldn’t do it from the water, so it was imperative to get her back onto the dock.

Every time I tried pulling her out, she started bucking like a bronco to get back to the kayaks and I was afraid she’d slip the halter and get loose. Finally Bear steered the Redneck Hillbilly Pontoon around and climbed out so that he could haul Dakota up like a sack of potatoes. It took us 45 minutes to get Dakota back onto the dock.

By then we had decided to just take the dogs for a regular kayak ride, but keep the pontoon connected. We’d had enough experimenting for one day.

Dakota-dog happily climbed into his kayak cockpit from the dock and now it was time to load Sierra. Our younger dog had been watching the rodeo and she had decided that whatever this contraption was, she wanted no part of it. She did NOT board my kayak willingly, but I did manage to get her into my cockpit. Sierra was much easier to handle than Dakota, being smaller and more obedient in general.

We took a boat ride around the lake and Dakota enjoyed every moment while Sierra trembled like a leaf in a hurricane. She kept waiting for some Big Bad thing to happen after watching Dakota’s mishap. She wouldn’t even raise her head enough to watch the scenery pass by.

Rednick Hillbilly Pontoon for DogsThe test run ended and we figured it would go better once we got to the real vacation lake. We’d be able to board the Redneck Hillbilly Pontoon on the beach which would be much easier for the dogs.

I know it’s hard to tell from the photos, but the camping cot is strapped down tightly to the kayaks with hooks that latch onto the lip of each kayak. The PVC gives the pontoon platform stability and overall, the concept is sound.

It was a long way down to the beach from our cottage and we’d invested in kayak dollies aka kayak carts. They strapped onto one end of the kayak and allowed you to pull the kayak on wheels, making long treks much easier. We assembled the Redneck Hillbilly Pontoon down on the beach next to our dock.

Kayak dollies carts on wheels

The dogs had already been to the beach several times and gone swimming, so they were primed and ready for a water adventure. Dakota was the first to board the Redneck Hillbilly Pontoon platform and she did so eagerly. We’d made one critical error in the assembly, however. We’d failed to secure the central portion of the platform so that it wouldn’t fold up under her. Dakota’s weight immediately collapsed the camping cot at the center fold.

Dogs swimming in the lake wearing bright yellow life vestsBy then Sierra had already taken off into the water. She was on a thirty foot long rope attached to her harness and she wanted no part of this funky contraption on the beach.

Dakota soon followed so I went with the dogs while Bear disassembled the Redneck Hillbilly Pontoon. We had decided to just take the easy road and go kayaking separately this time. Now that we knew where the trouble spots were, we could always try the pontoon again some other day.

Sierra was still in the water when I loaded Dakota in my kayak and took off, handing Sierra’s rope off to Bear. Dakota and I paddled off figuring that Sierra and Bear would catch up. The trouble was that Bear couldn’t convince Sierra to climb into his kayak. She saw me and Dakota-dog sailing off and she wanted to follow us, so she took off swimming.

Bear was in the kayak holding onto her rope and the next thing he knew, she was towing him in the water. We thought okay, we’re happy, and the dogs are happy in their various positions so let’s go with it. Both dogs had life jackets on and were securely on ropes so that they couldn’t run off, so it should be safe.

Long dockSierra was bred to be a water dog so she was a zippy little swimmer. She was a Catahoula Leopard Dog with fully webbed feet and swimming was right up her alley. Everything would have been perfect except for the long dock with a deck at the end. That dock was our downfall.

I had reached the end of the dock and Sierra was only halfway there when I turned the corner. She saw a shortcut under the dock and headed for it, with Bear trailing far behind in his kayak. Remember that she was towing him along so if the dog swam under the dock, Bear would get towed under the dock right along with her. That’s where it went awry.

Dogs swimming in the water with life jacketsHe had to let go of the dog rope. In the meantime, I paddled furiously to get into a good position to grab hold of Sierra’s rope when she exited from under the dock. Sierra’s goal was to follow me and Dakota so there really wasn’t any worry about her destination, and I was able to get hold of her easily.

Now we were almost back to shore and Dakota was already attempting to climb out, so we aborted kayaking altogether.

Dogs swimming in bright yellow life jacketsBy then we’d had enough of kayaking with the dogs so we left the kayaks on the beach and simply took the dogs swimming. Sierra preferred being in the water anyway and Dakota had already enjoyed a kayak ride, so we let them frolic in the water without any contraptions or gadgets. They were much happier for it and so were me and Bear. We decided that for this trip, the kayaks would just have to be people pleasers instead of dog adventures.

Husky dog at the lake to go kayaking

We played in the crystal clear water for awhile and wore the dogs out swimming. As we all know, a tired dog is a good dog so wearing them out before dinner was a good thing. Then they’d snooze while we went to dinner instead of wondering why we’d left them in a strange house.

Two kayaks on wheels standing upThe Redneck Hillbilly Pontoon was an ingenious contraption, but it just didn’t work out for us and the dogs this time around. We wheeled the kayaks back up to the cottage and leaned them against the deck to dry. The best invention we discovered on this trip was the kayak wheels that helped us pull the kayaks up and down the long, gradually sloping hill.

Taking the dogs on fun road trips has been one of our goals since watching Dakota’s joy over her very first road trip. You can read about Dakota-dog’s first road trip, which took us to Rodanthe in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, in her book. Bad Dog to Best Friend is the story of two-time shelter dog Dakota’s first year with us. She came to us as a dog full of bad behavior and dirty tricks, and we transformed her into a dog who’d share our home for a lifetime.

  • Bad Dog to Best Friend


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