Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 26, 2013

SPENCER — You don’t expect to see the head of a young German shepherd bobbing toward you along the banks of the Yadkin River.
But there he was, seemingly out of nowhere, swimming toward the boat access ramp at York Hill.
Without a collar and a bit scrawny, the dog popped easily out of the water, sniffed a hello to a couple of fishermen and gave himself a good shake. Minutes later, seven canoes and kayaks eased up to the shoreline, and Justin Quinlivan let loose a call for the dog.
“Shiner!” he yelled.

The Fourth Annual Tour de Yadkin, a 185-mile paddling trip on the Yadkin River from June 9-29 just happens to have a mascot this year.
Meet Moonshine — “Shiner” to friends such as Quinlivan of Lewisville.
The German shepherd, apparently abandoned, happened on the paddlers at the Yadkin Shoals campsite, and 11 days and 75 miles later, he’s still with the tour.
At Yadkin Shoals, Quinlivan says, the tour participants who stayed overnight fed the dog, but they left on the river the next morning thinking he would go back to the campsite.
But like Lassie coming home, Moonshine swam, ran through woods, crossed railroad tracks and caught up with the tour’s paddlers 5 or 6 miles downstream.
He hasn’t left since. Paddlers from a previous day have sometimes come back the next morning, just to bring the dog some food.
Moonshine needs it, considering all the calories he has been burning.
Sometimes he’s running along the shoreline, or he’s riding with Quinlivan, who is paddling the entire trip as the tour’s safety boat or sweeper. Sometimes, he might disappear for an hour or two.
But it’s not unusual for Moonshine to be in the river, swimming ahead of the day’s participants.
“He’s the leader of the pack,” Quinlivan says.
Tuesday’s river segment from Boone’s Cave to the York Hill access area was 9.5 miles. Though he undoubtedly had never been to the access, Moonshine made a beeline swim for it, as if knowing that’s where the group was headed.
“He’s the smartest dog I’ve ever seen,” Quinlivan says.
When tour participants aren’t camping overnight and staying in their own homes instead, Moonshine stays with Quinlivan.
So far, 528 people and one Moonshine have participated in this year’s Tour de Yadkin, and 132 miles are behind the paddlers.
When the tour ends Saturday with a 5-mile paddle from the Falls Reservoir to Morrow Mountain State Park, Quinlivan plans to claim “Shiner” for good.
“Or I will let him lay claim to me,” he says.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.