Whose Best Friend?February 20, 2003
Indie has his human, Jack, well trained for their early morning trip ashore
We know a lot of cruisers who have freeloaders on board - crew who never lift a helping hand and don't contribute to the cruising kitty. In fact, these layabouts often cost their hosts a chunk of money to support due to their particular diets and medical requirements. They also have been known to carry diseases, provoking many foreign countries to impose restrictive (and often costly) entry procedures. It's not uncommon for officials to put the suspects under house arrest (or, more accurately, boat arrest). And how do the ingrates show their appreciation for everything that's done to accommodate them? By messing up the boat and howling that service isn't prompt enough!
We're talking, of course, of pets and their long-suffering human owners. Perfectly sane people who would never accept the kind of abuse mentioned above from members of their own species are reduced to blathering dotes by a slobbery smile and wagging tail. It's difficult enough trying to satisfy the demands of four-footed house mates on land, but moving the menagerie on board adds a myriad of new challenges.
Before we go any further we should mention (if it wasn't already obvious) that we don't have any pets on board our boat. Now let us assure you that we don't actively dislike domesticated animals. Eileen has been known to pet a dog or two and David once risked life and limb feeding a psycho feline on a neighbouring boat when its owners were away for a few days. No, we can abide cats and dogs - it's just that we don't feel strongly enough about them to turn "Little Gidding" into a modern day version of Noah's ark. Call us self-centred, if you must. However, we have plenty of self-sacrificing cruising friends who ARE devoted to their animal dependants.
Take, for example, our friends Jack and Joanne on the trawler "Interlude". Their "family" includes Indie, a white west highland terrier, and Ollie (a.k.a. "Love Bug"), a rather plump white and black cat (they also have two grown-up kids of the human variety who occasionally visit). Both animals are now 12 years old and have grown up on boats. Consequently, they're better adjusted than a lot of boat pets we've encountered - they didn't suffer the trauma of being wrenched from a carefree life on land. For the last five years they've lived on board full time with Jack and Joanne.
Before leaving Florida for the Bahamas, Jack and Joanne loaded up "Interlude" with three months worth of dried and canned pet food and a bunch of kitty litter. They had Indie and Ollie inspected by a vet to certify they were healthy and had received all the required vaccinations for entry into the Bahamas. Upon arrival in Nassau, Jack took the papers to the Department of Agriculture, paid ten bucks for each animal and walked out with a couple of pet permits.
Whenever we've visited "Interlude", we've noticed that Ollie does such an excellent imitation of a throw cushion that he risks being sat upon. Not exactly a dynamo of energy, Ollie doesn't demand much attention. Keep his water and food bowl full and he's content. He fastidiously relieves himself in a litter box. Despite an apparent life of comfort on board, he still has a hankering to go AWOL if given the opportunity. On the rare occasion that "Interlude" goes dockside, therefore, he has to suffer the indignity of forced restraint (a leash).
Indie is a bit of a different story. He prefers not to relieve himself on board. This means a trip ashore at dawn and another just before dusk. Jack has a positive take on these outings, viewing them as an exercise opportunity for man and dog alike (although with age, Indie now doesn't romp too vigorously).
We asked Jack and Joanne if Indie pulls his weight in the area of security. "Well," Jack admitted, "he used to bark when strangers approached the boat, but that seems to be a thing of the past. Now we're not sure how well he sees or hears."
So, why have pets on board? "They're great emotional support," Joanne said without hesitation. Jack added, "And they're good icebreakers - you meet a lot of people when you're walking the dog on the beach." He paused and chuckled, "The bikini babes love Indie!"
Well, you've heard about man's best friend ...