Friday, December 30, 2011

More On Our River Boating Dogs

I was twenty- two years old when I bought my first home on the Meramec River. To say that it was a "fixer upper" was an understatement. My future wife, Rosie, and I had been dating a couple of years and with my work schedule and work on the house, a pet was not on our priority list. My brother brought a puppy over that had wandered onto their worksite one day and wouldn't leave. Having a home, a girlfriend, and a dog seemed like the natural progression of the way life should be, (not necessarily in that order) so we took in the collie/shepherd mix and named him Gus, after a friend.

 Somewhere in life's progression comes a boat if you live on a river, and Gus took to the water and boats like a spaniel, as he could have very easily had some spaniel in him too. In this picture, Gus is taking in the view from my dad's boat on a trip up the Mississippi to the St. Louis riverfront from our home on the Meramec River.
 Gus was not a water skiing dog like my childhood pet, Paree, but he would chase us along the riverbank when we were skiing up and down the channel in front of our river house, and he was always first to jump in the boat for a ride whenever he was invited to join us.
 Gus had the best personality of any pet we ever owned. He was a member of our wedding party when we got married in 1980 and he was loved as much as any being can love another during the much too short of a time that he was with us. He has been gone for nearly 30 years, and to this day, recollecting his traumatic demise is almost too much for me to bear.
 It's never good to make decisions under duress, but to fill the void of the loss of Gus, we acquired a puppy from a litter of Alaskan Malamutes that a friend had. We got the puppy in the fall, and the idea of boating with an Alaskan Malamute was not part of the equation, but it should have been. We named the puppy Minga, and he was a hoot in the snow, and although he really did enjoy boat rides, the heat would get to him and cooling him off in the water was not effective. Think about it this way; say you are out on a summer day in 90+ degree temperatures and you are hot. The last thing you want to have on you is a wet fur coat, and that is what's like for a dog with a coat fit for the Great White North.
 But we made a promise to Minga and had an obligation to keep him, so even though we spent as much time as we could with him, I had a desire to get a dog that was a little more pocket sized, so I surprised Rosie with a miniature Yorkie and we named her Tasha, short for her pedigreed name of "Blue Natasha Dasha".

This picture is from 1981 on our boat dock on the Meramec River. Tasha is on my knee and I think you can see Minga, all 85 pounds of him. Even though Tasha was only a mouthful for Minga, they got along great and were good friends, but Tasha got to join in on more boating fun than Minga did.

I just had to include this picture of Tasha in her life jacket, taken in 1983. Even though she doesn't look too happy, and looks more like a rat than a dog, she really did like the boat and she would swim pretty good, but like any adolescent, hated wearing a life jacket.
 Tasha was a good boating dog in that she didn't shed, would poop on the swim platform, and had pretty good sea legs, only falling overboard once. She was a regular fixture on our next five boats until she too, like Gus, met with an unfortunate accident, although her advanced age and blindness played a part in it.
 Minga had to be put down due to his advanced age and poor health prior to the passing of Tasha, so from 1997 until just last Sunday, we were without a pet.

 Here is Holly. She hasn't seen the boat yet, but here she's posing with a "beach chair". We got Holly on Christmas Day from a friend. She is a Yorkie/Poodle mix and I can already tell that she has the makings of the perfect boat dog and here is why; She will remain small, small equals not much to go in, and not much to come out. Storage on a boat is valuable. She won't shed. I hate dog hair on a boat, and wet dog hair is even worse. She has lung power. Even though the decibel level may be less than that of a larger dog, it's adequate enough to wake up Rosie or I if anyone comes around while we are sleeping on the hook or at a marina, and dogs have an uncanny knack for detecting strangers.
 The day head shower will become Holly's "potty place". Newspapers or "potty pads" can be easily disposed of and poop, well poop will become fish bait. Think of that next time you cut into a grouper for dinner.

 Here is Holly in her "play pen" helping me write our blog at home. After having her for only a week it's hard to believe we have gone this long without a dog, but we have been living in high rise condos for several years and our work schedules, we felt, were not conducive to being able to spend quality time with a pet.
 In time to come, there will be plenty of stories about Holly's life on the boat. I suppose we'll be signing future posts with "Mike, Rosie, and Holly", and she will be known as just another fixture on the cruising vessel Swing Set, and another part of the crew wondering what tomorrow will bring.