When we moved aboard in 2002, we had a 6 year old Black Labrador, Jake. AKA Jakie-Bubba, Jake the Sailor Dog and The Black Vac. He was a great live-aboard dog who passed away in September of 08.
Jake was the quintessential boating dog and won the Maine Boats Homes and Harbors Boatyard Dog of the Year contest in 2005. He was featured in this article in Coastal Living Magazine. Jakie was simply the best. Ever. (I know you may disagree, but for us, he was the best live-aboard and boat yard dog every.)
EW had rescued him when he was two years old and Jake had very quickly become an important member of our household and neighborhood. We didn't have an ocean going boat at that time, but Jake's first person was a lobster man, so he knew and liked boats. We had restored an old Penn Yanand Jake loved to sit on the fore deck a small perch with a great view.
When we moved aboard, I was worried about Jake's dock manners. He wasn't a "barker" but he did let us know when company called. He also watch four neighbor houses as he seemed to feel he deserved a compound not just a home. We could not have a barking dog on the dock so I consulted our trainer who suggested that we let Jake bark once, as in "woof" when someone came down the dock. With just a little training, he figured out that boat manners were different than house manners.
Jake went to work with EW, but we could leave him home alone for a day or evening. He'd sleep on our bed (and on our pillows) but he was fine. As I've mentioned during the recent posts about the February 25 storm, we had a policy of putting Jake in one of the cars when we had severe weather on the dock. That way if something happened and we had to evacuate we didn't have to worry about him. We still call severe storms "Dog Storms" to this day.
In addition, Pablo Ruiz the labradoodledoodle visits so often and stays with us without "mom" Lynnelle, that he has become a part time boat dog and is very adept at it.
What makes a good live aboard pet? Certainly one that is laid back and adaptable. I prefer dogs partly because I'm allergic to cats and partly because I prefer animals that don't poop where they live. (In other words I'm not fond of dealing with cat litter.) We have neighbors who have wonderful on board cats -- currently two Maine Coon Cats: Romeo on Windrifter, a Westsail 42, and Sir Frances (Frankie) on a Catalina 27. Frankie is a young cat who has been raised aboard, Romeo is a senior statesman who has adapted very well.
Just like pets anywhere in most cases the attitude and actions of the owner are the primary indicators of whether a pet will be a good dock neighbor.
- Don't leave your pet alone on the boat (particularly on deck) if he or she will bark the entire time you are gone.
- On land or dock, clean up after your pet.
- Don't let the pet roam the docks unsupervised. (Though we make allowances for spring days when we are all out on the docks and decks. Loving having Frankie stop by for a visit. Katy used to stick her nose in the open galley port looking for a treat.)
- Train your dog not to jump -- especially as a bouncing jumping dog could push someone, particularly a child, into the water.
- Let your vet know about the living arrangements. Our vet is a sailor and loved our lifestyle and that was a big help. Romeo's vet has prescribed kitty downers for rough days.
- Don't expect too much from an older pet. Jake never learned that it was OK to use the poop deck on long passages. After one sail to Nova Scotia we never again put him through anything longer than an eight hour day.
- Just as when you are boating with kids, leave time for trips ashore and to play.
- The Cham Wow and those similar products sold at boat shows are the best dog driers ever. Ever.
- Get a life jacket or lifting harness for your pet. Jakie had a super special harness used by rescue dogs. He could swim and do all in it and we could have used it to lift him from the sea if necessary.
- Get a good vacuum. Or a pet that doesn't shed. I miss Jake, but don't miss the dog hair.
We are not getting another dog as we had long ago decided not to take one when we set sail for our cruise. So we knew Jake would be our last dog for some time. I'm glad our neighbors and friends have great dogs and cats - because I prefer to have a fur fix every day.