Saturday, 27 April 2013

Sea dog

So what about the dog?


The dog took to the sea life right from the start. When we got our Pirate she scrambled in and enjoyed lying in the cockpit whilst we were sailing, enjoying the fuss she received when disembarking or stopped at the Weymouth Bridge waiting pontoon. When it came to planning the big adventure there were long discussions about the rabbit, canaries and goldfish (all of which outlived there expected life spans and unexpectedly needed re-homing!) but conversations about the dog revolved around the practicalities rather than whether she would come.


The petscheme means that travelling within mainland Europe with pets is fairly hassle free. We have yet to be asked for the dog’s passport, it was looked at once by a customs official when he wanted to know her name, mainly she has been fussed over on all official visits and no checks have been required. It ended up taking three attempts to get her passport correct – there were details missing, conflicting vaccine batch numbers, incorrect dates and it didn’t help that we discovered she had two microchips and there was no record of the first insertion (we are her second family). A bit of detective work found that she was at least 2 years older than we thought!  I would strongly recommend getting the passport checked and double checked by someone else while you still have time to sort problems out before leaving.


There are certain vaccinations which are required for return to the UK which needed to be arranged before we left the country including rabies. I understand that the requirements may have changed since. We were under the impression that she also needed to be checked over by a vet prior to leaving but this was incorrect and is only required by carriers such as ferries, it was not a wasted walk/appointment though as some of the passport problems were picked up on this trip. We bought a small first aid kit from the vets before we left but apart from a couple of insect bites (like the rest of us) she has been fine. We get flea treatment locally as they are all specific for the area you are in and treat her as usual, I’m sure she’ll be pleased to know she is due again soon…..


Training her to use the deck has been one of the biggest challenges. We tried not taking her ashore until she was desperate, astro turf which had been left in the garden of the house for a couple of weeks close to her favourite spot, training pads impregnated with something smelly but it took a while for her to get the message. Finally she decided to use the deck for the first time and we were all very relieved (so was she!) and gave her lots of fuss. The time invested at the quayside back in Topsham, although frustrating at the time, has more than paid off when we have been on moorings or travelling for long periods such as the 2 ½ days across Biscay without seeing land.


She is a good size for getting on and off the boat as she is a small retriever and fairly light. She cannot get on and off the boat on her own and needs to be lifted, partly due to the height of the boat and partly due to her age. She also needs to be thrown over the shoulder for quay side ladders, much to the amusement of anyone watching, fine unless it is muddy and also not recommended in a black top! We have net around the boat fixed to the guard rails mainly for the children but it has saved her a few times too. She has only fallen in a couple of times, each time when she was excited about going out and tried to get off on her own, ending up swimming around the harbour until hauled out.

She has a life jacket that she wears for dingy rides and on the deck when we are moving and we use an extra strap or lead if it is rough. Although she is a strong swimmer the lifejacket has the added advantages of being bright enough to spot more easily and has a chunky handle on the back making her easier to grab. She loves going in the dinghy, jumping in and out and sits still whilst we are moving.


A travelling water bowl is a must for hot weather when we are out and about , we’ve got a canvas type one which fits in my handbag, in Spain water taps have been easy to find in most public places. Although the Spanish trains mention muzzling any dog we used her ‘haltie’ each time, kept the (cheap) muzzle in the bag just in case and the guard didn’t say a word about the dog. In France the rules are so complicated we just avoided the train although the bus was not a problem. Finding ‘poop scoop’ bags has not been easy and we ended up getting our usual value nappy sacks brought over from England by visiting family when we started running out. In France there is a general reluctance to clear up after dogs’ so in popular dog walking areas you need to really watch your step.

Most restaurants and caf├ęs have been more than happy for her to lie at our feet at outside tables and when we are heading somewhere not suitable for dogs (museums spring to mind) she is more than happy to sleep in the boat and wait for us to return. We’ve had no problem with buying food for her, she’s never been a fussy eater and has adapted easily to the local supermarkets brand of her favourite mix each time.


In many ways she has helped us see places we may not have done without her as taking the dog for a walk gets you wandering and exploring, often off the beaten track. We have found obscure roads, great view points and she has also started many conversations. She curls herself around the helms seat when we are sailing, under the table when the children are doing school work and generally makes sure that she is always involved in whatever is going on. She’s getting more elderly now and can get a bit stiff, but she still loves to explore if a bit more slowly these days. She loves the way baguettes leave so many crumbs, she loves to sleep - preferably in the sun – loves to roll on grass and she really loves a good tickle.


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