What a Naked Man on an Island Can Teach Us About Dogs

Life wouldn’t be much fun without fantasies. But what does it take to make a fantasy come true?

Ask the naked man on the beach.

An Island Dream

Tom Neale wanted to live alone on a South Seas island. Well, not entirely alone. He did take two cats with him for company.

He wrote about two of his extended stays on the island of Suvarov (now commonly called Suwarrow) in the Cook Island archipelago. Check out my review of An Island to Oneself (this is an affiliate link) at A Traveler’s Library.

A Cook Island view.

Not Tom Neale’s view but one very much like it.

Neale spent years learning the skills he’d need to make is his island fantasy come true. He worked hard. He sacrificed everything to his goal.

So what does this cat-lover on an island have to tell us about dogs?

Let’s look at some common dog fantasies first and then I’ll tell you.

Dog Fantasies

People come up to me all the time and share their doggy fantasies.

When I’m walking a foster puppy, they tell me how they’d love to get a puppy, a sweet, fuzzy thing to cuddle. Or they mention how nice it would be to have a dog who wasn’t messed up by someone else’s training mistakes.

When they spot Honey on her best behavior, they tell me how nice it must be to have a pure bred dog where you know exactly what you’re getting.

And sometimes they tell me they can’t wait until they buy a house or find a pet-friendly apartment so they can get a dog of their own.

I wonder how Tom Neale, who made his fantasy come true, would tell these people who want fantasy dogs.

Talking Back to Dog Fantasies

Neale’s fantasy spoke to many people. Like puppy lovers, they imagined a life of bliss—sitting on the beach drinking coconut water—without the work to sustain it.

Sally is a basset hound puppy who likes sitting in a nest.

Beautiful but deadly? Are you kidding me?

Puppies are like deserted beaches, alluring from a distance but more challenging up close. Where a tropical beach brings biting crabs and sun poisoning, puppies are sharp teeth attached to a bladder that needs emptying every fifteen minutes.

See? Beautiful but deadly.

As for getting just what you expect, life offers no guarantees. I learned that every Golden Retriever isn’t the same when I discovered Honey doesn’t like to swim.

Tom Neale prepared himself well for the winter storms that would buffet his island. And yet he was still surprised to find that the coral dock he spent six months repairing was destroyed after one storm.

Knowing what to expect still leaves plenty of room for the unexpected.

And finally, people who are waiting until they can have a dog could learn a lot from Mr. Neale.

In decades working aboard merchant ships, Neale took every opportunity to learn new skills. Once he knew he would be settling on his island alone, he made lists, gathered materials, and planned his work.

There’s no reason a dog lover can’t prepare for having a dog years in advance. Volunteering at the local shelter, reading training books, and talking to other dog people would be excellent preparation to adopt a dog.

Making Fantasy Come True

Fantasies are fun. I personally believe most of them should stay fantasies.

But if you’re planning to make a fantasy come true, whether it has to do with dogs, deserted islands, or whatever, take a lesson from Tom Neale:

Be ready to work hard to make your fantasy a reality. And expect that both the pain and the joy will be greater than anything you could imagine.

Your Turn: Have you ever fantasized about living on a tropical island with only your pets for company? Have you worked to make one of your fantasies come true?

Cook Island photo credit: benedict.adam via photopin ccClick image to learn more about the photographer.

Disclaimer: The link to Mr. Neale’s books takes you to Amazon. If you order this or any other item through this link, I will earn a few cents to put toward hosting costs but it won’t cost you any more. Thanks for your support.


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  1. I think people who dream puppy fantasies are in for a rude awakening when they actually get one. Fantasies are nice, but they generally have nothing to do with reality. Having been through the whole puppy routine with Brandy (our husky mix) over 30 years ago, I know now that I’m am better equipped to deal with an adult dog. She was the biggest pet-related challenge I ever had, and at the height of her chewing, I seriously thought (albeit briefly) about getting rid of her. Thank God I didn’t because she turned out to be the best dog ever. Still, if I had known how tough it would be, I’m not sure I would have taken on the challenge.

  2. Sue at The Golden Life says:

    My only fantasy is winning the lottery and the only way to do that is to be lucky enough to pick the right numbers when buying your tickets. I don’t have that kind of luck. (((SIGH)))

  3. Sue at The Golden Life says:

    My neighbor’s teenage daughter just adopted an adorable lab mix puppy from the shelter on Saturday. I said to Sam “Tammy’s going to end up raising that dog, you watch. Taylor already told her mom she’s not going to clean up his accidents.” Personally, I think Tammy needs to put her foot down and make the kid take on the entire responsibility for the little guy, but who am I to say anything? Time will tell. But I know Tammy won’t give up the little one, even if Taylor tires of him.

  4. Great message! I remember fantasizing how great it would be if I could just catch that stray dog living in the park. He was so beautiful and I was so worried for him since it was the middle of winter. After spending hours on the first day trying to catch him, and not succeeding, I daydreamed about how I would spend the next day and how I could coax him into letting me get close enough to put a leash on. And I daydreamed about what a great dog he would be. My fantasy came true and he turned out to be a fantastic dog! There have been hardships along the way. There was an expensive emergency vet visit and I am still working with his dog aggression. But the hardship are worthwhile. Fantasies can come true, but you have to work for them.

  5. So many things in life seem more beautiful, or easier, from a distance. Puppies are great example of that.

  6. Some fantasies do come true. But not the ones about the cute, perfect puppy. I had a very rude awakening when I got Charlie – I had been dreaming of getting a dog for years and was completely unprepared for the realities of pet ownership. But after the challenging puppy years, he has grown into the dream dog (bar the odd barking fit). And now, I must return to fantasising about the naked man on the island…

  7. Sort of working on it right now.

    Greetings from the Internet challenged Coromandel 🙂 x

  8. You know, living on an island with just the dogs does sound pretty appealing right now…

    I’m not sure I’d want to be away from everyone else in my fantasy, just to have the ability to be alone when I wanted to be. Hmm…

  9. Ah, no. I’m not the most social person but I like having lots of modern things within reach if I do want to use them. Of course, having done a back to the land thing growing up with my family, maybe my problem is I can only see the hard work involved 🙂

  10. Ah, I think of it all the time, but have no real desire for it. 🙂

  11. Ah! How refreshing to hear someone call out the difference between fantasies and the realities of following our dreams. Funny too. I just wrote about my fantasy an I don’t think it had much reality in it. 🙂
    Love this post Pamela. How hard are we willing to work for what we want? And how fun is it really when our dreams come to us already tied up in a bow. Isn’t half the fun in the journey?

  12. Interesting to think about that. I think I’m usually pretty happy in the world I live in but having a few extra bucks and more vacation time would sure be nice!

  13. My fantasy was always to have a lovely man, a pooch (preferably very well behaved) my own flat and a career I love. So far I’m nearly there, I have the pooch, he’s not that bad ;), got the guy and the flat. Now just to find the job.

    Great post, can’t wait till we’re back up and running.

    Laura & Winston

  14. I fantasise about living on a forest covered deserted island with a beautiful sandy beach, just me and the dogs but it is visitor friendly too. And it has to have fast internet!! A naked man would be a bonus, lol.

  15. Living the dream is a lot of work. It’s amazing to me how many people think Rod and I are “on vacation” – including his mother! Peoples’ fantasies about the way we live are far from an accurate depiction … still, I wouldn’t trade this for going back to living in a house. I guess the thing I’m most grateful for is that I’ve had the opportunity to experience both and choose the one that feels more authentic to who I am. Great post, Pamela.

  16. If I can just carve out 20 minutes to get in the car and drive to town by myself, that’s good enough for the time being. I’d probably get lonely on an island by myself, though.


  1. […] (NOTE: See more thoughts about fantasy and desert islands at Pamela’s site, Something Wagging This Way Comes.) […]