Who Copes Better With Change? Us Or The Dog?

Loki is the Brittany Spaniel on the boat Infinity in the San Blas Islands.

Will this be Honey next year?

We’ve made a decision. And I’m scared sh*tless. So is my husband.

Honey? Not so much.

She’s sleeping at my feet dreaming of peanut butter and tug toys.

What’s the difference? We know what’s coming and how uncertain our life plans are. Honey lives in the moment.

So who copes better with change? Us or the dog?

We’ve Made A Date With Change

This week I’m contacting someone who will help us find the right sailboat to live aboard and cruise on.

On March 1, 2015, I will put our house on the market. Shortly after that, we’ll be selling nearly everything we own.

As soon as we find the right boat, Mike, Honey, and I are taking off for parts unknown. Well, unknown to us. We’re not exactly heading to Venus.

Honey's Train the Dog Month Challenge was to learn sailing skills.

Wait a minute. The land is that way.

We’ve been preparing Honey for adventure for the past two years by

Honey has no idea why we’re doing all these things. So she is not frightened of what lies ahead.

Mike and I have been preparing ourselves for adventure over the past four years by

  • taking liveaboard sailing lessons
  • sailing most weekends on Cayuga Lake
  • chartering a boat for a week
  • strengthening our relationship so we can survive life on a small boat and working together in dangerous conditions

We know exactly why we’re doing these things. And we’re scared. Excited. But scared.

We need to channel Honey.

Mike at the wheel of the sailboat on Lake Ontario.

Mike reminds me that the scariest thing about sailing on Lake Ontario is the bugs. Note the fly swatter.

Life In The Moment

It’s not that Honey never gets scared. She’s actually a timid pup.

But she doesn’t get scared until there’s something to get scared about.

Honey is not sitting at my feet wondering if I’m going to take her for a ride in that darn bike cart of mine. Or if being at anchor in a small boat with a storm coming is more or less scary than being in open water.

That’s one nice thing about being a dog. That and having people continually wanting to feed you little yummies.

And although it doesn’t come naturally to us, like it does for Honey, we need to learn to focus on the moment ourselves.

There’s no point in speculating or worrying about a future that doesn’t exist yet. It certainly doesn’t help our digestive systems.

Honey the golden retriever tires to understand what I'm explaining to her.

I live in the moment. That means I have lots to smile about.

Who Copes Better With Change

So who copes better with change?

Will it be Pam and Mike because they’re spending their days getting ready for a major life event?

Or will it be Honey? Who doesn’t know what’s happening yet but in four years has learned to trust that good things happen when we’re all together.

I’m putting my money on Honey.

Your Turn: Have you experienced a major life change with your pets? Moving, a break up, long-term travel? Who coped better?




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  1. We haven’t done anything major with Jack & Maggie – but with Sally and Tino we moved a couple of times. Sally kind of new something was up and became a little more clingy. Tino – well nothing ever phased Tino, even going blind. I’d like to channel his zen for sure. Good luck with your adventure. A permanent sailboat life – wow! I admire your courage.

    • Honey was like Sally, very clingy on her first sailing trip. I was pleased to see she was more independent on our week long cruise, giving us room to do the work of sailing the boat.

      As for your other comment–Starting a business to help people keep their pets healthy and fit–wow! I admire YOUR courage. :)

  2. You guys are planning your adventure, way more than we did. We had a week to move out of the house, store stuff, and live in the RV. The dogs took it all in stride. They are with us, and that’s all they care about.

    • I actually take your story as an inspiration. When you gotta do something you just find a way to make it work. It keeps me from going too nuts planning everything in advance.

      I suspect Honey will be fine following us aboard like Torrey and Roxy took to their traveling home.

  3. As someone whose idea of a water adventure is to wade in the ocean at low tide, I’d like to read about why you are launching on life plan.

  4. As someone whose idea of a water adventure is to wade in the ocean at low tide, I’d like to read about why you are launching on this life plan.

  5. First of all – I think that’s terrific! I am so happy for you. Harley is learning to cope w/o Leo and watching him I’ve discovered that dogs are wired to be much more adaptable then we give them credit. But here’s the most important component with both Harley & Honey – you and I are still around, and as long as they’ve got us, they will be fine! So go forth with your plans, keep training with Honey, and whatever you do – don’t stop writing. I for one will love to follow the seven seas right along with you! Woof!

    • Yep, we talk a lot about how dogs are creatures of habit. That’s true. But we’re they’re biggest habit. :)

      Thanks for the encouragement.

  6. That truly is a huge life change! I’ve done plenty of sailing in my younger days with a boyfriend’s family who lived on the Chesapeake Bay. We did up to 10 days at a time with 5 people on board a 4o footer. There were lots of built in stops to get off and away from each other 😉 We were sailing as a group with the Annapolis Yacht Club so raftings at night, races during the day to the next rafting. It was a lot of fun and I am thankful it is a part of my memories. For me, I don’t think I could permanently be cooped up with John in such a small space. We would be on edge too often, esp. me without the opportunity to burn off energy. I’ve often thought it would be fun to do the RV life for a while, but again the small living area worries me. At least on land, I would get my space when we parked.

    I do love your spirit of adventure! Mine must not be that well developed 😉

    My dogs would be fine with it just so long as we were there! They are such good sports.

    • I’ve heard about cruising couples that have an “alone” cap. When one of them puts the cap on, it tells their partner to leave them alone. Generally Mike and I don’t get tired of each other but we’ll see how it goes once we live aboard.

      Of course once we hit the Caribbean, snorkeling becomes alone time. :)

      As for RV life, the whole outdoors is your backyard. If Jimmy keeps flying through his agility courses, you might find yourself renting an RV to take him to national competitions.

  7. That’s so exciting! I’m sure Honey will just size up the situation and adapt – as long as she has you guys, she’ll probably just look at it as one grand adventure and have fun! I’ve never had any major life changes so I can’t answer the question. Can’t wait to hear about your sailing tales though!

    • I’m hoping that with good planning we can avoid big storms for a long time to come. Nothing like big scary winds to make sailing a little less fun for a dog.

      But yep, other than that I’m hoping we just sees the boat as home.

  8. We moved with Mauja and I’m sure she coped better with I than I did. I was too worried with how she was going to cope!

    • I work very hard on staying calm. I always worry that my nervousness will rub off on Honey.

      Of course, your worries for Mauja are probably what helped her cope with the move. I’m sure you took extra special care of her through the process.

  9. Have you read “An Embarrassment of Mangoes”? It’s a fantastic book about a Canadian couple who take a similar plunge, selling their house to sail the Caribbean. I highly recommend it…the book, and your taking the plunge. I’m sure it is scary, but most things that are worthwhile have an element of risk.

  10. We’ve had lots of change including moving from Germany to the US, but other than a day or two of jet lag, no bid deal. I think Mom is the one that has the stress and worries, not us pets. We are just happy to be going along. You are embarking on a major change. We can’t imagine doing that, but it is your dream and you are going for it which is wonderful for you! Just a tip, you may want to quit fostering dogs as it would be hard to find families out on the high seas!

    • Setting sail, no problem. Flying Honey in a plane would make me a worried wreck. :)

      Actually, I reviewed a book about a family who adopted their dog from another cruiser with a litter of puppies. Maybe high seas fostering is just what we need. :)

  11. Wow – that’s exciting. It’s getting closer! You’re brave! (But then… I did just watch Captain Phillips last night, so that might be coloring my fears of the open waters at the moment and making them a little stronger than usual even!)

    I’ve done major life changes (lived in 3 different countries, one of them a ridiculously tiny island) but I didn’t have a dog for the first 2 moves, and the 3rd one was relatively easy (back to the US from Canada) so easy-peasy for both us and the pup. But easier on the pup since she didn’t have to do the citizenship test like the hubs did. :)

    • Yeah, I’ll be avoiding Captain Phillips. But I don’t expect we’ll see many pirates around Annapolis or the U.S. Virgin Islands. :)

      You’re such a tease. Do tell about the different places you’ve lived. I don’t remember.

      • The interesting place was Bermuda. A very very very very tiny island – and we lived there for 7 years!

        And glad to hear you’re not sailing around the world and heading into pirate-infested waters! :)

  12. That’s so exciting, I am so excited for you and think what you are doing is amazing, while I sit here safely in my own little safe space – I don’t know if I would be as brave as you are! I so hear what you are saying, and I think we all need to learn to live in the moment rather than worry (pot, kettle right?!) but I really struggle not to think ahead….and worry about it!

    In other news, do you know Bailey Boat Cat http://baileyboatcat.com/ he and his humans have just made the move you are making. They may be able to help answer some questions and allay some fears.

    • OMD! I love you! Thank you so much for introducing me to Bailey the boat cat.

      I have been traumatized by reading several books by people who took cats sailing. They never end well. The best stories involve someone hearing a splash in the middle of the night, wondering what it is, and rolling over to go back to sleep. Arghhh!

      I was so thrilled to see Bailey’s life jacket and tether. Finally, someone who knows how to keep a cat safe on a boat. Thank you. Thank you.

      You have a long life ahead of you to learn how to live in the moment. Maybe when you’re 48 years old, you’ll be writing about living in the moment or your latest adventure. :)

  13. That’s so exciting!

  14. Most dogs are so good about change. I was worried about Maya and Pierson when we all moved to Iowa, but needlessly so. They sniffed around and settled right in without any problems.

  15. I’m so excited for you! It’s going to be phenomenal! I think dogs cope better in the sense that they don’t really know what’s coming and don’t over-think it as we humans tend to do. We’ve now moved with the boys a few times (DC to Bloomington to Louisiana back to Bloomington), and they’ve done great every time! They sort of just accept whatever change, and as long as we’re there, they’re good!