Honey sleeps. She eats. She runs around and plays.
In many ways, little has changed for my dog since we moved aboard a boat.
But some things are very different.
The Rhythm Of The Day On A Boat
So far we haven’t created regular rhythms on the boat. And it has confused Honey.
When we lived in a house, Honey (like all dogs) would watch for signals to tell her what was going to happen.
When I started rushing around and getting ready, she knew I was leaving. When I brought out her leash, she knew she was leaving with me.
But on the boat, it’s hard for Honey to tell if I’m leaving the boat, if we’re leaving the boat, or if we’re all leaving in the boat.
Short trips are simple.
I just walk off the boat if I’m going somewhere close like the marina bathhouse.
If Honey is going with me, I lift her into the cockpit while I gather her leash, a poop bag, and get her ramp ready for her to leave the boat.
But if we’re leaving the boat for a long time, or leaving in the boat, we get very busy. And Honey doesn’t know what to expect.
Getting Ready To Leave
Dogs learn so much watching us prepare to leave. That’s why trainers who help dogs with separation anxiety suggest we make our departures as low-key as possible.
One book I read even suggested leaving by the window instead of the door to keep the dog’s anxiety from ramping up at the opening of the door.
I guess that trainer lived in a one-story ranch home. It didn’t work out so well when I had to drop more than six feet from the first story windows on my Victorian home.
Anyway, it’s impossible to make leaving a boat or leaving on a boat low-key.
If we’re going out for the day, we have to secure ten ports and two hatches. Everything we take with us is hidden away or secured to the boat. It takes a little longer to gather our stuff than when we can just grab a purse or jacket off a hook.
If we’re taking the boat out for the day, we have to secure lines for leaving the dock and take up fenders. We have to turn on the instrument panel and radio. We close seacocks so water doesn’t flood the boat while we’re sailing. And we have to stow everything in the cabin away so it doesn’t become a projectile in rough seas.
Honey knows we’re moving the boat from all our preparations. What she doesn’t know is if this will be a quick motoring trip to the fuel dock or a full day sail on the Chesapeake Bay.
Making New Friends
One thing that hasn’t changed for Honey is making new friends.
The marina we’re staying in this month is a popular dog-walking spot for local dog lovers.
Honey gets to play and sniff with other dogs. And of course, she loves meeting all the people who stop to stroke her and tell us stories about the dogs (and cats) they’ve shared their lives with.
Apparently Honey brings out the nostalgic in people.
It gets a little trickier when Honey wants to meet someone while she’s on the boat.
When we’re docking, one of us drives the boat. One of us handles the lines to secure us to the dock. And both of us keep an eye out for Honey who’s thinking of jumping off the boat to greet the nice man waiting to fill up our fuel tank or the woman who’s grabbing our lines to bring us safely into a slip.
Yep, I’m thinking we need to tether Honey to the boat when we dock. Otherwise, I can see her flying off the boat to meet her new best friend.
Figuring Out Life On The Boat
We’re all still figuring things out. Honey is no different from us.
I’m trying to think of ways to help Honey predict what’s going to happen next.
Perhaps I could ring a bell on the mornings when we’ll be setting off somewhere. Maybe the first thing I should do is set out her life jacket.
Or maybe it’s time to give her a little job of her own.
Your Turn: How do you keep things normal for your dogs when you’re traveling or other things in your regular life change?