“If you promise your dog something, you have to give it to her. Don’t risk breaking her trust.”
Honey’s trainer said this to me years ago.
It reminds me to ask myself, “Does my dog trust me?”
Boat Dog, Meet Boat
Some of the boats on our top ten list were much more dog friendly than the one we bought.
It was a hard choice.
We ended up buying a Pacific Seacraft partly because it’s a beautiful boat, inside and out. And beauty is important.
But mostly, we ended up buying a boat that would be comfortable in heavy seas (sailors call it “seakindliness”) and safe.
Unfortunately, the safest boats have features that make them hard for a big dog to navigate independently.
On Meander, we need to carry Honey up and down the companionway (opening to the cabin) ladder. It’s too steep for her to do it herself.
My husband is very good at it.
He can pick Honey up in the cockpit, step over the bridge deck (the step in the cockpit that keeps water from flooding the cabin in heavy seas), and carry her down our four-step ladder while holding on with one hand.
I’m not so strong.
In fact, my first method for getting Honey below was to pick her up on my lap while straddling the companionway and tossing her into the quarter berth (small sleeping quarters next to the entrance). It wasn’t easy to do. Honey hated it. And it was even worse when I forget to check if my husband had left something there for Honey to land on (the box of pencil and pens was the worst).
I dreaded having to bring Honey down by myself.
But most of all, I began to worry if I was breaking her trust by not finding a safer and more comfortable way to bring her below.
I started experimenting with other ways to help Honey down. And I started with treats.
A piece of baloney coaxed Honey to put her front paws inside the companionway.
Once she was half way inside and happily eating baloney, it was easy for me to stand on the bottom step, pick Honey up to bring her inside, and climb the one step down to the ground.
The other thing I’ve started doing to encourage trust is to use a cue to let her know when I’m going to pick her up.
As I get ready to lift her, I say “Let’s fly.”
Does it mean anything to Honey?
I don’t know. But I think it’s always a good idea to try to prepare our dogs for what’s coming next.
Once she’s inside, I gently land her on the settee where she can jump down to the ground on her own.
I’ve only been using this new lifting technique for a week. Is it helping Honey to trust me?
Girl’s Night In
Last week, my husband spent the night at his brother’s house so he could have access to the internet for planning the next leg of our trip.
Honey and I stayed on the boat.
Honey doesn’t like it when Mike and I walk her together before one of us splits off to go somewhere else.
I remember one time we walked Mike to work and trying to convince Honey for twenty minutes that we shouldn’t wait for him but should walk home on our own.
I worried that Honey would be anxious without Mike on the boat.
Luckily, we did just fine.
Honey saw the boat as home so when Mike left for the night; it was no different from him going to work or leaving our land house.
And I had developed a better technique for bringing Honey down into the cabin so she trusted me not to hurt her.
Trust Is Important
I trust Honey to stay by my side. I trust her not to bite me when I take food away from her. I trust her not to destroy my home when I leave her alone.
I think Honey trusts me too.
She trusts me to feed and exercise her. She trusts me to always come back when I leave her behind.
And now, I think she trusts me not to drop her down the companionway ladder.
Your Turn: Do you trust your dog? Do you think your dog trusts you?