With no sailing going on these days, we get to write about the dog.
Unbelievably, little B turns 15 today.
He came to us as an out-of-control rescue dog a few days after his second birthday. He had already burned out two sets of owners, and owners #2 were planning to put him down if he wasn’t adopted, and soon. He was (and is) super smart, but also headstrong, demanding, dominant of other dogs (but never aggressive), and generally a royal pain whenever he decided to act out.
However, we came to love him deeply despite all his flaws. Really, he embodies all of the traits that make dogs so special in spades. Loyal, trusting, always wanting to be with us. The best friend one could ever hope for.
I remember reading an ode to a dog like him in ‘Outside’ magazine years ago. It concluded- “You know, I’d take a bullet for this dog. And someday, I probably will”. Well put, sir, well put.
His first two years were with us in Seattle, first in a rented house while we were waiting for Western Explorer to be shipped up from Costa Rica, then on the boat. He took to boat life immediately. Every little noise from the bilge was a new mystery to investigate. The little pre-feed pump for the watermaker made just the right whine to drive him absolutely bonkers. If B got too be too much of an imposition, a short flick of that switch would result in him sticking his head into the bilge for at least a half hour. We employed the trick often. I’m sure that that pump had 10 times as much use as a dog distraction than it did in making water.
Our first shakedown cruise with B was a lap around Vancouver island in ’08. That went well. The next year, we sailed down to Mexico with him. After some difficulty getting him to use his fake turf on deck to do his business, we were all set. B took to life at sea very well. We spent 4 years living aboard there, with a couple of annual cruises down the coast.
In ’13, we started sailing on Rocket Science. The new ride proved to be quite a bit more dog-friendly. With her swept back rig and higher speeds, VMG sailing is the way on her. This results in the boat essentially only being laid over to one side at a time, rather than the wallowing, dead downwind sailing so often done on heavier, slower boats. B would just position himself on the downhill side of the cockpit, and comfortably relax on passage. Perfect!
We had some great adventures with B on RS. From remote, tropical beaches to the rugged wild of Newfoundland, each new place was a source of great excitement and interest for him.
We opted not to cross the N. Atlantic with him, instead flying him ahead to stay with Jenny’s mother in Belgium. After we arrived in our winter berth in England, we rented a car and fetched our somewhat fatter buddy.
The next 3 years were spent in Europe. Baxter, like us, preferred the Northern portions of the continent. He wasn’t enamored with the Med. Too hot and too many anti-dog laws on the beaches.
He did find some brief respites from the heat in our freezer, however. We’d drop him in there for a few minutes from time to time on the hottest days.
Alas, he developed health problems while there. He was drinking huge amounts of water, and he was found to have Cushing’s disease. This is caused by a tumor on the Pituitary or the Adrenal glands, and it’s fatal if not treated. Unfortunately, the treatment is quite harsh, being like chemo. He had a couple of near-death experiences while there, thankfully both in Spain, where veterinary care is good and extremely cheap. He was given a year or two to live. This was in late ’17.
It did become pretty obvious to us that his offshore sailing days had come to a close, though. So, we bought our dog a house to enjoy his remaining time with us.
Life with geriatric Baxter is a pleasure. He spends most of his time asleep, and we can simply leave the doors open and let him go in and out as he pleases. 5 years ago, this would have been impossible-he would have gotten onto a scent and vanished into the woods in pursuit of whatever had captured his interest. Nowadays, he never strays far, content to lounge on the grass and waddle off after the occasional bunny.
We nearly lost him again a few weeks ago. He got bumped into by another dog at the park, and it seems to have caused some kind of an injury. The poor dude was obviously in a lot of pain, and after several days of it, we resolved to go to the vet, fully expecting him to recommend that he be put down. Instead, he hopped out of the car, and scampered around wagging wildly. The vet gave us a bit of a quizzical look, obviously wondering what we were on about.
A few days later, he was perfectly fine again. Tough little guy.
All told, Baxter has visited 19 countries, 27 states in the US, and has sailed with us for thousands upon thousands of miles, and has been a valued companion all the way.
Happy birthday, buddy.