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A Salute to Boat Dogs
by Barb Hansen
October 2009

Star the Wonder Dog is on our minds a lot lately.  She is almost 15 now and recently dislocated her hip.  The vet put it back in place, but she was a three-legged dog for a couple of weeks.  She is better now, but slower. This is only natural since she's more than 100 in human years.

Star had a mini-stroke in 2008 that affected her balance and coordination.  However, her border collie instincts remain strong.  She can't seem to accept that she isn't able to run and jump like before. The will is still there, but the results are not. Her attempts to herd the cats around the house are, I’m sure, met with grins from her feline sisters. 

Star is the World’s Best Boat Dog and has been since 2003 when Vic and I gave her that title. In a column that year I invited owners of other boat dogs to enter their pets in the contest but I warned them that the best their pets could place was second.

Star is a trawler dog. To earn her sleep and dish of food, Star would patrol the perimeter of the vessel to make sure enemies (like gulls and pelicans) did not land without permission. If an oriole landed on the bow pulpit to rest after its spring migration flight across the Gulf of Mexico, that was okay.

Star was never given the opportunity to herd sheep. But, for a time, in her younger days, she tried to herd dolphins from the deck of the trawler. Just a whistle and the cry "daaaalphin" from anyone aboard, and Star would leap into action, rapidly moving from one side of the boat to the other, barking at the playful creatures as they surfed the bow wave or rode the wake astern. 

Star is our office dog, too. Vic and I have always thought that Star was a terrific judge of character.  The customers she really liked always turned out to be the nicest people.  The same was true for employees.  A long time ago a lady joined our staff.  For some reason Star would not go near her. After a couple of months the employee left.  I think Star knew she was not going to stay. 

But she yearns to be on the water, as do her owners. We pick her up and carry her on and off the boat.  As we move across the bay, her nose points upward and she happily sniffs the salt air. As we move into the narrow channels it twitches this way to sniff the birds in the mangroves on one side and twitches that way to enjoy the smells from a waterfront restaurant on the other.

She may be getting gray around the nose, and achy in the joints, but she still loves to be on the boat. Her days may be numbered -- and I think she knows that, too -- but she’ll make the most of her time left.  For boat dogs, there is no time nor inclination to self-pity.

The way I figure it all dogs on God’s blue water planet are hard-wired to go boating. After all, are they not descended from the original pair that survived the flood aboard Noah’s Ark?

So this is our salute to Star and to all boat dogs, and a salute to all the owners of boat dogs who brought them on board and taught them the do's and don'ts of boating.

For both parties to this agreement, it has been a win-win.

 

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