Sailing Mango

Hopeful With Dogs



Find it! Find it!

The dog looks up, tuned in, ears perked.


"Down here!", tapping on the ground. I am impatient. Only after the dog looks down, doubtfully, that I toss the treat, not at the dog, but not far away. The dog sniffs within a pie plate sized circle, almost frantically, sniffs, sniffs, looks up, tap tap (over there, you dumbass), head down again, ah! Treat!

I am reminded of pretending to fix the alternator, and watching the bolt spin out of my fingers. There is no spare bolt like that one. Oh I have spares, literally about thirty pounds of spare stainless bolts, nuts, screws and washers. Just not for that bolt. Watching it drop into the bilge, I mentally mark the spot. Three weeks later, deluding myself that I am fixing a different boat thing, I find the bolt, much farther away than I thought possible. Surely there are boat gremlins that move that stuff around when you are not looking? Just so with the damn dog treat that takes a hop while the dog isn't looking, and tries to hide in the shadows of one of the power pedestal on the dock.

Dumbass. Immediately I am feeling guilty for thinking poorly of my dog. Or was I thinking of myself? I think so. How, oh Lordy how, can we train these dogs to not be, well, I dunno, like dogs? Of course that isn't the right question.

Nine thirty at night the dog and I get back to the boat after our shitty little walk. I am almost shaking with frustration from the day, the boat, the dog, me. I cannot talk. I can only focus on getting to bed. Sleep, to wash away my ill thoughts. Focus on getting A to brush, floss, into bed, get Annie into his bed, hoping E will floss tonight while Annie hops out under protest to protect her crappy bowl of dog food that she is not eating. I brush my teeth, impossibly trying to avoid Kristen because she is so zen with stuff like this, stuff that is hard. I floss, put on my jams, then pause, breath. Kiss sweet A goodnight, tell E I love her, set my alarm after hunting down my iPhone charging cable, again, and to bed, to forget, to sleep.

The next evening, looking forward to, I am not. It is Friday, and at at 5:30pm we have our third Growly Dog class. We missed the second class, and we are running about ten minutes late to this one. I am tempted to stop the car on the way at a bar. But this is Ballard, a neighborhood North of Seattle, and no one likes that guy who leaves his dogs in the car. Judgemental bastards.

Class is of course just fine. Better than fine. Both instructors are really excellent. One of them has a PhD in behavior something or other, and instead of teaching the next minds of our world at some university, she is teaching five poor dog owners how to train their dogs how not to have a fit when they are within sniffing distance of another dog. And oh my, they are so complimentary of our dog.

Them: "Oh, he's such a kind soul! He's so gentle, so sweet."

Kind soul? Why, yes he is. He is a sweet, sweet dog. I feel low, knowing that less than 24 hours earlier I was thinking about him following that errant treat as it bounced into the dark water. The kind of water that does not splash, that kind that only eats your soul when you foolishly touch it. During that walk, after having that thought, I almost turned around to see if anyone was around, and would be a witness to him going overboard. I didn't turn around. If I had turned around, wouldn't that have been the next step towards actually doing something bad, something clearly thought of when you are, what we say with whispers and reverence, in a bad place?

When someone says something so complimentary about our dogs, someone who is financially benefiting from me, I am skeptical. But honestly, if you cannot trust a dog trainer who compliments your dog, someone who could clearly make more money at just about any other job, and spends all day in a space that smells like dog piss and stale beer, without the benefit of the beer, who can you trust? Dog trainers are special people, and good ones are truly up there with the best kind of people.

Objectively, the dogs are learning fast. Biscuit is clearly much less reactive around far away dogs, and will get much closer to them before lunging and roaring with the heart of a lion. Annie is still tricky, very tricky, but showing promise. We will be taking private lessons with her, as she is something of a special case. Of course objectively, few people cruise on boats with kids and dogs both. There is a reason.

There are moonless nights when I'm not sure I'll make it with this new living. I used to say that the only good thing about easy, is that it is easy. Coming from a nice house, nice job, etc., to living on a boat with dogs, has been difficult. But I do feel hopeful. Not hope for just the dogs, but hope that I will adjust, breath, and learn. I guess that is why we are doing this crazy life change.

I wrote this on the inside of our boat last night. It helps me remember.