Riding in boats with dogs

Dog portrait

When I was two years old my parents went on vacation and left me with my aunt and uncle who had a white fluffy dog named Duffy. When they returned I had morphed into a dog. I crawled around on four legs, ate out of a bowl on the floor, and barked when someone knocked on the door. This went on until I was in kindergarten when my teacher called my mom saying I tried to eat my lunch on the floor. It was time to start acting like a human.

girl's best friend

Since then I’ve been obsessed with dogs, to the point where I’ll straddle a mean looking rottwieler I just met on the street and encourage it to slobber on my face. My main goal in life is and always has been, to have a dog of my own, perhaps even a pack, but now is not the time.
dog walker

One of my most shameful secrets is that junior year of college I rescued an abandoned kitten and made promises to keep him for the next 20 years, or however long he lived. I broke those promises. I didn’t leave him in a cardboard box along the side of the road, but I might as well have. During college breaks he was bounced around from place to place, friend to friend. When I graduated I couldn’t bring him where I was going . I found him a nice house with a nice family, where he’d have an entire mountain property to roam and hunt. The day I left he jumped out a second story window, never to be seen again. I have little doubt that he survived the fall and took to the wild, or found a new family, but I vowed that day to never get an animal again until I was in a stable enough situation to give it a home forever.


I’ve taken care of and lived with a lot of dogs in the years following that fateful decision. There was Koda the misunderstood chocolate lab on the farm. Chloe, the aging spaniel on a 22-foot cutter. Cleo and Jasper, dogs that needed walking and feeding when their owners were away. Each canine I encounter reminds me how much I love the loyalty, companionship, and extreme excitement they exude upon my arrival.

Koda y yo

There’s something really special about a girl and her dog, especially on a boat. When I used to row Chloe to shore it felt like she and I were the only two beings in the world. When I would take Koda on hikes in the mountains it was like we were the only ones the other would ever need. I know the challenges sailors with dogs face, and I know the rewards of having a best friend onboard.

oh cleo

As far as my live aboard lifestyle goes, I need to have a job while living on my boat and that would mean leaving a dog onboard alone for hours at a time. Being in the northeast until at least next year, I’ll have to move off the boat in the winter and who knows where I’ll end up working or traveling. I have dreams of tramping through South America when the seasons begin to change. Maybe I’m selfish, but until I find a way to sustain my lifestyle through freelance writing, or something that won’t force me to bed down on land every once in a while, a canine first mate isn’t in the cards. Until then I’ll continue to accost dogs on the street, and crawl around on all fours barking at noises I hear…when no one else is around.

ukulele girl


  1. It’s not selfish. It’s pragmatic. Way to be responsible!

  2. Thanks, Troutner! I learned the hard way, RIP my relationship with socrates the cat.

  3. That is a good decision. I wanted a dog all my adult life but I had a traveling job so didn’t get one until I quit that lifestyle. I got a rescue 2.5 years ago and it was the best decision I ever made. I work from home now so she is with me always and goes road tripping with me. Greatest companion, ever!! I can’t imagine my life without her now.

    • I’m glad your situation has allowed to fulfill the lifelong dream of pup companionship! There’s nothing like, really.

  4. Life is all about experiences. We either learn or unlearn from them. You’re an amazing young woman, Miss Em. I have a lot of respect for you! Love you to the moon and back . I really enjoy your blog! xo

  5. I also adore dogs and would love to have one, the bigger the better. But I don’t think it would be kind to box the poor thing into our boat and spend 3 weeks at sea with him peeing on the foredeck. Just not fair, so for now – like you – I prioritize boat over pooch.
    Safe sailing!