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.
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.
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.
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.
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.