Issue: September 2002
A Dog's Life

When we rafted up last weekend in the West River, we were three sailboats, two powerboats, ten adults, four youngsters (one of whom is in her terrible twos, which really means she should have her own boat) one infant, one near-toddler and one anxious weimaraner. It was like a floating Barney episode, with dark-and-stormies. Usually I figure that no one cruising the Bay these days works harder than Johnny and I, trying to keep a five-year-old and a two-year-old happy, fed, hydrated, covered in sunblock and strapped into lifejackets while also trimming sails and dodging the Hot Wheels track on the cabin sole as we step lively for some snatch block or other. But after the romper room raft-up, I realized we are beat. The couple on the sailboat with the near-toddler and the weimaraner? A baby and a canine crew? They win.

It is one thing to go sailing with a small child-essentially a pudgy missile whose guidance system unerringly points head first over the side or down the companionway. It's another to do this with a long-legged dog whose skittering trips to the foredeck resemble a Champions on Ice routine gone haywire, and who looks perpetually worried (an entirely justifiable expression if you consider boating from his bladder's perspective). I grew up with dogs and always had my springer spaniel with me on my parents' boat. But now that I have my own boat and two unguided missiles, I have laid down the no-dog law.

This hasn't been as easy as it sounds. In January we adopted from the local SPCA an affable chocolate lab-pointer mix who immediately Velcroed herself to Johnny's leg. He takes a shower? She parks in front of the bathroom door. He leaves the couch for a snack? She levitates from a dead sleep and camps by the fridge. He goes to the boatyard every morning? She goes too, leaving his side just long enough to steal someone's unguarded bagel or the occasional cheese steak. All this speechless devotion was adorable at first, but as summer approached I began to picture Dog panting in the V-berth some enchanted evening or skating over the side in the middle of a sail change.

Johnny tried lobbying on her behalf. "You know,"he said, after Dog had accompanied him on a few work-related boat rides, "she really is a pretty good boat dog."
"You had a dog on your parents' boat, right?"
"She really can hold it a long time."
"She can keep the kids company."
Call me heartless, but a girl's got to know her limitations. Dog has a wonderful pet-sitter who holds her paw and clears Johnny's conscience whenever we go cruising. The kids only have to fight with each other over the dinghy. And me? I'm just fine, if you don't count this Hot Wheels track stuck to my foot.