by Christine Kling
And then there were two. Dogs I mean.
Well, make that four really. Two humans and two dogs. That’s my new family.
Ten months ago I flew down to Fiji to meet this singlehanded sailor guy I’d been writing to and Skyping with. Only he wasn’t really a singlehander any more than I was at that time. We both lived alone on our boats with our dogs.
Since I had no idea whether or not I was going to get along with him or take one look and turn around and book a flight home, I decided to leave my little dog Barney at home in the care of my son. Wayne’s dog Ruby (a Spoodle – cocker spaniel poodle mix) really wowed me with her sailing skills on the passage to the Marshall Islands (she was never tethered and she knew when it was safe to get out of the cockpit) and I learned why everyone calls her Ruby, the Wonder Dog. I fell in love with her — and him.
So, Wayne, Ruby and I flew back to Florida last February from the Marshall Islands en route to a research trip to Europe. Ruby went off to stay with friends on their boat in the Caribbean and Barney stayed in Lauderdale.
By the time we got back, Barney had been living with Tim for about 6 months. We yanked him out of that environment he’d come to know as home, and we introduced him to Ruby. And in the first day or two at the house where we were staying, Barney fell into the pool and peed on the bath mat. Wayne quickly learned why he is called Barney the Yorkshire Terror.
You see, Barney is special. He’s not like most dogs. He’s something of a cross between the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow in need of a brain.
We took off then on a month-long trip up Pacific Coast Highway to British Columbia and the two dogs had plenty of time to get to know each other in the car — and to fight over my lap.
Okay, so it’s probably true that we humans have no idea what dogs are thinking, but I swear I can see Ruby rolling her big brown eyes and looking at me saying, “Really? He was the best you could do?” I’m not sure, but I think she views him as her idiot little brother who she might grudgingly admit is okay to have around sometimes as long as he recognizes who’s boss on this boat. The two of them rarely sleep cuddled together, but we only have one set of dog food bowls, and Ruby patiently waits watching Barney eat half the bowl, and only then will she eat after him.
See what I mean? Wonder Dog.
Barney is a little guy with short little legs, and he can’t climb up the ladder to get outside like long-legged Ruby can. Personally, I think this is a good thing. It means when we leave and go ashore, we can put him below and he is safe. More or less. Unless he gets into the engine room and chews through a fuel line (He was visiting our friend Philip and he wanted to play in the water in Philip’s dinghy in davits. Every thought, ‘How cute!’ The next time Philip went ashore he discovered Barney had chewed a hole in his outboard hose. Not so cute.)
But Barney thinks he is Deck Dog Extraordinaire. He struts around the deck with his little bow-legged stride, and when one of these huge tuna net boats gets too close while bringing crew members to shore, he runs up and down the deck barking ferociously (well, his version of that) and most times Ruby will join in. Ruby always quits first and goes to find her piece of shade, but Barney works himself into a lather just so pleased with himself and he continues barking at the rigging or the sky — or something that only our special dog can see.
For our first month back on the boat, as he has been getting used to this much bigger boat, we’ve always left him below when we’ve gone ashore. But Wayne (who sometimes thinks Ruby is the standard of normal for dogs) suggested we try leaving him on deck. It worked fine at first. He would get super excited when he heard the outboard returning and he would race up and down the deck. It didn’t matter if we’d been gone 5 minutes or 2 hours. But a couple of days ago as we were coming back to the boat in the pouring rain with a big box with our new inflatable kayak in the dinghy, I heard Wayne shout, “Barney’s in the water!”
He was up against the side of the hull pawing at the boat. This put his body straight up and down and he was going under. He only floats if he’s horizontal and swimming forward. Wayne got to him and plucked him out by the harness. I hugged him to me. We hoped that he had just fallen in, but neither of us saw it happen. It was raining, the deck was slippery, and we guessed he ran to the bow and just kept on going. It wouldn’t be the first time for Barney.
So, a day later, we assembled the new kayak and when we went to pull it up on the deck for the night, Barney got caught between the lifelines and the kayak. He needed to turn around to get out. He turned face toward the kayak, but there wasn’t enough room for his little body. He stepped back over the toe rail, and whoops! once again the Terror was in the water pawing at the side of the hull and going down. I literally saw his face underwater, eyes wide open. I jumped into Philip’s dinghy and pulled him out.
An hour later he was racing up and down the deck barking at the net boats.
The Nubian Poodle Princess was watching him, and when she turned to look at me, I swear I heard her say, “Seriously?”
People think when I call him the Yorkshire Terror it’s because he gets into so much trouble. Truth be told, it’s really about the terror I have of losing him one day. He is a handful, he’s a character, but I adore him and he’s become a beloved member of our little family.
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