ABAN­DONED IS­LAND DOG BRINGS OUT CRUIS­ERS’ BEST

Cruising World - - Underway - — Dana Greyson

He has a way of touch­ing ev­ery­one he meets,” Rich and Cyndi West, of the Catalina 38 Legacy, rem­i­nisced, wist­fully. “Don’t be alarmed if you hear him howl. It’s just his way of let­ting you know he’s there.”

Rich and Cyndi were not the first to in­sist we stop at Ilot Casy, an amaz­ingly di­verse ecosys­tem on a tiny is­land in New Cale­do­nia. More than any­thing, we wanted to meet Ilot Casy’s ir­re­sistible 24/7 tour guide, Mouss, the is­land’s sole care­taker/res­i­dent/host — a friendly, four­footed, tail-wag­ging dog.

Viki Moore, of Astro­labe, filled us in on Mouss’ story: “Once upon a time, there was an is­land re­sort, and its care­taker had a puppy named Mouss. About 10 or so years ago, the re­sort closed down. The care­taker packed up his things and went to leave. He called Mouss to get into the boat, but Mouss wouldn’t come. He went to pick him up and put him in the boat, but the dog jumped straight out again. He tried a third time, this time hold­ing him in the boat un­til they were far enough away from the shore. Mouss jumped out again and swam ashore. The care­taker left the dog there and de­cided to come back the fol­low­ing day to try again. The same thing hap­pened. The care­taker thought that, ob­vi­ously, the dog did not want to leave, and so he left him there.”

To­day, Mouss’ home of Ilot Casy is scat­tered with dog beds across the is­land, in­doors and out. Food and wa­ter dishes are fre­quently filled by visit­ing cruis­ers. When they’re not around, Mouss slakes his thirst from a fresh­wa­ter stream and a rain­wa­ter tap set up for him on the is­land’s dock. He fishes, hunts and en­joys snack­ing on bêche-de-mer (sea cu­cum­bers). We dis­cov­ered he also loves Spam enough to in­hale a large can’s con­tents in a sin­gle gulp.

Mouss could teach pro­fes­sional guides a trick or two. He does a great job of lead­ing is­land vis­i­tors along the trails, cir­cling back if he finds his guests are trail­ing too much. He’s also not above imp­ishly pre­tend­ing to be lost when he’s not quite ready to end a tour.

Cruis­ers Ana Hill and Brent Grim­beek, of Impi, a La­goon 440, first met Mouss two years ago. A year later, they were shocked by his de­te­ri­o­rated health. The for­merly bound­ing, play­ful dog still greeted them with a doggy smile and wag­ging tail, but his eyes had dulled and he’d be­come al­most lethar­gic.

Ana or­ga­nized a hugely suc­cess­ful crowd­fund­ing ef­fort through Go­fundme to help Mouss, rais­ing 1,611 GBP from 62 donors — enough to tap a lo­cal fly­ing vet to ad­dress Mouss’ needs and check in on him monthly.

Re­cent Mouss-visit­ing cruis­ers Dave and Gu­drun Hib­berd, and their two chil­dren, Ben and Gaby, of Cool Run­nings,a La­goon 400, were able to show Ana and Brent photos and video of Mouss, who’s re­gained much of his en­ergy.

Mouss’ fame alerted Ana to the im­por­tance of broader an­i­mal-ad­vo­cacy ef­forts. Upon dis­cov­er­ing stray dogs are con­sid­ered enough of a prob­lem to prompt New Cale­do­nia of­fi­cials to shoot them, Ana and Brent up­dated their cam­paign to in­clude sup­port for a ster­il­iza­tion pro­gram in an ef­fort to de­ter con­tin­ued ca­nine culling.

Al­though Mouss won’t live for­ever, thanks in large part to the cruis­ers of New Cale­do­nia, he will live well.

The crew from Cool Run­nings gives Mouss some love dur­ing their visit to Ilot Casy.

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