Water Dog

MAN’S BEST FRIEND GOES BOAT­ING.

Power & Motor Yacht - - SIGHTLINES -

Ac­cord­ing to my think­ing, peo­ple can pretty much be di­vided into two groups: Those that love dogs and those that don’t like much of any­thing. If you don’t like dogs, you may want to skip ahead to some­thing more in­ter­est­ing, like an ar­ti­cle about bilge pumps or bot­tom paint, be­cause you won’t re­late to any­thing I have to say here.

I love dogs and have many mem­o­ries that only they and I share. By a pretty large mar­gin the best dog I ever had was Pasho, a medium-sized Ger­man shepherd, whose mus­cles rip­pled from run­ning the hills of Catalina. With his floppy ears, beady eyes, and long nose he had a dis­tinct re­sem­blance to Spiro Agnew, our vice pres­i­dent at the time. He would chase a stick for hours on end and could catch a fast-pitched ten­nis ball from 10 feet away. He would also climb a near-ver­ti­cal 8-foot lad­der to a play­ground slide on com­mand. He was a su­pe­rior ath­lete and a great water dog.

Pasho was my con­stant com­pan­ion dur­ing my year as care­taker at Gal­lagher’s Cove in 1972. He would take trips to Avalon with me in the camp’s 14-foot win­ter skiff, the North­easter, and would sit obe­di­ently in the boat for hours while I did my er­rands. On the ride back to the camp, I would stop the boat in front of the cove and get him all ex­cited so he would jump over­board. After sev­eral roundy-rounds in the boat, he would go up to the tip of the bow and stand, per­fectly bal­anced with all four feet placed tightly to­gether, then take a grand leap to the water and swim ashore. As the win­ter wore on, I would go through this rou­tine far­ther and far­ther from shore, un­til he would have to swim a cou­ple of hun­dred yards to the beach. He loved it and so did I. By the end of spring I would just stop the boat and he would im­me­di­ately go to the bow for his spec­tac­u­lar dive. Best water dog I ever had. In the early 1990s we got Moby and Shammy, two yel­low labs from the same lit­ter. Our first water trip with them was on a ca­noe on the Myaka River. The two of them swam most of the way, only get­ting back in the ca­noe when we spot­ted al­li­ga­tors. They both loved to swim, but for some odd rea­son were afraid to go near our 25-footer Vil­lam when we kept the boat docked at Ma­rina Jack’s. They would spread their legs on the wooden dock in a death grip in fear of go­ing on the boat. When we moved to Si­esta Key and kept Vil­lam at the dock be­hind our house, some­thing in­stinc­tive must have taken over, be­cause we could hardly keep them off the boat. If Moby was miss­ing, we would usu­ally find him sleeping in the cuddy cabin. But most of all, it was Shammy who loved the boat. She would jump up on the en­gine box as we ran along and put her front feet on the gun­wale, with her face into the wind, bank­ing into turns as we ran. She kept surf­ing the waves from the stern of Vil­lam un­til the end of her 16 years.

We cur­rently have Scup­per, our five-year-old, 115-pound golden retriever, with the courage of the cow­ardly lion. Scup has huge webbed feet and is quite a good swim­mer, but is a bit of a re­luc­tant boater. He only joins us be­cause he doesn’t want to be left be­hind, and spends most of his time un­der my feet on the cock­pit sole. He is a bit of a dis­ap­point­ment as he lacks the pas­sion for boats shared by his pre­de­ces­sors. My very de­sire for a goldie can be dated back to the iconic pho­to­graph of a Hinck­ley Pic­nic Boat with her owner gazing at his beau­ti­ful boat with his golden retriever by his side. As I tell peo­ple, “I couldn’t af­ford the boat, so I got the dog in­stead.” Scup­per is not so keen on boat­ing, but throw him a ten­nis ball and he will swim forever to re­trieve it.

There may be an­other dog in our lives some­day, and if so, it will surely be a water dog, with big webbed feet and the love for water in his soul. Per­haps a 200-pound New­found­land, or maybe just a floppy-eared Ger­man shepherd like Pasho. After all, he was the best water dog of them all.

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