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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Leaving a Best Friend Behind

Norfolk is on the shore beyond
Today we arrived in Hampton, Virginia by sailboat.  While 99% of all the boats on the ICW (IntraCoastal Waterway) were going south, we were going north to Hampton for the start of the Salty Dawg Rally. Two nights ago, when we stopped in Coinjock, the dockhand deadpanned a question…”You know you’re going the wrong way, don’t you?”  
Lying low and trembling

good stiff wind on St. James River
Today was not an especially good day for Jax.  While he loves being in close contact with his human pack on Northern Star, he does not love it when the boat is heeling or when we are plowing through waves causing the bow to pound up and down.  
Jax loves extra attention when it's a bumpy ride

He was trembling most of the last 10 miles owing to a 35 knot wind pushing significant waves at us as we went up the St. James River.  
At the start of our sailing life, 2015

Jax in NYC.

Jax on ICW

Jax picks a comfy spot

Jax wasn't crazy about stand-up paddling

Jax has been, in our opinion, a remarkable boat dog.  A more accommodating, tolerant and patient dog than we could have hoped for.  

Jax has never learned to like brushing

A leeward pee

Early morning on the water
Among his most notable achievements are the ability to pee off the side of the boat, often times choosing the preferable leeward side. If he does make the mistake of aiming into the wind, he’s fastidious about his own hygiene.  
Happy day onboard for Jax

When we are unable to make it to land for bowel movements, he does his preparatory back and forth trot from port to starboard and back again before carefully placing his stool up on the bow, next to the wash-down pump. 
A preparatory trot before stooling on bow

Carl and Jax.  
Many sailors with dogs have admitted they are envious that our dog has these two skills. When they ask how we taught him to do that, it’s a perfect opportunity for a chuckle about the difficulty of demonstrating such skills inter-species. animal that doesn't move, and no odor.  How odd.....

When we're at a dock, Jax knows that when one of us jumps off the boat to walk somewhere nearby, he is not allowed to jump off without permission to do so.  
Waiting for a walk

He will position himself on the bow or wherever he finds the best vantage point to observe us from a distance, even when that means waiting in the hot sun.  He will obviously take advantage of shade when available.  
Good vantage point to people watch

He waits patiently for his leash to be hooked up after we’ve gotten off the boat to go for a walk.  He waits again to be unhooked, before jumping back onto the boat when we return. 
Jumping up or down to the dinghy.  No problem.

He does not require the ideal circumstances for jumping on and off the boat, which is great because rarely do we have the ideal conditions. 

Jax will pick the best spot from which to jump.
Nine times out of 10, he is obligated to figure out where he should jump to find the shortest distance to the dock and whether he should scramble under the bottom lifeline or jump between the two lifelines on his return.

Jax kept an eye on me from the bow

This summer while I was sewing under the covered pavillion in front of our boat, he spent hours watching me.  Carl would bring a sandwich out to me mid-day and we enjoyed calling him to come join us while we ate lunch.  “Jax, Come.”  
He appreciated having a shade canopy.

At that invitation, he leapt off the boat and ran headlong to us with tail wagging and a big dog smile for us. 
Jax helps recycle.

Oh, there was a time or three, when he just couldn’t wait to be invited and out of the corner of an eye we saw him slink toward us, tail hanging down and head low.  

On the bow of the dinghy in the Bahamas.
Clearly, he banked on our forgiveness for breaking the rule. I swear he  thought he could perhaps arrive unnoticed if he made himself smaller.  One of us would return him to the boat, and after he boarded, we could then invite him properly to join us.

Striking a pose in Annapolis
Jax loves riding in the dinghy.  He claims the bow of the dinghy as his domain, often placing himself upright on the tube where he has the best views and best sniffs, no doubt.  He has introduced us to more people than we could have ever met on our own.  This he does without even trying.  “Oh, what a pretty dog!  What kind of dog is he?” And the conversation is underway.  

Making friends with puppy on Bahama beach
He excels in the dogly graces of mutual sniffing and engaging other canines to play.  Rarely has he met a dog he doesn’t like.  

He’s gentle with puppies and offers corrections promptly and patiently when an overly rambunctious yearling leaps all over him. 
Jax calmed this guy down a little 

"Is it really necessary to climb on my nose?"
Jax is a healthy 13 year old dog.  Devoted and smart and funny and lovable to all humans who like dogs, barring small children. He is one in a million, in our book.  And that is why our decision to leave him behind when we go to the Caribbean is so hard.  
Late afternoon on the ICW

Jax, the stick-chaser extraordinaire.
We’ve spent months thinking about this.  We don’t feel right about asking Jax to take the long (10 to 20 days?) ocean voyage with us.  We know he would be miserable but for the calmest of days.  He doesn’t eat or drink or pee when the boat heels.  We just cannot do that to him.  Getting to the Bahamas was an easy 36 hours in great weather.  No one can predict the weather and sea state for 10 to 20 days in advance.  
Jax off the coast of Massachusetts

If he were to get sick out there, there is little we could do for him but suffer along with him.  Arriving in the Caribbean poses other problems. Each country has their own regulations about bringing animals into the country.  We do not want to risk him being quarantined ever. For a dog that is so watchful of his pack, that would be the cruelest thing to do to him.  
Jax walks by his human's side, as if on leash.

Because the boat will not be returning to the States for at least two years, Jax would essentially be trapped in the Caribbean, and obligated to stay behind when we fly back to visit family for a month or more. Again, too cruel to do to him.  
Sad face outside a closed door.

"Do you need me to jump in there to save you?"

Jax survived the hot summer and fall in Oriental but we were able to use the A/C on the boat and Jax reliably chose the coolest spot on the boat to lie down. We would rarely have that option in the Caribbean.  He would become “that black, furry and very hot dog” that everyone in the Caribbean would feel sorry for, especially Carl and me.  
Jax, ever attentive to his humans

Jax has been invited to live with some dear friends who live in Washington D.C..  They offered their home before we thought to ask and for that we are so grateful.  They know Jax well, and know that they are signing up for black dog hair that will inevitably turn up where it is not expected.  They love Jax.  And he loves them.  We will be renting a car to drive Jax up to Washington D.C. this weekend.  It will be the hardest return trip we will likely log from visiting friends.
Jax will love his new home. We will miss him so.


Gaviidae Sailing said...

I can't imagine how hard this must be for the two of you and for Jax! But I understand and know that you are doing this in his best interest. Wish you had time to visit us - we're housesitting just west of Baltimore.

Pat Collins said...

I feel for all three of you. It is such a hard decision some times when we need to the right thing for our pups.

Mangoes Marley And Mermaids said...

Oh man Carl & Ardys....I know how you two love Jax! This has got to have been one of the most difficult decisions the two of you have had to make! It's also one of the reasons we have never had a dog. We've known for many years we wanted to live this kind of lifestyle, and while we knew lots of people did it, we didn't feel it was right for us. So glad to hear that you found a loving home for him while you're away! Hugs to all three of you!

S/V Radio Waves

Connie said...

I am sorry to read this blog post, (I read it a couple days ago). I know you are torn about leaving Jax in D.C. I know its the best thing for him and for you (having comfort knowing he'll be well cared for and he is getting on in years). I just hope his new pack will let him leave a present or two on the White House Lawn (or somewhere nearby where certain people might happen to be walking!) Love to you all. Give sweet Jax lots of ((HUGS!))

Robin Cox said...

I miss Jax too and I enjoyed the summer with his smiling face "next door"! It is so much better for him to be relaxed and healthy and you've made the best decision for him. Take care and enjoy your trip!

Ardys said...

I DO hope so too! Thanks Connie