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Dog Onboard

Squirrel sighting
Jax moved onboard NORTHERN STAR with Carl and Ardys on April 11, 2015 when he was 9 years old.  He is very agile and hops on and off the boat readily, and just as easily ascends and descends the companionway steps.  He loves riding in the bow of the dinghy.  On those occasions when by necessity he is left on the boat while we go off on an errand in the dinghy, a most plaintive “ahooooooo” can be heard from the cabin of the boat, something he does not do when we are leaving him behind and going off on foot.
One of favorite spots while at anchor and while underway
He is partial to rather snug places, such as the space between the toe rail and the combing of the cockpit for a good snooze.  At night, if he’s not sleeping alongside us in the stateroom, he heads to the bow of the boat.  When the boat is bow first at a marina, he can keep a watchful eye on anybody approaching the boat.  He likes spending a lazy day lying underneath the seat at the helm, from which he can watch other boats, dinghies, stand up paddle boarders, whatever is happening.

Jax likes sailing downwind
Jax is black and white and at 52 # is on the larger side of the Border Collie breed.  He was a Rescue dog when he was adopted ~7 years ago.  He has sailed with us for days at a time over the past years while we lived on land.  He seems to like sailing well enough when the boat is level, going downwind, but when we head upwind and the boat heels, he is less happy.  He settles down with his head in a lap and sleeps until we stop or the boat levels out with a downwind sail again.  He walks around the perimeter of the boat as we approach land, anticipating an opportune leg lift no doubt.  He is able to wait for many hours between elimination of bowel and bladder, fortunately.  When NORTHERN STAR starts heading south soon, this will come in handy.  At some point, he WILL learn to lift his leg and empty his bowels ON the boat, if we are away from land for longer passages.  

Dog park.  Wish there were more of them.
We are fortunate that Jax does not like to stray too far from us.  During those rare occasions when he is briefly off leash, he keeps an eye on us, running back and forth to ensure that we are following him.  He responds to some verbal commands even when ahead of us….”Right turn, left turn, Halt, Heal up…..Jax, Come.”   A squirrel sighting will, however, totally absorb his attention and he may stray farther at that time.  He comes back when the squirrel has been adequately threatened.  An approaching UPS or FedEx truck, and a child or adult that he sees dancing, hugging, playing ball or in some way hopping around inexplicably (inexplicable to Jax) he becomes determined to stop them.  He is otherwise very friendly to other humans and interacts well with dogs.  He is happy to offer a correction to a puppy or young dog that is overly enthusiastic.

Onboard NORTHERN STAR near St. Michaels, MD
To get Jax ready for life aboard a boat, a few preparations were in order.  Of course, his shots were up to date and we keep copies of his vet records with us on the boat.  He has a chip implanted providing his identity if lost.  He is wearing a collar that is made of a material that does not absorb odor and is perfect for swimming or otherwise getting wet.  On the collar, he wears a stainless steel tag with his name, our names, phone # and the name of our boat, “S/V NORTHERN STAR” just in case he would become separated from us somehow.  We keep two expandable leashes with us.  If one gets lost or goes in the water, we will need another one until we can get to a store.  We purchased a Non-spill water bowl, a clever invention, that unless one purposefully tips it way up, it will NOT spill over.  We keep the water bowl in the shower when we’re not showering.  His food bowl is a small collapsible bowl which means it is out of the way except for meal time.  Jax has a life jacket, of course with a sturdy handle on the back.  Bright yellow.  He is eager to have it put on because he associates it with going in the dinghy.   We carry a simple slip-over-the-head leash in the dinghy to ensure he waits until we are ready for him to exit the dinghy upon reaching shore.  In the cockpit, we keep a quick release tether to keep him safe while we are pulling into a fuel dock or a slip, especially when it is apparent that he is especially eager to get off the boat.  

First time on a paddle board
Three questions we are frequently asked are: “Where does he do his business?” which was addressed above in paragraph 3.  Another question is, “Aren’t you afraid he’ll jump off the boat into the water to swim.   The answer to that is “No,” he does not seem to be at risk of that.  He will wade into the water from shore to belly dip and if a stick were thrown, he would feel compelled to swim to go after it, but he is not keen on swimming just for the sake of swimming.  The third is “Doesn’t he get too hot?”  We do provide shade for him, of course.  It’s also good to understand that the dog’s undercoat serves as insulation against the heat, just as it is insulation for the cold.  One downside of having a dog on the boat, in particular this long-haired dog with a thick undercoat, is that he always sheds.  ALWAYS!  We brush him fairly often which perhaps helps a bit, but there will never be a day when he will not leave his hair lying around.  We handle that by running a little Swiffer type mop over the floor daily in order to pick up the hair.  In the cockpit, we sweep it out and/or wash with a hose.  We keep a big, old towel nearby in case he comes back to the boat with dirty paws or is wet.   These are issues which in no way detract from the pleasure of having this little guy’s company with us on the boat, however.
Hampton Inn, Annapolis, MD. 
DOG FRIENDLY PLACES” is a great app which finds hotels that will accept dogs while we travel on land.  It also will find dog parks, vets, groomers, pet stores, etc.  Jax has become accustomed to riding in elevators, walking calmly through lobbies, waiting while we go into stores, and will USUALLY “Stay” on the boat while we walk down the dock.  There are LOTS of boating people that are very good with dogs and he has now come to anticipate that visitors or workmen to the boat will likely be bringing treats with them.  It’s hard to beat that.   Jax has acquired a following of human “Friends” on Facebook and has his own FB page called “The Life and Times of Jax.”  He has lots to say about his life onboard NORTHERN STAR.

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