|Old Dogs, Boats, and New Tricks|
By Ellie Van Os, Illustration By Dean MacAdams — February 2002
That wasn't the first time I've been wrong about Bert. Every day for a week before our trip, first thing in the morning, I would run like crazy across the yard, leaping aboard the boat with Bert right behind me. I would put him out on the dive platform and wait, ready with a pocketful of doggie biscuits for rewards. Unfortunately, he could wait longer than I could, and I was consistently the one to give up first, having to get back to the house to start a pot of coffee.
With a month to go, I had to come up with something else. A few drops of a liquid from the pet store called "doggy odor" dripped on a plastic car mat would, according to their claims, entice him to use the mat. That didn't work either.
Not willing to admit defeat, I came up with what I thought was a foolproof plan: landscape the dive platform--or more accurately, sod it. The man at the nursery who sold me the sod was so impressed, he convinced me that if it worked I needed to write a book about it. As I left, he also reminded me not to forget to water my "new lawn"every other day. Renewed by my belief that the feel of grass between his toes would urge Bert on, I faithfully made the morning run for one final week. But his continence held tighter than a through-hull.
So off we went to the Bahamas, where we were fated to make three dinghy trips to shore with Bert every day. It wasn't so bad; in fact, it helped us find many of the most beautiful beaches on Earth. And walking those beaches early in the morning and late in the evening are some of the best memories of that trip and others after it. Who needs comfortable anchorages all of the time, anyway?
The postscript to this tale comes on the day six months later when we were heading down the ICW, not far from home. Having had Bert for more than a year at that point, we were getting used to the friendly response he elicited from just about everyone we met, boaters and nonboaters alike. So as we passed a boatload of weekend cruisers, it was not unusual that they all pointed at Bert on the bow of the boat while laughing and waving. We found out when we arrived home later that there was a little more to their antics than just friendliness. While we were busy watching the people and patting ourselves on the back for having such a popular dog, Bert was evidently squatting on the bow. He had finally achieved that elusive oneness (or was it twoness) with the B-O-A-T, and we had a new poop deck.
Ellie Van Os is a freelance writer in Florida.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.