Cruising With Pets

At anchor in a narrow creek off the Mississippi River one night, I noticed a ghostly light in the darkness. As it got closer, I realized it was someone in a dinghy, swinging a flashlight back and forth, looking for something on shore.

A moonshiner looking for his still? A pirate looking for an x on a tree marking a buried treasure?

Nope. It was a guy with a dog, looking for a place to land so the dog could do his nightly duty.

Traveling with the family pet is popular. You can always tell who has a dog on board because they have a dinghy trailing behind the boat, or carried on the stern. Dogs have to be taken ashore at least twice a day, sometimes three times. I’m not just talking about people with small dogs like Yorkies and Terriers. Big dogs like Labradors and Golden Retrievers go cruising, too.

We’ve seen dogs walking on narrow lock walls, knee deep in mud where there’s no good place for their owners to take the boat ashore, and happily running along the dock in a marina where their owners just tied up, headed for a patch of grass. You can almost hear them saying…finally!

Marinas always have the name and phone number of a nearby veterinarian along with the location of grocery stores, banks, and restaurants. They also have dog walking areas and plastic bag dispensers. Some have treats in the Ships Store.

People cruise with cats, too, but we very rarely see them. Unless trained to the boat, cats are notorious escape artists. And they pretend to be deaf when you call them.

I wrote in a previous blog about a cat named Mizzen who dropped in for a visit one night through our forward hatch, right over our bed. He lived on a sailboat, but was one of those rare breeds that always went back to his boat at mealtime…hence, his owners let him roam.

We saw two cats on a boat next to us in Killarney, Canada. They were totally interested in a take-out bag Mark brought on board containing our fish and chips dinner. But they never left their boat, perching on the rail, noses sniffing the air, their little faces looking intently at the bag.

We aren’t cruising with pets, unless you want to count the hitchhiking spider population. I did catch myself talking to one, something like…”okay, you can stay there as long as you’re outside, but if you come in…splat.”

I’ve definitely been on the boat too long.

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