January 2020 Newsletter edition
– -with Tanya Rabe
From Death Row to Sailing the Caribbean Islands
How one woman saved the life of her best friend by Tanya Rabe
Lisa & Maya Meet for the First Time
Have you ever heard the saying that we don’t pick our dogs, they pick us? If you didn’t believe so, Lisa and Maya’s story may just change your mind.
One evening on the Caribbean island of St Croix, Lisa was relaxing in the farmhouse she was housesitting when something kept catching her eye by the gate outside. Into the dark, she went to investigate, Lisa was surprised to find a scared, shaking, scrawny dog.
By the dog’s physical appearance, Lisa could see that no one had been looking after it for some time. There was no way she could leave this poor, frightened dog outside to fend for itself. Without any hesitation, she opened the gate and the dog followed her into the house. Even though the dog was scared, she had a soft, gentle nature. Lisa decided the next day she would take the dog to the local shelter where she was confident the first person to meet her would fall in love and give the dog a new home.
A few weeks later Lisa received a phone call from the shelter. Her mysterious canine friend had not been adopted as she had anticipated and was sadly facing euthanasia. The shelter in no uncertain terms stressed that someone needed to save this dog as she was shortlisted on Death Row with no hope of being adopted. Lisa was her only lifeline.
As liveaboards on a sailboat, Lisa and her partner hadn’t considered having a dog on board, yet out of nowhere, the decision was being made for them. She felt that this sweet-natured little dog deserved much more in her young life than she had lived to this point. They adopted Maya with an open mind to give her another chance, this time a loving and adventurous life with them aboard their yacht.
Gaining Maya’s Trust
Sadly, we live in a world where animals are abused and abandoned, and dear Maya had not escaped such cruelty. As time passed and Lisa spent more time with Maya, she began to discover the extent of her emotional trauma.
It was going to be a long process as it was clear that Maya had suffered dreadful abuse. Although she was content in the company of Lisa, she was nervous and hyper-vigilant. ‘At first, when I picked anything up, she was cowered, terrified that I might use what I was holding to hurt her’, Lisa said.
Over time, Maya began to trust Lisa and felt safe knowing that she was not going to be hurt like someone had done to her in the past. Not all fears were alleviated as Lisa explains, ‘Maya still isn’t fond of the bug-zapping racket.’ Lisa wonders if somebody had used one to hit her with in her old life.
Maya was also suffering severe muscular atrophy, a decrease in muscle mass, especially in her hind legs. Lisa had learned that Maya had been chained up for long periods of time which is the suspected cause of her wasting muscle. Lisa is relieved when she says, ‘Maya is a young dog, so the good news is that her physical fitness has improved significantly with a good diet and regular exercise’.
It was also revealed that Maya had been chained up outdoors during Hurricane Maria in September 2017, in recorded wind speeds of in excess of 100mph. Maya suffered flesh wounds to her neck and broken teeth as she tried desperately to free herself from the chain. It’s hard to imagine the fear and desperation that this beautiful dog was living through to save her own life.
These days Lisa says Maya is suffering storm-related PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) but with the caring and loving heart of her new mum, Maya is comforted through these times with creative solutions. Subsequently Maya has her own collection of children’s rashie vests. Lisa tells me, ‘I found that a snug fitting thrift store kids rash vest calms her enough to eat and sleep during bad weather.’ Such a simple and inexpensive result.
As we know, sailboats heel with a little wind filling the sails and when they do, if the cabin isn’t shipshape, loose items will fall, unsecured doors will bang, and relaxed pots will clang. These are noises that scare Maya and so Lisa spends extra time stowing anything that could be a potential threat to Maya’s emotional stability. When they are experiencing considerable rolling in bad weather, Maya is comforted by the sound of fans, music or the television; a medley of white noise helping to relieve her anxiety.
Maya’s Transition to Boating Life
Maya has adapted well to living on the boat however Lisa needs to be acknowledged for her patience and perseverance and above all her magnificent kind heart.
‘[Maya] was terrified, shaking with fear and clinging to me during her first dinghy ride. But, within a few days she was on the dinghy bow, leaning into the wind, ears flapping happily.’ Lisa paints this beautiful picture of a happy and secure sailing dog, a thousand lives away from her beginnings.
Toileting is often a burden many boat dog parent’s stress over. Maya quickly relieved herself and her parents of this worry. When Maya went to the toilet on land, Lisa soaked up some of Maya’s urine with a paper towel and deposited it under a mat of artificial grass on the boat in Maya’s designated toilet area. Clever Maya used her special area first thing the next morning. If only it was this easy for all boating dogs.
Access Within the Boat
Sailing boats can be awkward places to get around, even for us two-legged human kind, let alone a four-legged furry crew member.
Maya had to learn to navigate five-foot-high, steep companionway stairs allowing her more freedom to move independently around her new home. Lisa was concerned about Maya’s lack of strength and coordination caused by the muscular atrophy, but she decided to take things slow and with incremental steps teach Maya how to use the stairs.
For Lisa’s training regime please visit their story at https://dogswhosail.com/maya/
Maya has come a long way since their meeting at the farm gate. These days she still suffers periods of anxiety when the boat is enduring bouts of bad weather, but her mum offers her the best remedy of all, lots of love and cuddles.
Like all young dogs, Lisa explains Maya’s training is ongoing. ‘Now that she is not tied up and has a strong powerful body, [Maya] loves to run. Getting her to come back when called can be a challenge, but further training will fix that.’
Lisa & Maya’s Advice for Having a Rescue Dog Onboard
Lisa shares with us some sound advice when it comes to choosing a rescue dog;
- Consider the dog’s temperament carefully, calm dogs are easier on a boat than hyperactive dogs.
- Dogs that are keen to please their people are far easier to train and adapt more easily.
- Try to match crew and dog activity levels.
- Mixed breed rescues often have less health problems.
- Try to look past appearance and concentrate on a dog’s character and behaviour. Just because you like the way a dog looks does not mean that a dog will fit your lifestyle.
Day by day Maya is adjusting to boating life. This wonderful story of patience and persistence coupled with incremental steps, lots of praise and love shows how effective training can be. Dogs are not stubborn creatures that want to test our endurance, instead they want to please us and to do so they must first begin by trusting us.
Fair winds and following seas dear Maya.
A sincere thank you to Lisa for allowing me to write and share your heart-warming story. To Maya, you have touched our hearts and I have no doubt your courage and determination will be an inspiration to many dogs who sail.
Jan/Dec 2019 Newsletter edition
– with Tanya Rabe
BOAT DOG ETIQUITTE
We are lucky here at Moreton Bay Trailer Boat Club with both
the club and marina being dog friendly places. There are a few marinas along
the East Coast who aren’t as welcoming to our furry four-legged crew members.
As an MBTBC liveaboard I spend a lot of time in both spaces
and I’m impressed with the care dog owners take but from time to time someone chooses
to relax the rules and it’s these folks who can spoil it for the rest of us.
So, let’s have a quick look at how we dog owners can do our
best to ensure MBTBC continues to welcome our dogs.
#1 PICK UP YOUR DOG’S
I am not going to moderate this statement to make it sound more
charming. This is a directive. As a dog owner, poo bags are a staple. If you
buy food, treats and toys, you can definitely buy poo bags. I am surprised at
how many people don’t carry them or expect council to have bags on every
corner. Is this the same attitude people take with babies and nappies? Hardly.
So why should dog owners be any different?
Yes, it’s a disgusting chore and there have been many times
when I have dry-reached because of picking up smelly, tacky dog poo but there
is no way I am going to walk away and leave it there. I have even been caught
out having just one bag with a big hole in it, but I improvised and so can you.
There is absolutely no excuse for leaving your dogs business
in publicly shared places. Faeces can carry disease and parasites. When you
choose to have a dog, you choose to pick up their poo.
#2 KEEP YOUR DOG ON A
‘Oh, but he’s friendly,’ I hear Rufus’s mum say. It’s hard
for a dog lover to believe that not everyone likes dogs, especially when they
come bounding up and entering someone’s personal space who has a fear of them,
adults and children alike. They don’t hear your words about how friendly Fido
is and nor should they have to. I doggy-sit the most gorgeous girl dog who is
so playful but around kids and small dogs she just doesn’t know her strength
and play can quickly turn into terror.
It is also challenging when your dog is on a lead and
someone else thinks their dog doesn’t have to be. In doggie world this sets up
a hierarchical imbalance which dogs are known to be sensitive to. If some argie-bargie
begins between the dogs, how on earth is someone going to restrain the one who
isn’t on a lead?
I have also seen dogs who aren’t on a lead, go to the toilet
ahead of their owner who walks in a world of ignorant bliss, or pretends not to
notice. Our beautiful Moreton Bay area is full of spaces where dogs are allowed
off leash. Please use them.
If you still feel that it’s ok for your dog to be off the
leash, the least you can do is pop them on the lead as soon as you see someone
approach in the distance and thank the ranger when he books you.
#3 DON’T LEAVE YOUR
DOG ALONE BARKING ON YOUR BOAT
It doesn’t happen often but on the odd occasion a dog will
be left alone on the boat and they will voice their dissatisfaction by barking
constantly. You’ll have no idea, but your boatie neighbours will.
Boating is about getting away from the suburban idocracy to
enjoy peaceful Moreton Bay anchorages. No one wants to hear your dog barking
for hours on end. Take Fido with you if you go exploring or let them enjoy the company
at sundowners too. If you are in restricted areas, invite boaties aboard your
FOR THE DOGGY BAG
There is a good chance that I would make a great Dog Cop but
I am passionate about respecting rules around our canine friends for good
reasons. When we break the rules, we develop a bad reputation within our
community and this can lead to further restrictions. I’d much rather show that
we can do the right thing with an opportunity to have more freedom in the
MBTBC kindly open their hearts to our canine family. Let’s
respect their generosity.
Fair winds and doggie love.
Dogs Who Sail – August 2019
People often ask me, what is the
best type of dog for a boat? I have met over one thousand dogs who sail and of
them, there are hundreds of different breeds of dogs enjoying life aboard all
over the world.
Our boat dogs are Cocker
Spaniels, the previous owners had Weimaraner’s who were twice the size of our
Spanners. I have met Seagles (aka sailing Beagles), Staffy’s, Maltese’s, Jack
Russell’s, and to my surprise working dogs; Kelpies, Blue Heelers and Border
Collies who are a long way from home. Let’s not forget the designer crew of Labradoodles,
Cavadoodles and Cockerdoodles. Sailing greyhounds, Bitsa’s and dogs who have
escaped death row by mere moments. Some love life on the water and others are
only there out of undying loyalty to their owner.
I have known someone to spend
thousands on the perfect “water dog” only to discover their new furry crew
member utterly loathed being on the boat. So, to my soundest knowledge, the
question is not What is the best type of dog for a boat? but Who is the best type
of person for a dog on a boat?
Your dog’s primary need is you.
No matter what breed, they need you to be responsible for their safety and
wellbeing and all of the other obvious things like food, exercise, love and
When you decide to include your
dog in your boating lifestyle whether it be for a couple of hours, a weekend or
long-term cruising, there are three necessary characteristics you must have or be
willing to develop for your boat dog: Acceptance – Patience and Perseverance.
One of the first things I advise
Dogs Who Sail members is to understand that furry four-legged crew will likely determine
their itinerary on many occasions. Some of our most beautiful anchorages are
within national and marine parklands. As a responsible dog owner, you really
shouldn’t be letting your dog onto these protected lands. We all know there are
fines if we do, and I agree, not all of the rules may seem fair, but you will
need to accept that’s the way that it is at the moment and look for anchorages
where dogs are allowed.
Patience is truly a virtue when
bringing a doggo onboard, especially when you expect your dog to go to the
toilet on demand because you want her to. There’s a cold, howling southerly sliding
into your bones as you stand on the bow waiting for Bella to stop
procrastinating and do her business. Perhaps, like many others, your dog goes
beyond procrastination and downright refuses to go to the toilet on the boat.
Remember to exercise patience and acceptance when you are dinghying to shore in
the pouring rain so your dog will go to the toilet in comfort.
The third thing I encourage
boaties with dogs onboard is to persevere with training. If you teach your dog
anything, persevere with the Stay and Release command. Combined with other
resources, this training will keep your dog from jumping off the boat when they
shouldn’t, remaining in the dinghy until you see he is safe to go ashore and if
you are on a sailboat, keep your dog from leaping down into the main saloon
from the cockpit. The best type of person for a dog on a boat, is someone who
is vigilant about their dog’s safety onboard.
In my experience, save your money
trying to find the perfect breed of dog to share your boating adventures with.
It is your attitude that will make them the best boat dog you could wish for.
Fair Winds, Tanya