Posted by: Dawna Bate | September 26, 2017

Old Dog, New Tricks

Hazel on boatWe own a Basset Hound named Hazel, who will be 12 at Christmas. We got her when she was 12 weeks old, so we’ve known her for a while. There’s a few things we didn’t know about Bassets that we have learned over the years. The top 3 things I would say that were surprises for us are:

  1. Some Bassets shed. When reading about the breed, most sites mentioned that Bassets are non-shedders. They either lied or were sorely mistaken. Our dog sheds a small animal. Every day. During non-shedding season.  During shedding season, she creates her own little herd of guinea-pig-like hair balls. Every day.
  2. Some Bassets drool. When reading about the breed, most sites mentioned that not all Bassets drool. I never thought to cross-reference those with the sites that thought that this breed didn’t shed. Wrong. Bassets drool. They take great pride in drooling. They make an art of it. That artwork can be found all over the place. On the floors. On the walls. Down our pant legs. Hazel is a master. Or mistress, as the case may be.
  3. Bassets cannot swim. We’ve only tested this on one animal and hadn’t read this on any website before the field test took place. We took Hazel down to our first sailboat years ago. Thought “dog – water – perfect combination”. Put her life jacket on. Put her in the water when we went for a swim. From my perspective, it looked like she was going to drown David in her panic to get out of the water. He didn’t drown. Neither did she. We put her back on the boat. Never to be put in the water again.

Because of these three make-me-a-perfect-choice-for-a-pet qualities, combined with Hazel’s over-the-top excitement when in a car, that one near-drowning visit was her last visit to the boat. Serenity or Second Wind. We’d manage day trips to the marina, timed to leave after her morning walk and to arrive home for her afternoon walk, similar to a work day. Which meant that our time at the boat was minimal. And overnighters were scarce. Unless we relied on the good graces of our daughter and son-in-law to take her overnight for us.

Last year, David and I took early retirement with the plan to take Second Wind down to the Caribbean for the winter. Because of some health issues (discussed in more detail in my blog dedicated to that – FollowMyGut.ca), we didn’t go south last year. But we did still take early retirement so we decided to spend most of the summer on the boat. We spent about 3 weeks each month (July, August and September) enjoying marina life, with the other week spent at home for doctors’ appointments and catching up with visits and laundry. Because of that, we had to get Hazel used to being on the boat.

Since the first trip down to the boat was such a huge disaster, we needed advice. This wasn’t just because of the near-drowning, but because Hazel was restless and couldn’t settle down. She paced. She whined. She stressed. Us and her. So when we approached it for a second try, we asked the advice of friends at the marina whose dog was very comfortable. We asked if they had any tricks that they used when they got Chloe used to being on Amazed. Their advice was to get Hazel used to hanging out at the boat. Don’t do anything else. Just hang out. Read. Watch TV. Don’t try to go out for a sail. Don’t do a lot of anything. Get her used to the space and the movement and the area. So we did. And it worked like a charm. We spent July just hanging.

Hazel quickly staked her claim on the salon bench seat. (Did I mention that she sheds? A lot? Did I mention that she also drools? A lot?) It wasn’t long before that bench sheet was covered with her drool and her hair, meaning that she’d moved in and was planning to stay.

She quickly made friends with others at the dock. Other people that is. Hazel’s always been more interested in meeting people than she has been in meeting other canines. She took great pleasure in visiting the gazebo close to our dock to see who was hanging around and who was willing to give her a belly rub. She’d happily lounge there for hours on end while we visited. Although I think that she always believed that the visit was for her benefit and she allowed us to tag along.

After a few weeks, she seemed quite at home. So we tried doing more. More movement on the boat to do chores. This got her used to the rocking on the water. Trips out on the lake during fairly calm times. She’d be strapped into her life jacket and attached to the arch for the bimini (the canvas covering over the cockpit). She wasn’t happy when I would move her from “her” seat (as evidenced by more drool and hair) to the other side of the cockpit so she would be out from underfoot while we docked.

This year, her second season on the boat, she was a seasoned pro. On each trip, she waited impatiently beside the car while we unpacked and put on her life jacket. She’d happily trot down the dock, looking to see who was available to visit. She’d head right past our boat to the gazebo to say hello to anyone who happened to be hanging around. She had also figured out how to help us get her onto the boat (we lift her by the handle on the life jacket while she lifts with her chin on the edge of the boat – it’s a well-timed well-balanced endeavour.) She seems to be happier at the boat, spending hours laying in the cockpit and enjoying the fresh air. Hazel likes her second home.

It seems that you really can teach an old dog new tricks.

 

 

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