June 29, 2013

"Pups on the go" -photo collection!

Here's a small collection of photos taken on our 8 month long cruise down the California coast, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua! It was a wonderful time for both us and our pups! Thank you Maria Järvinen for taking some of these lovely photos!

June 16, 2013


Last summer when we were planning our cruise one of the planning points was to figure out what to do with Gin. Until last summer Gin had spent most of her life living on the boat but for some reason had never liked the boat very much. She got random nervous attacks, sometimes triggered by gun shots but most of the time we couldn’t figure out what was wrong or why she did it. Maybe she heard something, maybe not. When we went sailing, she would be panting somewhere along the side or try to hide under the sailbags in the front. She wasn’t very responsive. Obviously this was not a dog to take on a year-long sailing expedition. Vanilla was coming with us, I couldn’t bear the thought of being away from her and she seemed to have adjusted to the boat fairly well considering her non-boating background. So we went on and asked a few trusted friends and family members if they could look after Gin in the coming year. Cody’s sister Carrie was willing to help us out. We had planned on building Gin a dog house on Carries yard (all her dogs live outdoors) and bying a whole bunch of dogfood and leaving her to enjoy the company of several herding dogs that Carrie and Levi have on their ranch. However, just in case anything would go wrong, I went on and prepared all the dog paperwork, vaccines and Gin’s microshipping for identification purposes if we needed to bring her along.

Fall came and we were almost ready to set sail. We did a couple weekend trips with the boat to find out if everything was working correctly and happily found out that not only did the boat work well but Gin wasn’t freaking out. She seemed more relaxed than normal and came to be petted (which is rare, she’s one of those loner type dogs). I remember saying to Cody that I’m going to miss Gin and Cody was silent for a while and said he would miss her too. We looked at each other and we both knew that Gin was coming with us too. The idea of our pampered ”little mutt” being tied up on a chain outdoors through the cold Wallowa winter (and having lived in California with no bits of winterfur growing on her) seemed crazy. Not that she wouldn’t survive but would she be as happy? We were her family afterall.

We were happy with the decision. The very first day of sailing we said several times to each other how nice it was to have the whole family on-board. What was amazing though, was how fast Gin started to change. It was something neither one of us expected so at first we thought she was just experiencing better days mixed in with the normal ones. How wrong we were! She started by getting excited about the sea lions. Every time she heard them bark on one of those buoys she would run to the front of the boat and bark back. Soon after that she saw some dolphins jumping out of the water at a distance and barked at them. She figured pretty quickly that they were not sea lions and settled down. After a week of sailing (which in Gin’s mind had to be a bunch of very boring days with nothing happening) she started getting excited about the dolphins as well. Then about any form of sea life or non-life, including huge cargo ships and tankers. Now she would go in the front of the boat after eating her own meal and begging our breakfast and stay there all day long. Most of the time she was sleeping but occasionally she would wake up and stare out at the horizon. We were so pleased! I couldn’t have hoped for anything better. She wasn’t nervous anymore and seemed to even enjoy bits and pieces of the sailing days. We had obviously worried in vain. 

But little did we know what lay ahead. After a couple of months of sailing Gin had transformed into a sharp dolphin watcher! She would lie on the front deck and endlessly scan the horizon. Now she would hardly sleep during the day: she had a mission. We had learned to grab our camera’s the minute she started whining, it meant something was coming. And something always did. Dolphins, whales, huge fish jumping out of the water. . . You name it! She was the best possible dolphin alarm system and fish finder. Not only once did we get a fish after Gin started keeping her noise. We were often trolling a fishing line in the water but started paying much more attention to it when the dog showed signs of excitement! Once in a while it paid off and we all got to enjoy some fresh made sushi! Gin would take a special interest in the fishing business and carefully watched every hand movement that Cody did fileeing the fish. Afterwards she would be more than happy to lick the blood off the deck if we weren’t fast enough with our cleaning!

It seemed that Gin had undertaken a full transformation from a land lover to a salty sea dog. She now liked the boating more than all the rest of the crew put together. And that’s not very little considering Cody’s passion, my enthusiasm and Vanilla’s relaxed and happy “pat me all day long and I’ll give you kisses”-zone. I thought everything was good and well and our world now had order. Everyone knew what to do and had their place. But I was in for a surprise. It didn’t end there.

A couple of days ago we were anchored at a beautiful picturesque cove of Coyote Island in Bahia Concepcion and were walking along the beach in the shallow water. The water was absolutely clear. Cody had found a couple round sting-rays and I was trying to get to him to take a look. I knew Vanilla was behind me on the beach chewing on a big fish bone and Gin was ahead of me, standing in a pool of water between two big rocks. As I was approaching him I saw one of the sting rays swim towards me and quickly dodge as it saw me standing in the water. It was wonderful! How odd looking creatures, flat and round and wobbly on the side and when it moves the edges of its body flicker and flap in the water. At the same time they move so gracefully and fast and the minute they stop they become hard to spot. What a crazy camouflage! As I lifted my eyes up I saw Gin attacking into the water and pulling her head out with a small fish between her teeth and before I even realized what’s happening the fish had already disappeared down her throat! Goodness! I wasn’t quite sure what to think but Gin seemed to be so pleased with herself that I couldn’t be mad. And why would I? Couldn’t hurt anybody if she ate a couple little fresh fish in addition to her fairly fishy diet already (I had switched from cooking most of their meals from ground beef to fish.)! 

The next day came and we let the dogs on the beach by themselves for a little while before joining them, and while drinking our morning coffee, we watched Gin swimming laps close to the beach constantly looking at the water and trying to bite into it. She was hunting again. I couldn’t help but smile. Our lovely domesticated house dog had turned into a wild fish hunting beast! Is this what adaptation means? At least this is what I would like to think it means. Given the chance it seems that dogs like humans can adapt to almost any conditions they find themselves in. I already knew that they could do a lot based on what Vanilla went through a couple years ago and this year but I have to say that I cannot help but be surprised and mesmerized by the change that Gin has undertaken. I can’t even remember the last time she had a nervous attach, was it back in Benicia? Possibly. For me the worry of Gin being sad and depressed this whole year is long gone but replaced by another, smaller worry. Maybe she will get sick from one of the fish she catches? Maybe she’ll jump off the dinghy in the middle of the ride if she sees something in the water?  She has definitely started to ride even more in the front with her head as close to the water as possible tail wagging the whole time! But whatever these worries may be I’m perfectly happy to have these instead of the original and I feel lucky to have witnessed unbelievable adaptation in process!