Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Dogs On Board

It's not unusual to see dogs on board a barge. Actually, it's pretty common, but what often tickles me is that the size and number of the dogs is often in inverse proportion to the size of the barge they live on.

Many's the time I've seen dogs scooting up the gunwales of the huge commercials, and most often, these are small wiry terrier types that probably get all the exercise they need charging up and down a hundred and ten metre barge. Okay I'm generalising here, I know, but this is something I've definitely noticed. Conversely, I've seen  English narrowboats, the smallest and (predictably) narrowest of the barge type boat, positively crowded with dogs, quite often very large ones. I even know of a narrowboat owner who has about five or six greyhounds on board, not to mention a labrador as well (I think).

But having dogs on a barge isn't always easy. Sindy, my lovely old Labrador/Dobermann cross was fine all the while the boat wasn't moving. But as soon as we turned the engine on, she became something akin to a jellyfish on amphetamines and was hell bent on getting onto terra firma, whatever it took, even forcing her way out of the hatches on one occasion.

A contented Sindy on a stable boat


But even before Sindy, and when I was with Bill, the erstwhile, we had two dogs on board. One was an old Labrador called Daisy and the other was a slightly manic Border Collie who answered (occasionally) to Polly. These two feature in my first watery memoir, Watery Ways, and they, especially Polly, presented us with all sorts of fun and games.

Daisy was already getting old when we came to the Netherlands and was rather ponderous and heavy. She didn't like new challenges much either. A laid back existence with plenty of snacks both offered and found was her idea of doggy wellbeing. So when we had to persuade her over a gangplank stretching across a yawning gap, her paws grew roots and the worry wrinkles on her forehead doubled in size. Still, with one of us in front and the other behind, we shuffled her across in much the same way as a heavy and cumbersome piece of furniture. We did this for a week or so, but once she got the hang of it, she was quite full of herself and started cantering over the gap with gay abandon, oblivious to the clanging of steel on steel as she thundered across.

On one occasion, the two of them, Polly and Daisy, decided to race each other, and in true competitive style, they jostled for pole (not Poll) position. Well, the inevitable happened. Daisy, being the larger and beefier, leaned into Polls who lost her balance and disappeared over the side. Daisy's expression was suspiciously like a grin when she jumped down onto the deck. As for Polly, she decided to take a heaven sent opportunity to round up a few ducks while she was in the water. Well, why not? 

We only managed to get her out when she found her way onto a small patch of stony, silted up bank, at which point, Bill scaled down the ladder in the harbour wall and hoisted her up to me. Armfuls of very wet, weedy collie don't make the best cuddles. I can confirm that without any hesitation at all.

Talking of Polly's collie instincts, she had them to an intense degree and much to our dismay, she was indiscriminate in her choice of subjects that (she felt) needed rounding up. We live in a country where there are far more water fowl than there are sheep - although there are plenty of those too - and we have a harbour full of ducks, coots and swans. I'll leave the rest to your imagination. Suffice to say, Polly tried to herd them all, including the swans, a foolhardy act that I think even she regretted.

Have you ever seen an angry swan? Well, this one was very unimpressed and not a little upset at being rounded up by a compulsive obsessive sheepdog.

The only photo
I still have of
Polly& Daisy
On another wintry occasion early on in our Oude Haven life, the harbours were frozen over except for one small puddle on which a swan was sitting. Not thinking to test the thickness first (as you do of course), Polly took off over the ice to collect the 'errant' swan, broke through it and sank. Not thinking of the potential risks (as you should of course), I took off my coat and waded in to rescue her, breaking the frozen surface as I went. Luckily at the spot in question, it wasn't very deep so I could still just reach the bottom. Even so, a couple on the other side of the water were just about ready to call the police, thinking I was putting an end to things (yes, that again). They hadn't seen Polly sink below the surface, so it was only when I emerged on their side of the harbour with a bemused, soaked and frozen dog in tow that they realised what had happened. Despite the sodden furry evidence, I'm sure they thought I was completely bonkers. They might have called the cops anyway had I not assured them of my relative sanity and that it was love for my dog that made me do it. 

The odd thing, though, was that I burned up completely on the way back home. I suppose it was my body's reaction to the freezing water, but at least I wasn't shivering when I climbed fully dressed into the shower to peel off my wet clothes and get warm.

Apart from these issues, the two old girls adapted very well and were perfectly happy living on the barge. They loved going 'faring' and would stand in the bows sniffing the air with contented smiles on their faces - which was why it came as such a shock when Sindy came into my life: a puppy, albeit an already abused one. She grew up on the barge, but never, ever got used to the motion. She hated it, even in the rowing boat, and it was just bad luck. You can't ever know how your dog is going to react and I've since heard that others have the same problem. Dogs seem to either love it or hate it and there's nothing you can do to change that.

Sindy in motion. Poor baby, she was not happy.
Sindy was the doggy love of my life; I adored her and miss her terribly, but she was not easy. Oh no. And for that reason more than any other, I think it'll be a long time before I risk having another canine companion on board my barge.

21 comments:

  1. I love the thought of Daisy coming off the boat with gay abandon. It is strange that Sindy never got used to being on a boat she probably suffered from doggie motion sickness. It will be a long time before I have another dog after having to plan our day avoiding other dogs for Sam . I'll settle for the granddoggies as surrogates.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too, Anne! I've got my daughter's spaniel staying at the moment. It's a great arrangement! (I'm glad your commenting is working again :) )

      Delete
  2. I love dogs - they can be the best, but also the most needy, companions. I can see that a very needy dog on a barge might not be the best idea. But maybe you relent one day and adopt a pooch that looks at you love-me eyes?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure it will happen one day, Jo, but for now, I'm settling for surrogates, like Anne. I can't go completely dogless, so it's a good compromise for the moment.

      Delete
  3. Our, not very bright, Border Terrier is definitely a landlubber. Molly looks miserable as soon as we start to walk down the pontoon, consequently she stays at home when the sea calls. She had developed a taste for fresh mackerel tho!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, so you know what it's like then, Michelle! It is rather limiting, isn't it? I know it stopped us going on quite a number of trips. I just hope it's not too kate to make up for the lost time...

      Delete
  4. Brilliant as always! It is funny how Daisy and Polly loved riding on the barge and testing the wind and poor Sindy didn't. I love your description of Polly rounding up waterfowl! The older Angel Joy gets, the more she likes to herd...usually us! I can understand your reluctance to get another barge dog after Sindy, but I'm glad she brought so much joy into your lives.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Despite her difficulties, or maybe even because of them, she will remain in our affections for always.

      Delete
  5. I like dogs and have had several throughout my life. They make great companions and in their own way they can be quite caring towards us humans. I would never say that I love them though as I only give that to people.
    I can only imagine what having a dog must be like onboard a boat and think that they must cause extra work for the owner, so I can understand your reluctance in not having a live aboard dog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, Mel, we will have to agree to differ there, I think. I believe dogs are capable of far more than just care and companionship. Much like people, I cannot say I love them all; there've been some I would cheerfully have banished to places afar for being annoying, pesky and brattish (I know plenty of peiple like that too). But, those I have known and shared my life with I have loved very much. No doubt :))

      Delete
  6. Ah dear Sindy, I remember her from reading Watery Ways. I suppose dogs and barges is rather like dogs and vehicles - some like them, some don't. We had a dog who was terrified whenever we had to go somewhere in the car. So funny to think of them trying to herd swans and other water birds, and not so funny to think of you going through the ice. Glad that ended happily - it sounds like you were in and out pretty quickly!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Two lucky things, Patricia. It ended happily and it gave me a story to tell! Polly gave us lots of stories now I come to think of it! Oh and yes, Sindy behaved oddly in the car too...remember the job she did on the interior of our little Renault?

      Delete
  7. What about barge cats? Are there many?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, Stephanie, there are. Lots of barge owners have cats. I had one too, but I lost her. I don't know for sure, but she probably drowned. After that, I never wanted another cat on board. It's too risky.

      Delete
  8. I miss Sindy. She was one of a kind. ❤️
    I giggled at your dog-saving dives. Your neighbours must have been on edge about you all the time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I miss her too, Anne-Marie. Still. She was a one-off indeed and the more loved because of it.

      Delete
  9. Val, I remember reading about one of your dogs onboard, probably in Watery Ways. It truly is like taking care of another person. Can't imagine the boat with the five greyhounds plus the Labrador; but it doesn't bother some people. I can see why you took a breather from having dog onboard, though the love is there for those you have owned. Nice post! Lynn

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Lynn! Yes, dogs on a barge are still family :)

      Delete
  10. Ah, this goes back to our conversation, poor Sindy :(. But your other two dogs sound like such characters too, you certainly know how to pick them! Amazing what we will do for our doggie family xxxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is, isn't it, Fran! I hope Archie is doing fine now?!

      Delete

Apologies for switching on comment moderation, but this is to make sure everyone can comment without jumping through captcha hoops! However, anonymous comments will not be published, so please would you sign your name.