Category: dog


I have a very strange dog. She is strange, and funny, in many ways, and always has been. She is a Tibetan Spaniel – short legs, long, puggish body, flat-ish face, and long hair which forms balls around the house when she moults (which is all year round). I adopted her when she was 2 years old from a work acquaintance who had to get rid of her as she kept digging her way out of the yard and terrorising the neighbour’s chickens. That should have set off an alarm bell, but it didn’t and 9 years later, she’s still digging her way out of things. I looked up Tibetan Spaniels on the internet when I first got her and it said 3 main things.

1. Tibetan Spaniels were originally bred to be bed warmers for the Tibetan Royal Family, probably a combination of a pug and a shih tzu. That makes sense. She seems to have a sense of entitlement and likes to jump onto the bed at any opportunity.

2. Tibetan Spaniels are diggers by nature. Well, no prizes there, considering the reason she was being given away in the first place. At the time, I had a completely paved backyard so it was no big deal.

3. Tibetan Spaniels are not easily trained. If a Tibby obeys a command, it was probably about to do it anyway. That’s never been a particularly helpful part of her personality  as it means she can’t be off the leash on a walk as she just takes off.

The internet failed to mention anything about thinking she’s a cat, always lying on clean washing if left on the floor, only chasing a stick or ball if it is edible, and demanding, in no uncertain terms, that it is time for a treat. This particular Tibetan Spaniel has lived an interesting life. She has lived in 9 different houses in her 11 years, and is now living out her golden years on a houseboat.

Doglet (not her real name – she’s way too naughty to be exposed online) had already earned her sea legs before we moved onto the houseboat. She had been out sailing many times on our previous boat, a 34ft sailing boat, and, except for the stairs being so steep she would often do triple somersaults to get down them, she seemed to genuinely enjoy the journey. Like me, she enjoyed it more when not really going anywhere. If things got a little choppy and swayed from side to side, she liked to wander around the top deck of the boat to make sure everything was OK, and then try to jump overboard. Other than that, she was quite at home.

The first couple of weeks after buying the houseboat, we were busy moving things on and generally pottering about, so it was a while before she was left to her own devices all day. Being so close to the dog park – about 30metres depending on the tide – my main concern was that she would want to be with all the other dogs and swim to shore. That’s OK in theory, but would she stay there all day or wander off to chase cars. Her face is flat enough!! I’m not fond of dog owners who let their dogs do their own thing and wander the streets. And sure enough, the first time she was left alone for the whole day, we arrived home to find her missing. The Adventurer grabbed the binoculars to see if she was at the dog park, while I searched the whole boat. In the dinghy tied to the back of the boat was a clue – a giant pooh. My mind immediately went to the possibility that she had slipped while trying to get back out of the dinghy and had drowned, when I heard my phone beeping. It was a message from a woman saying she had found our dog up at the school. School? The school is miles away? The swim alone would be 300metres, then up a hill across a road and up another hill. Doglet is 11years old! I could not believe that she could swim that far, so I can only guess that she fell off the back of the boat, couldn’t see the dog park from that side, started swimming and got picked up by a boat coming through the channel and dropped off on the other side. Of course it depends on what kind of boat picked her up. If a fishing trawler picked her up, did she have a day at sea reeling in swordfish before heading home? Or perhaps a pleasure craft, that indulged her with caviar, champagne and massages before dropping her to shore. My mind was going to all sorts of scenarios, but definitely not to the one that had her swimming that far!

After that adventure, she has kept herself on board, happy to wait until we come home to take her to the park. However, when the wind is blowing a gale and it’s freezing cold, making that trip can be a bit taxing. The Adventurer awoke early one morning to find it was extremely low tide, which means we were only about 20 metres from the shore. He put Doglet into the kayak, attached a very long rope, and gave the kayak an almighty heave ho, delivering her, eventually, to the beach. Getting her back was still a problem to be solved but for now, she was happy to be delivered.

The only problem with indulging our laziness is that I don’t like dogs roaming unattended, no matter how small, cute and furry they are. No one would be more shocked than me if Doglet had a snap at someone, but you just can’t tell with dogs, especially as they get older or suffer a trauma. About 2 years ago, when we were living in suburbia like normal people, there was a husky that had been adopted into a local family after it had wandered out of the bush some years earlier. This husky was quite placid, and even a little scared of humans, but really took an instant dislike to our little ball of fur. Perhaps it was her close resemblance to a possum that was the problem. The husky had been known to devour those on neighbours lawns too. One day while out for a walk, on the leash, with the children, the unattended and uncollared husky decided it wanted some Doglet for dinner and grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and shook her, like it would it’s prey. Thankfully the children were able to get themselves and the dog away and Doglet survived with a bit of expensive surgery. The reason I’m relating this story is, now Doglet has a vendetta against huskys, and this dog park has many of them visit on a daily basis! She spots one, goes straight up to it and seems to be saying “I know your kind! One of you tried to eat me. This is my park, now just keep away, cos I’m the boss!” Needless to say, these huskys have no idea what she’s going on about and find her yapping and carrying on a tad annoying.

This particular dog park is very special because of the sand and water available for the dogs to play in. Most beaches ban off-leash, and even on-leash dogs, so people come for miles to visit. In this area, there are also many restrictions in place because a lot of the area is National Park. We had some friends visiting recently, so we motored up to one of these parklands and spent most of the day. Fun for us, but it did mean that Doglet was stuck on board for the better part of the day. On the way back, The Adventurer’s crazy brother showed up in his very fast boat and decided to do “donuts” around us, making it very choppy. Doglet was outside at the time and we were relieved to find her still on board. Excitement over, so we thought, and we continued on our way back to the mooring. Suddenly we noticed Doglet had jumped in the dinghy and was trying to jump in the water. We were motoring along at about 6 knots at the time, and in the deepest part of the water way which is known to have sharks visiting from time to time – in other words, not a good place to jump off. I did mention she prefers to be on boats that don’t move much! We managed to haul her back aboard and made it back to the mooring where she promptly jumped in and swam to shore. Urgent call of nature or “just get me the hell off this boat”? We’ll never know. But it did remind us that we have to consider the furry passengers that also live aboard the houseboat.

Splashing Out

There are few down sides to spending a lot of time on the water, but one of them has to be spending unexpected time IN the water. You can’t say “if” I fall in the water, but “when” I fall in the water. In other words, you have to plan ahead so that you have a safety plan, particularly when you have children or animals on board.

It was quite a while before I took my first unexpected dip, and it was on the sail boat. It was quite a high boat, and to get into the dinghy involved climbing down the side on a ladder. It could be tricky, but getting out of the water after swimming (or falling in) was trickier as you had to hoist yourself onto the ladder in order to climb back up. The kids are able to scamper up effortlessly. It seems “hauling ass” is only easy if you don’t actually have one. Needless to say, I was always very careful getting in and out of “Cherished Wish”. However, this particular day I had already made it into the dinghy, with the kids waiting to go ashore. As I reached up to grab the dog, I had 1 hand on the boat, the other arm holding the dog, the dinghy moved backwards, and the dog and I had to jump for it. At least it was summer and I was suitably attired for swimming. The dog, however, was not impressed.

The houseboat is much lower and therefore “supposedly” easier to get in and out of. Technically I can see the merit in that argument. However, in the relatively short time we have been on the houseboat, I have gone in twice.

The first time, The Adventurer had gone off somewhere with the dinghy, leaving me to contend with the kayak. It was a beautiful, sunny autumn day. Too cold for swimming, but lovely for a paddle, so as I had to go ashore to collect a visitor, I passed on calling for the tender service available through the marina and hopped in the kayak to pick her up. As I paddled over, I remember feeling quite impressed with myself and was feeling confident that I could be independent and not have to rely on The Adventurer to drop me to and from shore. Boat to marina? So far so good. Marina back to boat with passenger? Also good, although we did crash into a small barge on that leg, but that’s a minor detail. Got passenger out. Got bags out. I stood up, again holding onto the boat with my feet still in the kayak. The kayak (and feet) went off to the right while I hung on to the railing for dear life. My visitor and I were laughing so much, there was no hope for me. And while she quoted lines from “Titanic”, (you know the bit where Kate is on the raft/door and Leo slowly lets go…”No Jack, no don’t leave me”) in I went.

The 2nd time also involved the kayak. (Ah…I’m starting to see a pattern forming). The Adventurer was away and the dog needed a walk. Our mooring is less than 50 metres from a huge off-leash dog park. It is so popular, people come for miles so their dog can play here as it includes a big sand bar as well as a park. In NSW most beaches prohibit dogs even being walked on a leash, so there are very few places where dogs can really make a splash. It’s lovely waking up to the sound of dogs barking when they are playing and swimming, and not because their owners have gone to work and they are bored and locked on the patio for 8 hours a day. I got back from work, got changed and hopped in the kayak. It was a glorious winter’s day. Way too cold to swim, but the sun was warm on the sand. Doglet took off as soon as we pulled up to the beach, and I sat happily on the sand while she went about her routine patrol of the park. When it came time to go, I carried her to the kayak, popped her in and started to push the kayak out. As I got in, Doglet decided she hadn’t finished patrolling, and tried to get out. I half tipped, drenching 1 arm, but breathed a sigh of relief. I started to paddle and this time, she made a proper go of escaping, completely capsizing the kayak in the process. She took off and left me, drenched to the waist, to drag the kayak, full of water, back to the beach and to tip it over to get the water out. Not easy. It’s a 2 seater kayak and quite heavy at the best of times. Once back on the beach, I went after the naughty Doglet, but of course, she then decided that was a fun game, and took off through the car park. With no shoes and looking like a half-drowned crazy person, I gave up the chase and went back to the kayak and waited….and waited…

I decided to head back to the boat, rather than stand there and catch pneumonia. Then I could take the dinghy to shore and take the car around to the park with a torch as it was almost dark. As soon as I got changed, there was Doglet, on the shore, barking indignantly for me to come and get her! I was not amused.