Since the first Lupas Lupas (wolves) hung around the camp sites of our ancestors, their descendants have woven themselves into the fabric of human lives, ever since. I have often asked myself “what is it about these creatures that makes them seek out human companionship?”. Some may say that it was the easy availability of food, but if you have ever had dog, you would know that it is for more than food that they are with us.
My sailor dog is not “food motivated” as I was told by the pound owner. I found this to be mostly true, however, Sailor dog has developed a liking for my snacks. I have a little cabinet under the dinning table at the saloon where I would keep my stash of nuts, and sweet or savory snacks (chips, biscuits, Chacos, Twisties and other goodies). I have this unhealthy habit of getting up in the middle of the night to munch on snacks (say around 2-3 am in the morning). I would get up quietly, and sneak out into the saloon to my secret stash of goodies. The moment I opened the cabinet door (which is below the dinning table), a snout would stick in there almost before I could put my hand in there to search for whatsoever that will satisfy my palate’s craving at that moment. Sailor dog, wanted to know too what it was going to be. This always give me a pang of guilt and surprise at the same time, at being caught with my hand in the cookie jar, literally. Many a times, we would head out together into the cockpit where we would share a pack of chips, for example, on the cockpit bench. One for me, one for you, one for me…! My perfect partner in crime!
As I have mentioned in earlier articles, Sailor dog, does have the intellect of a small child. She understands our spoken language (English at least). At times when I wish to talk to the Admiral about the “naughty girl” without her actually knowing, I would speak to the Admiral in mandarin. She seemed not to have a clue of what we were talking about when the Admiral and I were conversing in mandarin. At other times we would talk (in English) to Sailor dog directly as if having a conversation. She would listen and the look in her eyes and the tilting of her head amongst other gestures, tells us that she understood what we were saying and she was thinking.
The Admiral works late at times and sometime takes the MRT (metro) home. I would drive the car out to the gates of the marina to fetch her with Sailor dog in the back seat. She would stare intensely at the corner where her mummy would first appear. Tongue half out, eyes unblinking in anticipation.
One evening, I turned to Sailor dog and said “you hear that?” Pointing in the direction of the sound. “That is the train! The train will come first, then mummy will come!”
The following evening, when out fetching the Admiral, Sailor dog was looking rather relaxed in the back seat till she heard the train coming. That was when she sprung up and looked anticipatively for her mummy. She understood completely what I had told her the night before. Not just understood it but she remembered!
When neighbours, saw the response to my asking Sailor dog if she wanted to go out, they were amazed. I know, she would understand far more then just simply words or sentences. If she can understand what I told her about the train, she can understand a whole lot more than just simple words.
Such complex and intelligent beings will have a need for social structures. A sense of belonging and a need to interact with another intelligent entity. That, I would think is why canines are with us and at times forming bonds with us that can only be considered as a family bond. Sailor dog certainly fits into that scenario well. She would not go to sleep, for example, if I were up in the cockpit reading. She would wait till I’m done, gone down into the boat and turn the lights off. Then she’ll go to her spot on the bed and lie down with a tired moan.
Sailor dog loves roasted chicken. She doesn’t eat lamb as the Admiral and I do not eat lamb often. We find the smell a little too strong. She doesn’t eat processed meat (like sausages) either. Once we had McDonald’s chicken burger for dinner and we gave her the chicken burger (as she doesn’t eat bread or buns, being the carnivore she is). She sniffed at the chicken burger and left it well alone! I’ve not ordered another chicken burger since! She does however eat curry. Even spicily cooked ones. I once went to a friend’s party and when leaving rather late, I asked if I could pack some rice and chicken curry for my Sailor dog. Yes I may, they said and there were sceptical looks abound.
We tend to like the type of food we grew up with. What our family would normally eat. It’s no different with our dogs, although Sailor dog does take that notion to a slight extreme. The Admiral likes to have a nip or two of Moscato dessert wine. Seeing the mum seeping Moscato, one evening, Sailor dog indicated that she wanted some! The Admiral poured a little into a soup bowl and gave it to her. She lapped it all up. Likewise, she wanted some of my coffee one morning and kept insisting so. Not sure if she could handle it physiologically, I’d only given her a few teaspoons and she lapped it up! The four legged human, her Godma would comment!
She is more then a pet to us. She is indeed a member of our small family. It saddens us very much knowing that dogs do not live as long as people do. We try not to think of it but enjoy our time together for as long as we can.
Sailor dog seldom barks. If she does, it’s for good reason(s). A stranger coming too close to the boat, or someone trying to catch “our” fish. These are the archer fish in the marina, around our boat. I’ll feed them slices of bread in the morning, when I remember to. They are smart buggers for fishes. They’ll spit water at me to remind me they’re there, usually with bullseye accuracy, right in my eye. I discovered that if I point at them and say “behave” they’ll stop shooting at me. I was once fixing some electronics in the cockpit and in the midst of soldering some electronics parts I got a shot right in the eye. Fortunately none of the seawater got into my electronic equipment! I have forgotten to tell them to behave. Sailor dog knows they are our fishes. She’ll bark at anyone who would dares try to catch them.
Sailor dog is also extremely protective of our floating home. Someone was talking to me once and his hand was hanging onto the boat’s davit (for hanging up our dinghy) and she grawled loudly at him. I mentioned to him that Sailor dog doesn’t like him touching her boat. Hands off, and the grawling stopped! Neighbours even commented to me that they have never heard her bark. She seldom does, and when she does it’ll be for a good reason and not at some seagulls or crows loitering around. One night, when the Admiral was away on a business trip and I was ready to go to sleep, and have only just turned off the lights. Sailor dog barked in the saloon. I was alarmed, to say the very least. Lights on in an instance and I saw Sailor dog barking in the direction of the dinning table. That gave me the Heebie Jeebies! What it turned out to be was the air conditioner vent (I had just turned it on before going to sleep) blowing at the newspaper on the dinning table. It was flipping like someone was reading it!!! Still creepy when I think about it.
Like all doting parents, we will buy things for her. A day bed, a life vest and lately since doing some canvas work on a neighbour’s boat, there was lots of off-cuts laying around. The sewing machine all set up in the cockpit as well. So I made her a new collar out of Sunbrella canvas.
Couple of days later, I made her a bikini bottom. Godma, nearly died laughing!
A man’s (Sailor’s) best friend?! Much more than that, I would say. Sailor dog is a member of our family. Our child!