Considerations for Bringing Dogs On Board

Considerations for Bringing Dogs On Board
Dog on a boat
Bringing a dog on board comes with special considerations.
Tim Bower

Thursday is poker night at the Lake View Inn. Other bars in the North Woods might host a private back-room card club with high stakes, but at the Lake View, the game is played for essentially pocket change around the corner table of the dining room, where the big windows overlook the lights reflecting off the inky surface of the lake.

I’m not much for cards due to a lifelong math handicap, but my good friend Chuck Larson is a regular at the game. Lately he’s been bringing along his new dog, a Lab-Chessie mix named Bo, who has a seat at the card table. Chuck pulls up a bench from under the coat rack, and Bo hops right up. He has a bowl on the bench for his beer, and he gets dealt into the game.

Last week, an out-of-towner walked into the bar, took a long look at the card game, and asked, “Is that dog there really playing poker?”

“Yeah, but he’s not too good,” bartender Wally said. “Whenever he has a good hand, his tail wags.”

Bo joined the Larson clan after the passing of their beloved Newfoundland, Tula, who longtime readers might recall was quite the water dog, a swimmer so powerful that she once towed Chuck’s Yar-Craft back to shore after it drifted away from a launch ramp. Bo has become Chuck’s constant companion, which means he gets to play cards and go fishing. Due to its breed combination, this dog loves to be in the water, so I wondered about the wisdom of putting him in the boat. He might see a turtle swim by and jump overboard. But Chuck and Bo seem to have it figured out. Bo relaxes on the aft casting deck while Chuck does his angling from the foredeck. When Chuck hooks a fish, the dog gets alert, especially if a smallmouth breaks the water, and he will come forward to sniff the boated fish and congratulate Chuck.

This has me thinking about dogs and boats. There’s an old tradition of having cats on board a ship to act as rodent predators, but dogs don’t seem to be frequently mentioned in seafaring lore. Did Odysseus have a dog to bark at the sirens? Did Columbus sail the ocean blue with a Spanish water dog? Have you ever seen a picture of Reggie Fountain running 90 miles per hour with a dog in goggles on the portside seat? I think not.

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Now, our good friends at Barletta love dogs so much that they put slide-out water bowls in their pontoons. But I still think that bringing a dog aboard is asking for trouble. What if the dog gets motion sickness, or gets anxious and pees on the deck carpet? Maybe I’ve just never enjoyed the kind of intimate human-canine relationship that Chuck and Bo have formed.

On the last poker hand of the night Bo was dealt a full house and won the pot with an excited bark.

“Hey! The dog won,” the visitor said. “He had that great hand and didn’t wag his tail. I thought that was his tell.”

“I guess he was bluffing,” Wally replied. Smart dog.

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