“The Admiral” has been aboard about a year now. Overall, he’s done well adapting to living on a boat. It’s kind of old hat for him. He still gets excited when I pull out his PFD because he realizes he’s “going with” even though that just means staying on the boat. However, once we get moving, he nibbles on his chew stick for awhile, then takes a snooze. I call our tiny Yorkie mix “The Admiral” because he runs the place. We’ve adapted to him more than he’s adapted to us. He has the plot of grass for his duties, but we take him ashore in the dingy. He doesn’t like breakfast too early, so I bring it to him while underway. And so on.
The Admiral has a ruff life. This has never been so obvious as right now traveling the Trent-Severn Waterway in Ontario, Canada. Each day, we’re meandering down about 22 miles of the waterway with six locks as a rule. At each lock, we all have to don our PFDs. Even though Banjo loves getting into it first thing in the morning, by the second or third lock I get this “Again? Are you shittin’ me?” look. Now, I want to point out that he could stay inside and would not need the PFD. But he goes where I go. Which is generally sweet until you have performance anxiety in the bathroom because someone is intently staring at you, willing you to pet him. Then it’s kinda annoying and stalker-ish.
So far, the Canadian locks are a breeze compared to the US locks we traveled. They use a cable system. There are cables secured at top and bottom spaced about 10-12 feet apart. For a boat our size, spacing makes all the difference. We can easily secure at the front and back. As we enter the lock, Rick shimmies the boat closer and closer to the wall. I just have to grab a cable and loop my line through. Then Rick throws the boat in neutral, jumps out to snag a cable aft, then jumps back in to shut off the engine and tend to his line. The Admiral “supervises”. This could mean sunning himself on the bow or napping in between us, pacing back and forth occasionally.
We’re going up in each of these locks. When we enter we are surrounded by concrete walls. As the water flows in, we start to rise. Eventually, we crest over the top of the wall and we can see our surroundings. That’s when Banjo hits his stride. He used to stay where he was unless a lock worker came over to chat with us and coo at him. Then he’d race over to get petted and return the favor with a lick.
Something happened, though, around lock 7. A lot of the dock workers are college kids. At lock 7, one of them asked if Banjo could have a “cookie” (their term for treat). Generally, he doesn’t get many and when he does he’s particular about them. He likes soft treats. Treats from banks and such are generally too crunchy and way too big. So, we take them home for later where I break them up. More often than not, he turns his nose up at them and I end up throwing them away. So, it didn’t surprise me when he took the treat, walked it to the bow, and left it on his grass plot where he’s supposed to pee but refuses.
Here’s the thing, though. Later that day, I brought it in and broke off a piece. He tried it. So I broke the rest into pieces. He ate it all. Apparently, Canadian Milk Bones just taste better. Maybe it’s the niceness factor.
He started getting them regularly at the locks. When he didn’t, he’d look at me incredulously, like I had any control over it. I told him he must not have looked cute enough. So he started working it. All of a sudden, he’s on his feet looking for the workers. His tail wagging. Big smile on his face. Licking their hands when they pet him. He’s getting cookies left and right! He started getting really brazen. As we head into a lock, I always look up, wave, and yell “hello” to the workers looking down to us. Banjo started barking at them as if to say, “hey, we both know I’m adorable. Meet me at the top with a cookie in hand.”
A couple days ago we came into lock 18. I haven’t mentioned before, but the locks are located in small towns. As boaters, we are allowed to dock on the wall before or after a lock overnight. There is usually a nice park with the lock and docking, so it’s very pleasant. Townspeople visit, picnic, walk their dogs and children, etc., and visit with each other. Sometimes people will ask about the boat or our journey. At lock 18, as we rose above the wall, there was a CROWD to greet us. They all stood up and came toward us, en mass to get a closer look at the DOG. It was almost like Banjo had a bizarre group of paparazzi waiting for him. People pointing at him and talking amongst themselves about how adorable he was. Others throwing question after question at Rick and me. We couldn’t keep up. It was INSANE. One lady begged me to bring him back once we tied up for the night.
Of course, I was asked if he could have a cookie. Banjo started furiously licking the gentleman’s hand when the “c” word was tossed out. “Oh, sure, I don’t know if he’ll eat it right away, but we can save it for later,” I suggested. I got pulled away from watching several times while I managed questions from our audience, but I did see the guy hand a cookie over, not once or twice, but three times. With each one Banjo gobbled it up. Rick estimated FIVE. A-Listers DO live better.
Alas, at our first lock the next morning, he was admired as being “cute”, but was NOT offered a cookie. Now all we have is a sad little fatty dog. Sigh. Celebrity can be a cruel mistress. Don’t he know it.