Our only pet—a three-year-old "mostly Jack Russell terrier"—escaped death row when food and keep were offered at our home back in ’09. She takes me on walks.
Sadie is 70 years my junior—10 in dog years—so maybe we can grow old(er) together. I’ll try to do my part. During a recent "Komen on Deck for the Cure" cruise event, our pet remained at home, some 2,000 miles away.
Another canine played a major role, however, albeit on another person’s leash. Still, we walked together—some 75 of us—as we sailed on the beautiful Caribbean, en route back to Fort Lauderdale from the Panama Canal on Holland America’s Zuiderdam. I hope word doesn’t get back to Sadie that this bunch settled for a surrogate pet. I’m pretty sure she’d understand, though, given that this was a one-time thing, and for a wonderful cause….
By way of explanation, it actually is an initiative to support breast cancer research through Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Holland America Lines introduced the deck walks five years ago, and soon, four other cruise lines came on board. Guests on HAL vessels have contributed some $2.5 million to the foundation, or about half the total amassed by all cruise lines.
It’s always a "gung-ho" group, proudly wearing pink t-shirts and sipping pink lemonade on the 5-kilometer walks. My wife Brenda is a breast cancer survivor, and we always participate.
Our most recent walk was unique, though, in that one of the participants was a 4.5- pound Chihuahua that was leading her master on a leash….
It is uncommon to see a dog on a cruise. This one—I apologize that I didn’t get her name—is no ordinary canine. Having successfully completed medical training, she goes where her master goes, as a bona fide "medic alert" doggie.
She’s always within leash-length of her master, who counts on the prissy little partner to bark big-time in advance of diabetic reactions or heart arrhythmia. The owner, nearly as petite as the Chihuahua, is a heart patient, diabetic and breast cancer survivor. From her we learned that such animals are allowed on board for certified medical reasons.
I know this: The quick-stepping dog set a rapid pace we found hard to match. Only because she made a brief "stop" did my wife and I get a few paces in front, albeit temporarily….
Long since believers that cruise lines think of everything, we found yet another reason when the canine made a "stop" at what looked like a miniature sandbox a few feet from the walking track.
Instead of sand, a square of sod, topped by lush, green grass, provided something of a "necessary room" for the canine medical specialist.
(This brings to mind the old story of a woman who was aghast upon finding a rabbit inside her refrigerator. "What are you doing in here?" she demanded. "This is a Westinghouse, and I’m ‘westing’," the bunny answered.)…
Throughout the cruise, vacationers "buzzed" about the specially-trained doggie, and the owner was happy to explain that the animal is part of her life, 24-7.
The service animal reminded many folks of pets back home. None of them, however, wear colorful vests inscribed "Medic Alert Dog."
The affable owner refers to the canine as her "life saver."…
We never spotted the popular Arizona "couple" on formal nights, despite trying to do so. We wondered if the Chihuahua wore a frilly formal, or maybe a slinky shawl.
During sunset walks around the deck, we checked the doggie rest stop. Sure enough, cabin attendants were pampering her, too. One night, they left a tiny towel, fashioned in the shape of a fire plug. On two other nights, we spotted a doggie bone and a kitty.
Back home, Sadie and I strike out to walk a couple of miles on pretty days. If we encounter a "medic alert" animal, I’ll diplomatically assure her that she is loved, despite her lack of formal training. I know she’s a probable former junk yard dog, but I’ll tell her that experiences in the "school—or perhaps pound—of hard knocks" can trump advanced academic degrees. Should she desire such, we’ll "pony up" for a mail-order "DOGtorate," and we’ll call her "DOGtor Sadie"….
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