My Best Friend

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There are a lot of things to discover on the North Coast but your best discovery might just be a new bff. I know mine was. I scooped up a little German Shepard pup a few years ago. He was malnourished, filled with worms and starving for some love. It took several trips over to Dr. Bobs office, a very intense flea bath and LOTs of food to get my new found friend into puppy shape.

Day one. My life is very busy, I travel over 50k flight miles per year and log over 150 days on the water. “It’s a pirates life for me”… Having a full sized German Shepard isn’t going to work with my lifestyle. Who will watch him while I am gone? How will the house keeper, gardner and land lord react? What about my neighbor? All of these questions went racing through my mind. At this point I’m not sure keeping him is a good idea.

Day two. Dr. Bob says getting this pup healthy is going to take some work. Dewormer, some meds, full check up, whats the damage? The vet bill was startling low compared to previous experiences in the states. I borrowed a kennel from Judy and ordered the largest crate I could find on Amazon. I’ve had puppies before and they can be terrorists if allowed to roam the house unattended. Crate training starts today. I’ve never had an “outside” dog. That doesn’t work me. the Dominican girlfriend (at the time) showed up at the house in the middle of the night. She quietly slipped into the bedroom, sat her suitcase in the corner, and then immediately screamed as the puppy growled at her in the darkness. Where did this thing come from and why is it on the bed?

Day three. Text a picture to the boss. She immediately calls, where did you find him? I tell her the story and then confide that I’m sure what I am going to do with him. “Are you crazy, your F’ing keeping him” was her exact response. “These animals find us, we don’t find them.” Conversation over.

Day four. Girlfriend has left, she’s not staying here with an animal living in the house. Neighbor is in love with the puppy and so is our house keeper. The name Ocean has stuck like glue. He’s smart, really smart. Sit, stay, come… all in one day. He’s not going anywhere. We’re going to have to figure this out.

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Fast forward two years.

Ocean is just south of 80lbs and he sleeps next to me on the bed every night. We are absolutely inseparable and I couldn’t imagine a day without him in my life. I made him a service dog when he was four months old and he’s been flying with me ever since. He fly’s on airplanes, works with me on yachts and has visited four different countries so far. Together, we overcame all of those challenges that I worried about during those first few days. I know that may sound crazy to some people but our close relationship is the only way this works. He trusts me enough to go up scary escalators, ride on fast boats, and sit quietly on airplanes- even when his ears hurt due to the air pressure changes and noise.

We were flying in last week and the gentleman sitting next to us in First Class quietly objected to sitting next to a dog. The flight attendant looked at him and said, “that’s not a dog, that’s Ocean”. I leaned in and offered to move but she shook her head. She later told me that he was traveling on an upgrade, “you paid for a first class ticket”. By the end of the flight we had a new friend and everything worked out. Most of the flight crews on American Airlines know Ocean by name.

Our home here in the Dominican Republic is walled in and gated but the house is usually wide open. He lives like a king but he also protects the castle like a warrior. I have a sign on my gate “He can make it to the gate in 2.7 seconds, can you?” That’s a pretty accurate statement. No matter how much training and socialization we do, getting those 2000 years of breeding out of him is impossible. He knows what his job is and he does it well. NO ONE is coming through that gate or over my wall without being greeted German Shepard style. The exception to that rule is friends and family. He can hear Jimmy’s car from about four blocks away and is waiting by the pool with tennis ball in mouth before Jimmy can even get out of the car. Ocean has more friends than I do and he definitely gets more visitors.

A few things that work for us.

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1) I don’t feed him dog food. We travel too much and finding a consistent high quality food is a pain in the you know what. Our food here in the Dominican Republic is very inexpensive, so I cook him a mixture of ground beef or chicken, pasta or rice, fresh spinach or green beans. I vary the meat, carb and veggies every time I make a batch of food. It costs me around $15 per week to feed him on the fresh food diet. That’s less than I would pay for premium bagged dog food in the states.

2) Service vest and leash training. Once that vest goes on he knows he is working. The playfulness disappears and he goes into well trained dog mode. We can walk through airports, down busy streets and even past other dogs without a single bark. I am adamant that people don’t pet or try to play with him when the vest is on. The leash by itself means you can have fun but don’t act like a fool. I keep him on his leash whenever we go down to Playa Sosua. The beach dogs are not always nice and I’m constantly concerned about bites from non-vaccinated animals. Incredibly most places are very dog friendly here. We have no problem sitting at the beach bars and restaurants in Cabarete and Sosua. The various staff always bring water and want to pet him.

3) Crate training for the first three months worked like magic. Every time I left the house he would go into the crate. We did this for the first few months just to get through the puppy teething period. He hasn’t been in it for well over 18 months and hasn’t damaged a single thing in the house.

4) My Dominican friends had zero exposure to “house” dogs. To them a dog was an animal that lived outside and came around every now and then. Our house keeper was the first to note the difference. “he doesn’t act like a dog, he is a person”. All of my friends are now acclimated to him including the ex-girlfriend, the one who was horrified by having a dog in the bed…. She is still a very good friend and she shows up periodically. She comes in the house, throws her things in one of the guest rooms, climbs into bed and slumbers the night away - spooning with an 80lb German Shepard under her arm!

Dogs and Cats of the Dominican Republic probably has your next best friend. Not only will you have someone to share your life with, you’ll have the best security system ever invented. Shoot them a message, give them a phone call or drop by and volunteer. Help your next best friend find you by contacting DCDR.

If you have an animal up for adoption please drop us a note. We’ll be happy to help.