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Saturday, August 24, 2019

I read with interest part one of Frank Pickering’s article about dogs at sea in the January 2016 issue of Sea Breezes.

His description of life on the Doric with our canine friends brought back great memories of one voyage I did with Port Line when we carried over 50 dogs, several cats and four or five racehorses (too long ago to be accurate). Due to the large number of dogs, number six upper tween deck was deemed to be a very suitable area to house the kennels and cages, as the ship had a raised poop deck (no pun intended) which meant this space could be accessed from the main deck level thus avoiding the necessity to use ladders or stairways.

The horse boxes were situated either side of number five hatch which was not popular with crew members who enjoyed their deck golf. It was normal practice for apprentices to be appointed guardians of livestock, but on this trip we had no apprentices for some reason, so two young lads had been signed on for a one way trip to New Zealand to look after the animals (cleaning up after them and exercising them).

As far as I can remember, the horses just stood all the way and only needed hay at one end and a shovel at the other. Most of the ships complement, and passengers would assist with the exercise duties as most people like dogs and this was certainly a bit of a novelty to have so many on board. As the four weeks passage from the UK to New Zealand was treated as quarantine, the grateful owners were able to be reunited with their pets on our arrival at Auckland.

My second experience of dogs on board ships was only a few years ago on a cruise ship berthed at the Ocean Terminal Greenock on the river Clyde. I was advised on boarding the ship that they had two undeclared dogs on board belonging to passengers, one being a Golden Labrador which was a guide dog and the other a Jack Russell which was described as a “therapy dog”?

I had no experience of dogs arriving by ship and requested the Port Health to attend, she duly arrived to check out their paperwork only to be bitten by the Jack Russell - not a great start - this was followed by a visit from a vet who advised the passengers that, although the dogs had sufficient certification for most of Europe, they could not go ashore in the UK (one of the toughest regimes in the world) until further vaccinations had been given and after which a further period of 24 hours had to elapse to ensure the vaccinations had taken effect.

Needless to say two very disgruntled passengers did not get ashore at Greenock that day. Of my two experiences of sea dogs the first one was by far the more enjoyable.

PETER SOMMERVILLE
13 Caddlehill St
Greenock, PA16 8TU
E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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