We lost a crewmember last month. Our friendly chocolate Labrador retriever, Satchel, suddenly had his heath deteriorate to the point of no return. Twelve years old when we started this trip, we knew at some point we would have to continue on without him. Both his Addison’s disease and a thyroid condition never got in the way or slowed him down. He celebrated his thirteenth birthday in November on board, complete with a cake and treats for all us. Being a lab, he loved the water and enjoyed spending time on the Beach Flea. Even underway, he enjoyed going forward near the bow to hang out, but spent many nights curled up in the cockpit at the feet of the night watchman. Many fellow cruisers and marina personnel would stop at our boat, ask if they could reach out to pet him, and were joyfully greeted with Satchel’s licks and kisses. He could make everyone smile, except for one very unhappy, malcontent cruiser whose grumpiness rivaled the Grinch. A simple returned growl was all I needed to know not to interact with the guy. Almost all the workers on the dock would start their days by stopping off to say hi to the “Gigante Oso”, or the big bear as they called him. His presence on our boat was intimidating at first, but soon he was spreading his love around to anyone willing to say hi. He could kiss you to death. He enjoyed getting off the boat and wandering aimlessly with us as we strolled down a deserted beach. He’d fetch his bird as many times as you could throw it into the surf and then carry it in his mouth when you tired out. Satchel was the king of “brown trouting” in the surf, making being a responsible pet owner hard by leaving no evidence of his poops. Our boy only got sick once during rough seas. We’re not sure if it was true sea-sickness or an apricot pit he dug and ate out of the recycle bin that did him in. Speaking of digging through the garbage, he always knew when our backs were turned, even for a second, to get the goodies he wanted. Both Abby and Luke had snacks snatched from their hands when they held them too low, but at perfect Satch level.
Once I realized that he wasn’t doing so well and his days were numbered, I contacted a local vet in La Cruz for advice. I went to his office and explained what I knew and how I felt. He immediately said he would stop by after closing his shop for the day and visit Satchel on our boat. Unfortunently the prognosis of a complete recovery wasn’t good and I made the hardest decision a man must make. We spent many hours with our furry boy and then it was time to let him go. The vet administered the necessary drugs to quickly end his suffering and let him join his friends from his past life. His spirit lives on the Beach Flea and knowing he peacefully passed away in our cockpit, surrounded by his adopted family brings me warmth that words cannot describe. I often think of him when on a watch and miss his big flop downs and cold nose rubs. He will be missed by not just our family, but by his first family, the Burdens. He lived the first eight years of his life with them in Bend and the last five with us when they moved to Australia. Our shared boy is truly a world-travelling dog. His cremains will be split between Oregon whenever we return, at the equator as we scattered some when we crossed it, and down in Australia when we deliver him to the Burdens. The joy he shared between our two families is immeasurable. I wish every dog could be so lucky to have so many people care about them as Satchel had. He will be missed by all that knew him.
RIP Satchel Burden Bridges.