From: (Bryant Vann)
Subject: New use for the Wasington Post
Date: March 21, 1999

Seems back awhile folks hereabouts were discussing various schemes for cruising with 
canine-type pets -- especially dealing with their basic needs to go potty.  My FM has been 
trying to decide on adding a boat dog to our cruising family for a number of months and has 
finally selected what she deemed to be the perfect beast.  Although we haven't passed every 
hurdle, I thought I would at least report on our progress to date -- in case others might find 
the info useful -- hopefully profitting from both our achievements and our failures so far.

The number one criterion for selection of the animal was that it's poops be small.  (like the 
pot-bellied pig on Southpark...)  The idea behind this was, of course, to minimize the waste 
volume that had to be stored prior to making landfall and to minimize the mess in case of 
"accidents."  Not surprisingly this ALSO meant the creature him or herself be small.  I won't 
drag you through all the breeds considered in the search -- some were truly strange (and 
VERY tiny) -- but suffice it to say, the final choice was a smooth-coat chihuahua.

Now, the PLAN was to acquire this ferocious critter as a puppy and then train it to  use a 
litter box -- something that I have seen suggested from time to time -- perhaps even here -- I 
forget so quickly.  Having never bought a dog from a breeder before, we were stunned to find 
that we had to be interviewed as a family to be judged adequate mentally, physically, and 
most especially emotionally to be acceptable adoptive parents.  (Of course, the prospective 
adoptee had to like US too!  We were sweating bullets!)  Needless to say, letting it be known 
what we intended to do was not universally accepted as reflecting sound judgement (putting 
it as mildly as possible...).  Nonetheless, my FM persisted, determined to succeed.  Finally we 
found a breeder who not only was willing to let us adopt one of his precious "children," but 
was, in fact, rather supportive of the boat/litter-box project.  His suggestion was to get as 
large a litter box as we could handle, put it in the middle of the papers, and each time the 
papers were used, put the used ones IN the litter box.  After a couple of days, he felt, the dog 
would prefer to "go" in or about the box and then we should start reducing the area of the 
surrounding papers until the only papers left were the ones INSIDE the box.  (At this point I 
should say that we were STERNLY warned NOT to try this with kitty litter -- as pups will 
EAT it and, if it clumps inside them, they will expire prematurely.)

In the end we adopted a 6-month-old, sweet, bouncing 5-lb, 6-oz. baby boy and named him 
Rio.  Thankfully, Rio was already paper trained.  In fact he had never used anything BUT 
papers (the dog, not the breeder).  This may be very important...

At first, all went as planned.  He used the papers, then he started using the box (no, not IN 
the box...  just the box -- all sides -- all OUTsides...)  In a few days he started getting more 
interested in the INSIDE of the box.  The poops were "our" first success -- almost every 
time he started out IN the box, although if he got impatient, he occasionally wandered off 
before ALL the items found the desired target.  Then he started getting more accurate with 
the liquid delivery.  It was at THIS point that we realized just how BIG a box it took -- even 
with a microdog -- for everything to actually go INSIDE the box.  He perservered though -- 
pretty much on his own -- I NEVER had to "show" him what we expected (THANK 
GOODNESS!).  Finally he was getting enough inside to move to the final stage -- removing 
the last of the papers on the outside.

Now, after about three weeks, I think we can "declare victory" on this part of the project.  
He never misses -- even though some of his techniques seem a bit daring at times.  There's 
the "all-four-feet-in-the-box" technique (which seems the safest to his "humans") and then 
there's the "three-feet-in-the-box, starboard-quarter-leg-raised" technique (which also works 
surprisingly well).  Next is the "forward-feet-in, after-feet-out, starboard-quarter-leg-raised" 
technique (scary, but he seems to have perfected it well enough to receive all 8s and 9s, with 
an occasional 10, from the "judges").  Finally, we have the "two port-legs-outside-the-box, 
starboard-bow-leg-in-the-box, starboard-quarter-leg-raised" technique.  It makes his 
humans panic, but he seems non-plussed -- usually wondering what all the fuss is about 
when every bit goes on the papers in the box.

A few observations...  Rio prefers the Washington Post to all others -- a good deal for us, 
since the number of sheets for the money is very high, and we have never read it anyway.  
He would LIKE to have a clean sheet for each "duty," and this seems a small price to pay.  
He seems to revel in watching us panic as he tries his best to get "it" as CLOSE to the edge 
as possible, while still achieving success -- it's like it's a game.

There is ONE small problem, however.  We have discovered THE reason why male dogs 
"use" a post, tree, fireplug, or other vertical, medium-diameter object as a target.  If you 
DON'T use the post to break the stream, you risk peeing on your starboard bow foot.  
[tongue placed in cheek] We are currently trying to figure out how to add a PVC post to the 
litter box arrangement to help him with this problem.  I have been trying to teach him to 
arch his back a bit more, but so far "we've" met with little success. [tongue removed from 
cheek]  This all might have worked a little better with a female -- or with a male who hadn't 
already learned from his litter mates how to "lift his leg" -- seems like either choice would 
have less difficulty "hitting the target" and wouldn't end up with wet front feet either...

Now it's on to the boat -- hopefully he won't get mal-de-mer and won't forget his litter box 
techniques when he gets on board.  We DID try a test run, and he seems to take to the 
moored boat just fine.  We ALSO introduced him to one of the "dock dogs."  It was 
embarrassing...  Rio barked so ferociously at this poor thing -- a sweet, Benji-look-alike that 
outweighed Rio by 50 pounds, if one, that he drooped his ears, snuuggled up to his "mom," hid 
behind her knees, and eventually slinked off to "hide" on "his" bowsprit.  We clearly have 
some work to do on our "social interactions."

- Bryant