RIP Rusty 2/6/2009 - 8/3/2022
25 August 2022
From January 2004 until September 2006 and again January-March 2009 we spent a great deal of time at the Seahorse Marine boatyard across the Pearl River from DouMen, China where MV DavidEllis was built. Many times we saw there, these interesting red dogs. They didn’t look like any breed I knew but were clearly DOGs, nothing pet-ish or toy about them; reminded me of Australian dingos. If you ever get the notion to watch “World of Susie Wong” you can see a couple of them on the back of a local fishing boat in the Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter as the two main characters go past in a sampan.
March 2009, having spent close to three years in SE Asia (China, Hong Kong, Philippines and Malaysia) aboard MV DavidEllis, we were moored in that same Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter trying to figure out what was next when I began to notice that the ever-lovely Ms Dorothy was frequently to be found on her laptop looking at pictures of puppies. When I would ask about it, she would say it didn’t mean anything, she was “just looking”. I may have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night. Long-story-short, with the help of our boat neighbor/veterinarian (Tony Matthews / Acorn Veterinary), we got connected with a Hong Kong dog rescue group “Kirsten’s Zoo” and after one thing and another, Rusty joined the permanent crew of DavidEllis.
Rusty’s first months with us are documented in the blog postings at 28 April 2009 & 02 May 2009
May 29, 2009, MV DavidEllis departed Hong Kong on a passage to North America via Japan and the Aleutian Islands. This is documented in the blog from 29 May through June and July 2009. The 10 July 2019 blog post has a summary of the voyage in which Rusty’s experience is prominently recorded.
This is from the “Underway to Ishigaki” blog early in the passage: “Rusty is acclimating very well to boat life. He puked a couple of times, a couple of days ago, but continues to eat his food, and drink his water, play, attack Craig when he's trying to sleep, get underfoot, chew things he isn't supposed to, chase his toys when tossed and get underfoot when things get scary, trying to stay close to someone who'll make it all stop.
Right now he's sleeping on the floor of the pilot house next to Kirk at the helm, sliding back and forth as his body slips inside his skin with the motion of the boat”.
Rusty did not like rough weather. More accurately, Rusty hated when we got underway and as motion increased, would look for somewhere to hide — a pile of foulies (foul-weather rain gear that often piled up at the back of the wheelhouse) to burrow into and/or someone’s lap, where he’d stay until motion subsided.
Underway, Rusty would alert me to dolphin riding our bow wave. Frequently, dolphin would be riding the pressure wave as the boat moved through the water. I’m convinced Rusty could hear the high-pitched sounds dolphin make as he would pop up from his “I’m so miserable” position on the wheelhouse floor and make his own high-pitched “yips”. Out on the deck, Rusty would run back and forth at the bow from port to starboard and back the entire time the dolphin stayed to play.
Rusty did not like water, rarely deigning to walk onto even wet ground — very cat-like in that regard. But he loved to run on beaches and when he ran it was flat out like a horse galloping, body airborne, legs stretched out fore and aft. Every couple of years, to everyone’s surprise, Rusty would wade into the water at a beach, hard to say why that beach or that day.
People liked Rusty. Lady Customs agents fawned over him and forgot their duties when we entered one country or another. In Kushiro, Japan people would come to the sea wall where DE was tied up to ask “Where Lusty?” so they could have their pictures taken with him. A newscrew from a TV station in Sapporo came to interview Rusty.
Rusty hated being left alone, howling piteously until we returned. Two years after Rusty had joined the crew, we flew Rascal over from Hong Kong (courtesy of Tony Matthews & Acorn). The two boys never bonded. Rascal tried, but for the next 11 years Rusty mostly ignored and sometimes growled at Rascal. Anytime we were underway, we would take the boys to whatever ‘beach’ (sometimes just a rock sticking up out of the water) was available for P&P Patrol (Pee & Poo). Coming back to DavidEllis, landing at the swimstep, Rusty would jump aboard, then up the ladder to the back deck from where he’d attempt to keep Rascal from getting back onto the boat… every time. For his part, after a while Rascal just ignored Rusty and his moods.
Rusty hated gunshots, thunder and fireworks and wasn’t too keen on airplane flights in his crate. Rusty loved his many friends, would clearly remember each of them after years of no contact. Frankly, I think he liked them better than me.
Snow would turn Rusty into a puppy. Even after he lost his undercoat due to a skin condition, he would play in the snow until he was shivering and had to be dragged inside to warmup before going back out to do it all over again.
With the exception of snow, Rusty never really figured out “play”. Given a toy, he would tear it to shreds in minutes, literally minutes. Chase a ball or a stick? not for money or love. He did enjoy games we’d set up to find things we’d hidden. He had a great nose.
The last couple years he was losing strength in his hips. Giving him meds was always a challenge. Through our many dogs over the years, Dorothy and I had little trouble getting them to take meds, whether hidden in a treat, powdered into their food or (literally) shoved down their throats. But Rusty, he was impervious to all our tactics. He never ate a meal that he didnt sniff over from all angles before taking a bite. If there was a med powdered into it, he’d walk away and wait for the next meal. If you tried to give him the previous meal again, he’d walk away again. We tried a vast array of foods to hide his meds in — peanut butter, cheese, cheeseballs, mini-sausages, hot dogs, liverwurst, meats, lunch meats — some worked for a week, a few (liverwurst) worked for months, some once was it. If he happened to bite down on a capsule while taking a hidden med, he’d spit it out and take nothing more for that mealtime or ever again the food that had contained the med.
The last six months or so, Rusty has been eating less and less, despite appetite enhancers and attempts to feed him anything we could think of. He reached the point where he had no fat on him — not skin and bones, but nothing extra. He went out on his own terms, took no food the last week and we gave him water by dropper the last couple days. In spite of not having eaten in 3 days at that point, he went to the beach and back under his own power 3 days before he passsed. And now he’s gone. And we are missing him.
Rascal seems to be doing okay with Rusty gone. If anything, he’s more relaxed. About food, about his contact with us, about everything really.
We used to shorthand our little family as “R2D2” — Rusty, Rascal, Dorothy, Dave. We are now R1D2.
Now and Then
27 May 2020 | Elfin Cove, SE Alaska
A little excitement in Elfin Cove last evening. Just after dinner, starting to prepare the dogs’ food, a shout on the VHF radio, on the channel used inside Elfin Cove, 72. That there was an over-turned skiff, “two in the water, in South Pass (right around the corner) too close to shore” for the caller to get to them with his boat, which it turns out was disabled as, in turning sharply to assist, he’d run over the rescue line he trails and fouled his prop. This was a local commercial fisherman, just arriving after the winter down south. How fortunate he was there.
I acknowledged the call from DavidEllis’s radio, then with Dorothy’s help land-lined two different fishing lodges in the cove who had fast boats. One answered and got underway immediately (we could see them, further up the cove from us, running to their boat). The other lodge didn’t answer; it turns out they were already underway to assist.
Coast Guard was then up on channel 16; more traffic from the boats on the scene indicated they’d gotten the victims out of the water and were enroute to the seaplane float on the state dock out front. The Elfin Cove local who is the only trained EMT, (in addition to Dorothy and me) was now on the air, headed for the dock, and we started that way also. While hustling that direction we learned the victims were breathing but hypothermic.
We arrived along with a dozen others to find that the patients were on the deck of a small landing craft / halibut boat that operates out of the lodge who I hadn’t been able to reach. Efforts were being made to warm the two men, who it turns out were known to many present. The two men were brothers, who’d grown up and lived here their whole lives. Old training kicked in and I did a quick assessment: both men were clearly hypothermic, with lowered LOC (level of consciousness), one clearly worse than the other, neither coherent.
I could tell at least one was hypoxic and Dorothy headed back to the community building where first aid supplies are kept, including several O2 kits. (Dorothy walked/ran several miles in the course of this operation). In the meantime, communication continued with Coast Guard as they launched a helo out of Sitka, I presume, and the original reporting party / fishing boat with the fouled prop was escorted to the dock. All this time many people attended, attempted to warm and encourage the patients.
It was high tide when the USCG helo arrived on scene, which means there simply was nowhere for the aircraft to land. They winched their rescue swimmer down to the top of the ramp and he hustled down to the float and patients loaded with multiple gear packs.
I was impressed with his scene management, directing and making good use of the local people already there helping. I was additionally impressed when, at his direction, a young boat operator from one of the lodges, stripped down without hesitation, to provide warming for the worst of the patients.
First one, then the other of the patients were hoisted from the seaplane float into the hovering helo. Working in the rotor wash and noise of the hovering helo was intense. Everyone present performed beautifully.
For me, the entire operation was punctuated with very tangible flashbacks. In 33 years with Sonoma County Sheriff, California, I did this hundreds of times. As as reserve deputy and scuba instructor, I was part of the original Angel One crew, flying in my wetsuit starting in 1973 (or maybe ‘72). I was a member of the underwater recovery team my entire career, recovering bodies, evidence, cars, airplanes from various waters in and surrounding Sonoma County. During the late 70s, I was the resident deputy for the Sonoma North Coast, the first “King One”. Initially, I was the only trained EMT on the coast, and regularly performed cliff and surf rescues. In the 80s, I was the sergeant-in-charge for the Sheriff’s Helo-SAR unit and developed and taught a Cliff/Surf/Swiftwater/Flood training program for department members and other local first responders. In the 90s, I was the River Substation sergeant, which had responsibility for the river and coast. And in my last assignment 2000-06, I led the Marine Unit.
The sounds, sights, smells, touches and even the taste in my mouth all kicked off tangible right here/right now memories of prior rescues, recoveries and resuscitations. And with these, my poor, hundred-year-old adrenal glands just kept pouring it to me. I’m surprised I was able to function at all.
Tom McConnel, our chief pilot during much of the 80s and 90s used to refer to the “terrible beauty” of these events. They were terrible, of course, due to the injuries and frequent deaths involved, but beautiful in the cooperative efforts of disparate individuals and groups, to help, to somehow make it better.
The dogs did get fed, eventually.
PS: I did see one person with her phone/camera out, but did not have access to any photos when I wrote this (at 0300). So in the theme of this post, I threw in an old favorite from 1979 — Angel II, Black Point / Sea Ranch, pilot Sgt Keith Gunderson (RIP), left skid Deputy Dennis Duckett / “King 2“, right skid Deputy Dave Nagle / ”King 1”
16 April 2020 | Elfin Cove, Cross Sound, Chichagof Island, SE Alaska
david nagle | Spring, finally!
It is long past time for an update from the good ship MV DavidEllis and its crew. Here in Elfin Cove, south side of Cross Sound, SE Alaska, winter has finally let go. There are still some three foot piles of snow here and there, but the temperatures are in the 40s, we’re down to three layers of clothing rather than five, no longer needing chains or spikes on our shoes to keep from falling.
Memorable moments during the winter include:
- 100 mile per hour winds which knocked down trees onto the tank farm; the tree roots lifting several pipe runs 18 feet into the air. These were the feeds for the home heating fuel distribution system and the automatic diesel feed to the community generator day tank. A testament to the quality of their welds is that they’ve been hanging unsupported in the air since December, through wind and snow load, without springing a leak.
- Dock pilings breaking, resulting in dock floats drifting away, needed to be rounded up and secured til they can be repaired
- Whole trees drifting in the inner bay, jamming up floats, needing to be towed out and tied off
- A month or so with the community water system frozen; fortunately we anticipated it and had almost full water tanks on DE. We washed our dishes and flushed toilets with melted snow-water, a giant pain in the butt to melt, by the way.
- Overlapping that frozen month, about the same time, Rusty & Rascal, Dorothy and I shared Elfin Cove only with the resident population of critters, no other humans.
- Lots of snow. The dogs, both getting on in years, turned into pups when there was new snow. Even now they seek out the remaining snow piles as the favored place to do their business. Snow shovels, snow sleds, snow shoes, snow blowers. I love the clean brilliance of snow, the soft, muted falling of snow, but as for living with it for months...a guy can only have so much fun; I’m over it.
During the past winter, between us, Dorothy and I have 5, no 6, actually 7, no 8, no 9! paying jobs:
1) fuel dock manager: there are only a couple customers a week,from transient fishboats and people from area islands coming in for fuel, heating oil and propane, but lots of maintenance tasks and catch up paperwork left over from a very busy 7 day per week summer schedule.
2) the community has a generator building providing electricity which has its own manager during spring/summer, but during winter is my responsibility. There are actually 3 generators all linked together by an automated system which is actually pretty cool. The smallest is run off a John Deere 4045, and the larger ones are a 6068 and another, even bigger JD for the third. The 4045 is the winter gen. I make two inspections a day and fill out a log, do oil & filters changes. Pretty easy but, there's also monthly electrical meter-reading which involves boating-to hiking-around-in, some very slippery/nasty places in winter, for 100 e-meters. And then, of course, the 4045 shut down one day due to a high coolant temp. Sensor? Thermostat? Pump? Who knows. The automatic system kicked in so there was power. Eventually, Wayne came out and we identified and solved the problem via “calculatus eliminatus” replacing pump and thermostats.
3) Dorothy is the actual United States Postal Service Postmaster for Elfin Cove, Alaska 99825. She started as a relief for a non-existent postmaster, but for unknown reasons, USPS posted the postmaster job, she applied and Shazamm! she are one. Good news, she's making a much better wage than I am. Did you know that in Alaska, postmasters are also notary publics? This past summer, Dorothy notarized multiple property transactions, refinances, various commercial fishery permits, a will, a name change and a marriage dissolution.
4) Dorothy is the Elfin Cove agent for Alaska Seaplanes. During the winter there are 2 planes scheduled per week (mail, groceries, some passengers) but in reality it may be 2, 3 or more weeks between flights due to weather. Despite that, almost every day involves calls, texts and weather checks with the Seaplanes dispatch to see if maybe, just maybe, a plane could get out here today. During summer there may be 4-7 planes per day, but some are charters which Dorothy doesn't need to deal with, about half are another company which is not her gig and there was also another person taking some of the planes this past summer.
5) Snow removal. There are no streets here, just boardwalks and the dock floats. Just before departing last fall, it was mentioned, I was expected to run snow-blower machines to keep these clear (the docks, at least will sink from snow weight, along with the electrical pedestals, bringing down the electrical system, if not kept clear).
6) There is a grocery store which is open pretty much the same hours as the fuel dock during summer. Dorothy opens this a couple hours, on a couple days each week. There's no new stock, but she has customers each time.
7) One of the summer fishing lodges is paying Dorothy to take and send photos through the winter which they post on their website to keep people's interest
8) I have several fishboats and a couple float houses I'm watching out for. And
9) Dorothy waters a bunch of plants which live indoors during the winter, but are quite a colorful display at the back porch of the community building during summer.
Dorothy actually has one more job. She continues to knit up a storm. I would bet half her waking hours she is knitting. She actually sold a number of pieces, while there were still people here and gave away quite a few as well.
We did get away for a month. Many thanks to Wayne and MaryJo for stepping up to give Dorothy and me a break. It was a whirlwind. We took DE back to Juneau (had an un-fun passage of Lynn Canal). Flew to Seattle, drove to Sonoma County, CA, visited with kids, grandkids and friends, doctors, veterinarians and dentists. And then we reversed the whole process just as the Covid19 virus was becoming a thing in the USA. We were lucky to get the supplies we did from the Costco in Juneau, before running back out to Elfin Cove.
And so, here we are, in limbo with everyone else in the country/world due to the CV19 shutdown. The regular community generator manager has arrived, so that’s off my list. As is snow removal and Dorothy has been relieved of caring for the plants. I think we’re eleven in the village right now. Folks here seem to be taking the quarantine and distancing seriously. Our dogs don’t understand why they can’t get pets from everyone they meet. I installed a piece plexiglass at Dorothy’s customer service window in the post office and Dorothy has shifted her constant knitting to mask-making. There are more questions than answers as to the operation of the fishing lodges and the trolling fleet this summer. Dorothy and I still plan to stay at these jobs until end of September.
When it’s time to head south, it’s not clear if we will be allowed to transit the Inside Passage through British Columbia, Canada as that involves entering another country then coming back into the US from that other country. Too soon to tell how that will go.