What a rollicking read for adventurous dog lovers – a ship and shore log of the irrepressible terrier with the crooked grin. Wife and husband merge into a wonderfully crafted triangle with Tara, The terrier who sailed around the world. The tales of adventures onboard the ketch Deusa are superbly organised into legs of the journey that crossed the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The armchair traveller can browse the map that introduces each phase of Tara’s travels before plunging into the evocatively crafted prose. The social customs, the attitudes to dogs of the many communities and, of course, the officious bureaucrats that guard each port are a source of surprise, bewilderment and delight. Tara’s photo journal encapsulates her brief moods of pensive contemplation.
It is also a chance to pore over her magnificent home, mirrored in the still waters of The Whole in Wall and under sail in Langkawi. How tiny, how fragile Deusa appears in the Madagascan Ocean. This photo really stresses the enormity of the crises of Tara overboard.
The Jack Russell Terrier seafaring saga began when Robert flew from Columbia to Florida to buy essential boat parts for Deusa. He returned to his wife with the most vital component of all – a scrap of a sea dog to add that extra spark of life to the deck. The feisty Tara was no aristocrat – just a very ordinary, oversize Jack Russell Terrier. For 14 years she experienced the ultimate fulfilment of a life inextricably interwoven with the travelling urges of her beloved humans. What an unlikely choice as a seafaring companion for Rosemary and Robert!
Jack Russell Terriers are renowned for boundless energy, stamina and high prey drive. How would this bundle of enthusiasm cope with the confines of a yacht on the long sea voyage from Cartagena in South America to Mozambique in South Africa? Land locked Terrier enthusiasts will be shaking their heads in disbelief at such a choice. They will feel vindicated when Tara breaks her leg before Deusa even leaves dry dock in Cartagena. Without appropriate stimulation and adequate exercise this highly intelligent breed is prone to destruction of its owner’s property. Readers will be speculating how long it will take Tara to internally wreck the good ship Deusa before she even reaches the Panama Canal – the first leg of the long journey.
Tara fulfilled her destiny as a sea dog in the proud tradition of those terriers who accompanied the First Fleet to Australia in 1788. If it had not been for Robert’s superb skills as a sailor she may have gone down with Deusa off the coast of Australia. She could have shared the fate of Hatch, the terrier who perished with Henry VIII’s ill-fated war ship The Mary Rose in 1545.
Some superstitious sailors on the old sailing ships used terriers instead of cats for vermin control. Tara did not have any rats to hunt aboard the Deusa until the one that ventured aboard in Phuket. She demolished that with the supreme efficiency of her breed. She discovered on land, that monkeys and scorpions inflict nasty bites if you catch them. On board, she had tennis balls to chase and kill below deck. When her humans played with her from Deusa’s dinghy there were sticks to fetch from the sea and snorkellers’ flippers to attack.
She fiercely protected HER yacht from locals trying to clamber aboard as they sailed into harbour. She warned passing sailors, marauding gulls and aquatic creatures, especially dolphins, that dared to venture too close. Jack Russell Terriers are bred to pursue foxes and badgers into their burrows. The only way to inform the human above ground what you are up to is to bark – loud and long! This was a characteristic that Tara inherited in full measure. But, as Robert and Rosemary were to discover – being recognised as the blue-hulled ketch with the noisy dog had its advantages. They enjoyed space at each mooring because yachts didn’t anchor too close by.
Tara, The terrier who sailed around the world is tribute to the adaptability of dogs – whether on land or at sea. Canine sailors aren’t fussed with the skills landlubbers seem to expect from their dogs. Tara’s skills included balancing on the rolling deck of Deusa, clambering up and down ladders, hoisting herself aboard a dinghy bobbing in the ocean, relieving herself only on her allocated spot on deck no matter what the weather was. Her extraordinary stamina and courage coupled with the 9 lives Jack Russell Terriers seem to possess came to the fore when she plunged overboard. Until Tara, there has not been such a definitive and highly readable exposition of how a dog learns the skills appropriate for a life at sea. It is essential reading for all canine behaviourists and trainers.
By Madagascar – the journey’s end for Deusa and her crew, Tara is 14 year’s old. She fulfils her last wish. She chases Tom Cat. What a fitting end for a wonderful dog!
Tara, the terrier who sailed around the world as it follows Tara’s learning curve on Deusa is an amazing insight into the cognitive skills of dogs. Rosemary and Robert are both experienced seafarers and Professional Association of Diver Instructors so this lively read also offers a wealth of information to those who love nautical activities – yachting, fishing and scuba diving. You can even catch up with the authors as a tourist by visiting Dive Bazaruto in Mozambique. The book’s highly visual and imaginative impact on the reader certainly lends itself to a film adaptation.
Tara, The terrier who sailed around the world is a treasure trove for Book Club fans to plunder. Hopefully, the next edition will feature a Book Club Readers’ Guide.
• Book Clubs
• Upper Primary and Secondary School Libraries
• Public Libraries
• Jack Russell Terrier Clubs
• What a gift or token of appreciation for an enthusiast!
• Canine Obedience and Activities Clubs
Robin Youl – Librarian at Geelong Obedience Dog Club