Name: Polar Bear
April 2, 2006 – January 13, 2022
Nicknames: Back Up Bouncer, Damage Control, Papa Ganoush, Yakimondoo, Baby Boy, Old Man, Bear Bear, Care Bear, Stare Bear, Don’t You Dare Bear
Bear’s Ballad I’ve heard this song so many times since he’s passed, he was always a very sensitive and sentimental boy and usually would sing / howl whenever I left for work and it seemed fitting for his personality.
The backstory: When I was a teenager, I met my first American Eskimo puppy through two girls I used to babysit. He was the sweetest boy, a one year old named Nick. I told myself “when I grow up I’m going to get one of those dogs!”
When I was stationed in Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, I’d just moved out of the dorms finally and was aimlessly browsing the base paper. There was a 4 month old American Eskimo boy needing a home! A 3 year old boy picked him out at the pet store and thought he looked like a Polar Bear. Unfortunately, it turned out the son was really allergic to him and they couldn’t keep him.
Luckily, Bear was indeed such a good boy! Very polite, sweet, and happy go lucky. He got along well with my ex’s puppy, a black lab, and was house trained and a perfect happy playful little boy. My ex-boyfriends’ dog had severe hip dysplasia and in an effort to keep the dog alive, I offered to pay for half of his surgeries. I just didn’t have $2,500. (My ex was from a small town where if an animal needs medical care, you take them in the back and shoot it. The idea of this was horrifying to me, especially for a 6 month old puppy who hadn’t even had a chance.)
I was browsing the base paper again when I saw a 6 month old female American Eskimo available. Bear was 6 months old! I thought maybe I could breed them once to make some money. I’ll write more about that on Zita’s page, but Bear was a wonderful papa to his three babies. They climbed all over him and he had the best time taking turns playing with them.
For the first 6 years of their lives, Bear and Zita lived in apartments or homes. I was very worried about moving the dogs onto a sailboat I knew nothing about, but dogs are pretty adaptable! The housing in San Francisco was so ridiculous, and it broke my heart to hear everyone kept telling me to “just get rid of the dogs.” I can always get another sofa, flat screen TV, banana hammock. I can’t fathom getting rid of an animal just because I moved to a new city.
When I brought Bear to the marina and walked him down our dock, he jumped aboard before I even told him what boat was ours! It was like he knew. Through out all of our moves in apartments, homes, boats, vans, tents, etc. he really just wanted to be with Zita and I. It didn’t matter where we were, whenever we were together, we were home. That was a feeling I hadn’t had in quite some time, which is why I’d 100% put boat work and sailing plans on hold for his health and well being.
As for boat life, he really loved sitting in the cockpit with the wind in his hair. He loved all the doggie friends and people friends we made. Eventually, I got an inflatable dinghy that I’d row the pups across the harbor after work to do a load of laundry and let them run around at the park. Bear ended up loving the dinghy so much that he’d often jump off the boat and be waiting in the dinghy :)) I’d occasionally pass people rowing who would stop by to say hi to Bear. He was a very friendly and social boy and made me a lot of friends in the process! A side note: he did NOT like swimming or being in the water. Just frolicking knee deep on the beach.
From backcountry camping at the Grand Canyon to running on the beaches of Mexico, he was down for whatever adventure I came up with. It always meant we’d be doing a lot of fun stuff, and sleeping in close quarters was his favorite because then we HAD to cuddle!
He was perfectly healthy despite some arthritis until 2020, when he developed renal failure. He was in the beginning stages for two years, hardly affected by it and not needing any changes other than renal food. The unfortunate reality of living in a small town in a third world country is that the veterinary care isn’t always the best. Bear had gotten diarrhea, the vet gave him a shot of something and some medicine. Within a couple of hours he couldn’t walk and was vomiting profusely. The vet forgot about Bear’s renal failure, and he’d developed pancreatitis and was dying, quickly.
The remaining three weeks of his life he spent most of it at the vet, every day I was unsure if he’d survive. For the days he was with me, every day he did something he’d always done. Made sure to mark where Zita had gone potty. Stuck his nose up her bum. Stood and sniffed the air like the old man that he was. Tried eating garbage. Wanting to cuddle with his butt in my face. I could tell he was in pain, but he was still there and I’m glad we had that time to say goodbye. I am also glad to have been with him when he passed, as a friend had stopped by to visit us and check in. Bear died in our arms on January 13, 2022 at the exact time of what would have been his 16th birthday.
He was cremated and is in a couple of succulent plants I hope to be able to keep on the boat through various countries we may enter. Perhaps I’ll have to toss the vegetation, but the soil and his remains will still be with us.
I am so lucky to have had such a sweet and loving boy in my life for 15 beautiful years. With all the changes I’d gone through from separating from the military, leaving my ex-boyfriend, starting new jobs in new cities, going to college, deaths in the family, etc. he was always there physically with me. I am honored to have had his unconditional love, without him I do not think I would be where I am today. He visits us often and although I miss him, I know he’s still with us.