The rise of the canine superyacht guest

Roy and Stephanie Hodges with schnauzer Sterling

The rise of the canine superyacht guest

Roy and Stephanie Hodges with schnauzer Sterling

Kinship

The rise of the canine superyacht guest

A superyacht is a home away from home, so why wouldn’t you bring your dog along for the ride?

By Dominique Afacan | 28 August 2020

“Sterling is so chill. He’s always ready for the next adventure. He loves the Bahamas and New England for summer!” Sterling might sound like the typical superyacht owner, but in fact, he is a dog. A superyacht dog. Belonging to captain Roy Hodges and wife Stephanie, the unbearably cute schnauzer has been living on board Laurel since 2017, reflecting a growing trend for bringing pets on board.

“Pets are members of the family, so it is normal for them to travel with their owners whenever they can, and gradual changes to pet travel laws have made this more achievable year on year,” says Siobhan Brade, otherwise known as the Superyacht Vet. Lucky for the Hodges, the owners of Laurel are big animal lovers, and even run their own charitable foundation – Bailey and Friends – supporting animal welfare.

The rise of the canine superyacht guest

Sterling on board Laurel

The rise of the canine superyacht guest

Sterling on board Laurel

When Hurricane Dorain hit the Bahamas last year, Laurel was on hand to help. “I’m happy to say that some of the pups got reunited with their owners,” says Hodges. “We rescued 50 additional dogs from the islands and brought them back to West Palm Beach. On arrival, the Big Dog Ranch Rescue was ready to take all of them to the ranch where they were in quarantine for two weeks before they got put up for adoption.”

The crew did another trip in March this year, bringing ten dogs back to Big Dog Ranch Rescue. The shelters in the Bahamas were all at capacity but, thanks to Laurel, all of the pups that they brought back to Florida have found new homes. “When we did the dog rescue we converted our tender garage into a kennel for them,” explains Hodges. “It is quiet and air-conditioned, quite a luxury for rescue pups.”

The rise of the canine superyacht guest

Rescued dogs on board Laurel

The rise of the canine superyacht guest

Rescued dogs on board Laurel

Converted tender garages are one thing – but for more permanent canine guests, there are more drastic adaptations. “I’ve seen the installation of glass railings around decks to keep dogs safe on board, and motion sensor doors that work in a similar way,” says veterinarian Brade. “I’ve also spoken to designers who have installed modified swim platforms for water-loving dogs, and regularly hear of fake turf (or in some cases, real grass) being added to a deck space.”

Over on Gene Machine, a new self-cleaning pee pad is being trialled for Nikki, a samoyed puppy-in-training that belongs to the owner’s wife. She is the second dog on board, joining forces with a plucky pomeranian who has been ruling the roost for the past two and a half years. For the crew, as well as the owners, these canines offer a great boost to morale. “The dogs are a great addition most of the time – they get involved in every activity. They both know the crew mealtimes and make their way to the crew mess and bark outside the door until we let them in. They both love a cuddle and running around on the tender,” says Tom Milton, the yacht’s first officer. “They definitely keep us all smiling.”

The rise of the canine superyacht guest

Nikki on board Gene Machine

The rise of the canine superyacht guest

Nikki on board Gene Machine

Milton has even been introducing Nikki to the joys of the superyachting lifestyle, with positive results. “She seems to enjoy the water, so I recently took her foiling and she really enjoyed it, so we will keep trying with the water sports,” he says. The crew also take her out on runs when they are in port.

Back on Laurel, and Sterling is happier on the bridge. “The bridge is definitely his favourite place to be. He has done two Atlantic crossings and was always on time for watch,” says captain Hodges. And when he’s not keeping an eye on the yacht’s movements, he is busy keeping everybody smiling. “He’s really good at knowing who needs a cuddle or cheering up,” says Hodges.

“The main consideration for keeping your pet happy is understanding whether or not he or she is suited to a life on board a superyacht,” says Brade, who also offers pet first aid training to crew members travelling to remote destinations. “If they have sea legs and adapt to the onboard environment easily, then they are going to be happy, especially if they have a crew that are going to love and look after them.” And it sounds like the pups on board Gene Machine and Laurel are both living the canine dream.

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