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The St. Johns River The Intracoastal and Beyond
Dogs and Airboats

Jamie P. wrote to me with one of the saddest stories I have ever heard. It has a good ending though, in that they came up with options on how to keep it from happening again. If you have a dog you take with you on your boat, please read on...

Brindle with a Hog
Brindle proudly standing over a hog he caught.

"We had a very special dog. His name was "Brindle". He was a great companion, he slept with us at night, went with us on fishing trips, played with the neighborhood kids, and hunted pigs with my husband (he put many meals on our table).

He had survived being cut up by a 150 lb hog, after which I swore he would never go hunting again until he whined and moped so much I had to let him go. Don't you know as soon as Dad said "Load up!" his tail started waggin' and his eyes lit up! He enjoyed it so much I couldn't say no.

On the next hunting trip they ran through a palmetto bush full of wasps and after several hours of pulling out stingers we nursed him back to health again. If that was one of us we would be in the hospital!

He still loved to go everywhere with us, hunting, camping, fishing - didn't matter.

Brindle at the Lake Washington dam
Brindle at the Lake Washington Dam.

On January 26th, the last day of legal dog hunting, they set out for one last hunt. Because my husband's boat was leaking pretty bad Brindle and Brandy (the dog who taught Brindle to hunt) were going to ride in our friends boat. We have taken the dogs in the John boat and not tied them, but on the airboat you don't want your dog moving from side to side as you know this would upset the balance of the boat, and there's also the chance of getting into the prop.


Well, his boat sank in the middle of the Sweetwater Canal. We had always thought if something happened we could get the dogs loose in time. We all carry pocket knives, and there were two guys trying to get them loose, but only the top inch of the cage was visible and the water was cold and murky and hard to see through.

They were seconds away - Brindle was still swimming when they got him loose, but when they got him to the surface they had to do CPR. Water was coming out, so they were doing something right, but they couldn't get him back.

I saw three grown men, tough "red neck" boys, cry like babies that day. I stood there crying with them, but we still had to get the boat up before someone hit it and caused another accident

I swore I would not let Brindle die in vain. Some people think it is stupid to tie your dog in a boat but don't realize that the benefits usually outweigh the risks. A dog doesn't know to stay clear of the prop, their weight shifting can sink the boat or if they jump out they can get hurt.

It's been done this way for years, but we put our heads together to come up with better solutions. Makes me want to kick myself for not thinking of them sooner, but they say that necessity is the mother of invention.

  • Hold onto the leash (which is hard to do when you're driving)
  • Mount a J-shaped hook on the rigging so that the handle of the leash will slide right off
  • Buy cross ties for horses (you can get two for $11 at any feed store). They are made for quick release - with one pull they will snap loose for you, but the animal can pull as hard as it wants without releasing it.

Like everything else that can go wrong on the marsh, you know it can happen, but you do what you can to prevent it."

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