Thursday, May 16, 2013

Our Queen

Meadowmeres Birchwood Dynasty
May 19, 1998 - May 14, 2013

It became a nightly ritual performed at bedtime for the last six months. Dyna could no longer descend the steep steps to the stateroom below and there was no way she'd sleep apart from the rest of her pack. So I'd start a couple of steps down and she'd lean her chest onto my left arm while my right arm captured her rear legs. As we reached the bottom, her head would pop up impatiently looking around the corner to the stateroom where Dylan and the all-important nighttime treat were waiting. She often got nervous as she approached the floor to regain control. I'd always say, "paws out, soft landing girl," and she'd relax and come to stand.

Dyna came to us as a gift at a time when we had a very large hole in our heart. We were visiting a new litter of puppies that were Dyna's grandchildren. As we returned to the car and were putting on our seat belts, Karen told me that JoDee had offered to let us bring Dyna into our home. Karen wanted to know what I thought. I unbuckled my seat belt and said, "Let's get her."

We decided that we should think about it. So we drove down the road an hour to Bangor and stopped at a Pizza Hut to discuss it. My mind hadn't changed but now acting more mature we called JoDee to tell her that we did want her and that we'd get her in another week after getting the house ready for a new dog.

Dyna and I had a special relationship. At home in Maine, she'd spend hours in a recliner chair that she claimed as her own in my office. She was not a licker or a kisser which is odd for a Labrador Retriever. But through the years, she managed to sneak about 30 light licks on my face. They were special and rare. Affection, like everything else with Dyna, always came on her terms. She was the queen and she always acted like the grand matriarch she had become. But in a quiet moment, she'd push her head against my chest, spin around, and lay on my lap, motionless, for hours.

She was an incredibly strong and determined dog. I stayed with her through all her surgeries. They let me extubate her at a major surgery where I monitored her for 8 hours afterwards. No matter what was thrown at her, she took it and owned it. She never complained and I never heard a cry from her in the 6 years she lived with us.

She had the biggest smile I've ever seen on a dog. For whatever reason, her mouth was formed in a way that made it look like she was smiling. While I slept with her on the floor her last night, I looked over at one point. Her breathing was labored and she was terribly weak. But there was that distinctive smile on her face. Even in this dire situation.

There was no denying that she had been failing. But she was determined and we let her fight. Finally, she let us know that she couldn't fight any longer. So as we docked in downtown Washington, DC, I arranged for a veterinarian to come to our boat to end her pain. There is no truer act of love. I know because it hurt so much to do it.

Looking back, I've learned a great deal from her. Be tough, be honest with your affection, and always smile. I miss her terribly and will never forget her warmth.

Paws out, soft landing girl.




Tuesday, May 7, 2013

SmartPlug - The Real Installation Story

At this year's Miami Boat Show, Karen stayed on the boat and I drove down for meetings. At the show I had a couple of hours to look for new things for our own boat. I came across SmartPlug, winner of the electrical innovation award at the show. I talked to the company engineers and was totally hooked.

So I got the full receptacle and cable replacement kit and intended on doing a blog entry about how everything on a boat takes longer to install than you think it should. I knew our canine crew would be a big part of the installation since it was taking place in the cockpit, their standard afternoon nap place.

Here's how it went.

Step 1 - Turn off the boat power and unplug the cable. Safety first.

Step 2 - Find the package that got delivered and get a few tools together.

Step 3 - Take the parts out and look over the instructions. And let me say, the instructions are fantastic and give absolutely everything you need with clarity.

Step 4 - Remove the 4 screws holding in the power receptacle.

Step 5 - Dylan needs to inspect. It's important to point out that now would have been the wrong time to realize that you should have unplugged the power cable from the pedestal on the dock.

Step 6 - Push Dylan out of the way since he decided he had to be right in front of all the action.

Step 7 - Unscrew the wire screws and the plug falls out. I also cleaned up the old gasket and removed some sealant original to the boat that should have never been installed with the gasket. And I sanded the copper ends a little to remove any corrosion - there was some.

Step 8 - Put the gasket over the plug, push the wires into the color coded receptacles, and tighten with the included Allen wrench. It's a really beefy connection that is much more rugged than the original.

Step 9 - Make sure to not bother Dyna's afternoon nap. She's deaf so she still didn't realize I had been there for 10 minutes already.

Step 10 - Push the wires back and use the original 4 screws in the exact same holes to finish the receptacle installation. It's so nice that everything lines up perfectly.

Step 11 - Feel how it works and make sure there's no wiggle. It all feels perfect and strong.

Step 12 - Saw off the end of the cable to replace the plug with one that matches the new SmartPlug. I made sure to leave a couple of inches on the end so I could splice it if I needed to use the plug again. Most likely, it's already been misplaced and is lost.

Step 13 - My trusty wife is called to help with the last stage of cutting so as not to drop the end and wake up Dyna.

Step 14 - No luck. Dyna sensed all the commotion and now decided that she needed to lay on top of the cable being worked on and the instructions.

Step 15 - The instructions tell you exactly how much inner insulation to remove. There's also this white cotton-like material that gets cut away between the wires.

Step 16 - Prepare the plug case and put the included cone over the wires to assist in pushing the wires into the cover.

Step 17 - The instructions say to use liquid soap because it's a tight waterproof fit. This took about 5 minutes to push on because it was stiff but easy enough.

Step 18 - With all the insulation cut to instruction specifications, it all just fits together perfectly. There's a very strong strain relief part of the assembly that actually holds the cable. The wires then slip in and are tightened with the Allen wrench.

Step 19 - Slide the cover back onto the plug and screw in 4 included screws to lock it all in place.

Step 20 - Convince Karen that she can insert the cable now on her own. The plug only goes on one way and gives a positive lock with the 2 side silver latches. The receptacle cover has two more locking points and folding it over grabs and locks the plug even more securely.

Step 21 - Admire the results.

Cost of the SmartPlug kit:  $215
Extra expenses for installation:  $0

A planned 2 hour boat project that took only 1 hour:  Priceless