The other night I was reading a bedtime story to The Littlest Princess and she asked, “Dad, what’s your favourite bedtime story?” I gave it some thought and the next night I read it to her; The Sailor Dog.
It’s a 1950’s Golden Book classic, and it was awarded to me as a prize in school in 1972. My bright, 6 year old eyes gazed at the cover which showed Scuppers leaning over the bow of his small boat staring into his telescope, and returning to my desk I read the words on the first page, “Born at sea in the teeth of a gale…” at that moment I was hooked.
That little book had everything you needed to know to live a good life. For example, Life Goals: Scuppers did not want to be a farmer he was a sailor. He did not want to travel by train, car, plane or submarine, he was a sailor dog so he needed a boat.
Persistence: He continued searching until he found a boat which was ‘just right’. The sails are patched, the ropes knotted, and the paintwork a little faded, but you can tell by the way he’s lovingly cleaned every inch of it, that he has learned the very important lesson of ‘Do the best you can at all times with what is available to you’.
After a day of happy sailing he goes to sleep that night content that everything is stored in its’ proper place. Scuppers is not only neat and tidy, but careful to look after his equipment. He does not have any excessive gear on board either, and is obviously not a fan of clutter.
Unfortunately for our hero he wakes up on a foreign beach, alone, and discovers he has been shipwrecked. No long angry rants at Fate for our Scuppers. Neither does he panic. Instead, he weighs up his options, then sets about salvaging what he can, builds himself a small hut, finds some food, and settles in for the night on a bed made of pine leaves. He is not only a master of versatility, adapting, and overcoming, but has obviously studied Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He has also learned, like the Apostle Paul, to be content in any and all circumstances.
That night he dreams, and in his dreams he see’s that if he can build a hut, then he can repair his boat. Scuppers does not procrastinate. He is a ‘Doer’. It’s one thing to dream and plan, but dreams only come to fruition with Action. And the next day that’s exactly what he does, and before too long he is back on the ocean waves.
He sails onward until he finds a safe haven in a foreign port, and here he teaches us about knowing your limitations. His old boat is entrusted to trained craftsmen, who remove his emergency patch and repaired the hole properly. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Onshore he is shown waving to a burka clad woman, Scuppers is tolerant, polite and friendly to everyone he meets. A good policy indeed.
Once his boat is ready, he kits himself out in some new clothes, and buys some fruit and other provisions for his journey. Here he teaches us not only the importance of good grooming and diet, but prioritising and budgeting. His boat is repaired first, then he buys his provisions.
Soon he is back at sea, ready for more adventures, and prepared to face any other challenges that await him. He has persisted, overcome, and continuing on. Now this is quite important. Note that he has not turned back home, he has pushed on. Scuppers has not rushed back to his safe harbour, sold his boat and spent the rest of his life avoiding the beach and telling anyone who will listen his tale of woe. Instead he has learned that bad things happen, and that this is a normal part of the whole life experience. He teaches us the importance of learning from these events, and pushing on. The last picture is of him leaning over his bow, and peering ahead. He does not dwell on the past, keeps his eye fixed on the future, and revels in the here and now joy of doing what he loves most. Sailing. Scuppers, is a a Sailor Dog.
I finished reading the story to my daughter and even sang her the little song that Scuppers had written about himself (in which he teaches us the value of being creative as well!), and I tell her that this is my all time favourite bedtime story.
She has reserved her opinion for the time being.