20080728

Animal Models of Behavior

Mark and I have frequent discussions about sea sickness and its management.

On board, we keep dramamine, ginger pills, and the weird electric zapping bracelet that gives your wrist little zaps to distract you from the fact that you've got a headache, you're nauseous, and you're afraid you might lose your dinner in front of a crew of people you just met.

I have been prone to sea sickness a few times - it's not fun, especially if you live on the boat. There's something that makes me think I should be over it by now.

"You just have to learn to get over your fear," Mark tells me.

What's fear got to do with sea sickness?

On this trip, I'm learning, everything.

We happen to have the scientific animal model of Hunter onboard. Hunter and his brother Leo have learned that when Mark pulls the floor of the saloon up and gets down into the engine room to check the oil, he's probably going to start the engine. When Mark approaches the helm to rev things up, they run for cover. Hunter's ideal spot is in the engine room, wedged on top of the fuel tank. This is a horribly nasty place and in the summer, as temperatures can reach 100 degrees in there. I have to block their entry and leave them in the aft stateroom, where they can hide in any number of closets and cupboards or under a sleeping bag.

Hunter especially suffers terrible sea sickness. Drool starts dripping from his lip before we've even left the doc. While underway, he sometimes chooses very specific spots to lose his lunch - like the captain's pillow.

I was a little nervous on this trip that he would be miserable the entire time. Surprisingly, as days passed, Hunter became less fearful and would leave the closet to explore the saloon and the rest of the boat, even with drool hanging from his lip. He learned to manage the rocking and jump in the windowsill and watch the passing water.

On the final days of the trip, we did the unthinkable: we brought him up to the fly bridge with us. Howling at first, he quickly realized the floor was not going to disappear, and he climbed into his chair, flopped onto his back, and started purring.
Now that he's kicked that fear, he's making all kinds of leaps and venturing off whenever we look the other way. He either conquered his fear for good, or Redmond O'Hanlon, in his terrific book Trawler, is right about sea sickness: eventually, you just get used to it.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

Yeah Hunter! I knew he could do it!