Cruiser's Best Friend

An abandoned island dog brings out the best in a group of cruisers.

doggo
The crew from Cool Runnings gives Mouss some love during their visit to Ilot Casy.Gudrun Hibberd

He has a way of touching everyone he meets,” Rich and Cyndi West, of the Catalina 38 Legacy, reminisced, wistfully. “Don’t be alarmed if you hear him howl. It’s just his way of letting you know he’s there.”

Rich and Cyndi were not the first to insist we stop at Ilot Casy, an amazingly diverse ecosystem on a tiny island in New Caledonia. More than anything, we wanted to meet Ilot Casy’s irresistible 24/7 tour guide, Mouss, the island’s sole caretaker/resident/host — a friendly, four-footed, tail-wagging dog.

Viki Moore, of Astrolabe, filled us in on Mouss’ story: “Once upon a time, there was an island resort, and its caretaker had a puppy named Mouss. About 10 or so years ago, the resort closed down. The caretaker packed up his things and went to leave. He called Mouss to get into the boat, but Mouss wouldn’t come. He went to pick him up and put him in the boat, but the dog jumped straight out again. He tried a third time, this time holding him in the boat until they were far enough away from the shore. Mouss jumped out again and swam ashore. The caretaker left the dog there and decided to come back the following day to try again. The same thing happened. The caretaker thought that, obviously, the dog did not want to leave, and so he left him there.”

Today, Mouss’ home of Ilot Casy is scattered with dog beds across the island, indoors and out. Food and water dishes are frequently filled by visiting cruisers. When they’re not around, Mouss slakes his thirst from a freshwater stream and a rainwater tap set up for him on the island’s dock. He fishes, hunts and enjoys snacking on bêche-de-mer (sea cucumbers). We discovered he also loves Spam enough to inhale a large can’s contents in a single gulp.

Mouss could teach professional guides a trick or two. He does a great job of leading island visitors along the trails, circling back if he finds his guests are trailing too much. He’s also not above impishly pretending to be lost when he’s not quite ready to end a tour.

Cruisers Ana Hill and Brent Grimbeek, of Impi, a Lagoon 440, first met Mouss two years ago. A year later, they were shocked by his deteriorated health. The formerly bounding, playful dog still greeted them with a doggy smile and wagging tail, but his eyes had dulled and he’d become almost lethargic.

Ana organized a hugely successful crowdfunding effort through GoFundMe to help Mouss, raising 1,611 GBP from 62 donors — enough to tap a local flying vet to address Mouss’ needs and check in on him monthly.

Recent Mouss-visiting cruisers Dave and Gudrun Hibberd, and their two children, Ben and Gaby, of Cool Runnings, a Lagoon 400, were able to show Ana and Brent photos and video of Mouss, who’s regained much of his energy.

Mouss’ fame alerted Ana to the importance of broader animal-advocacy efforts. Upon discovering stray dogs are considered enough of a problem to prompt New Caledonia officials to shoot them, Ana and Brent updated their campaign to include support for a sterilization program in an effort to deter continued canine culling.

Although Mouss won’t live forever, thanks in large part to the cruisers of New Caledonia, he will live well.