Sometime later we headed out to sea again, looking for treasure to steal and adventures to tell about. This was my third or fourth voyage on the Vice Grip and the previous journeys had been profitable but not overly exciting. But all of that was about to change as we set to sea in those turbulent times. The British Empire had set its eyes on expanding its influence in the Caribbean and while the British Navy and the Spanish Navy fought like cats and dogs we would often hang around out of the line of battle and swoop in to either attempt to pick like vultures through the remains of ships that wrecked upon the shores of the islands or capture wounded ships and attempt to sail them back to Tortuga or Jamaica to repair and refit. It was during one of these raids that Reggie the Terrible enters our story. Once again, we partnered with Captain Silver in seeking to profit from the conflict that raged in our sea.
As we sailed along the shore of Cuba we happened upon the Tigre, one of the Spanish ships of the line we constantly had to avoid for she would outgun any ships we could throw at her. She was engaged in a heated battle with a couple of English frigates and a sloop. Even though those English devil dogs had numbers on their side, the Tigre was a much larger and more heavily armed ship. The first frigate’s captain made the mistake of allowing the Tigre a clear shot along her broadside. Even though the frigate got off a first shot, the Tigre showed her claws by unleashing over thirty cannons at once. The initial salvo threw smoke into the air and knocked the unwitting frigate backwards in the water. The frigate was soon taking on water as the Tigre unleashed a second salvo to finish off its first opponent.
Pirates know when to enter a fight and when to sit on the sidelines and wait. The Tigre would be a mighty prize, but she would be almost impossible to take without sinking because of the number of feline marines and sailors that would protect her. Yet the English frigate and sloop were not going to give up the fight. When the battle ended in a draw with the frigate and sloop retreating with significant damage to their hulls and the frigate losing one of its masts. The Tigre turned towards Havana to lick its wounds and to fight another day. We decided the two English ships would be our quarry for the day. Silver commanded the Specter to pursue the larger, but more heavily damaged frigate while we set our site on the smaller and faster sloop. While we sailed through the wreckage of the first frigate seeking any easy pickings before setting off in pursuit. We pulled up a few valuables, rescued a few of the English dogs (we may be pirates but former sailors often made the best recruits) including one soaking wet Yorkshire Terrier named Reginald.
“Was that Reggie the Terrible?” asked one of the pups.
“Well he would come to be known as Reggie the Terrible, but that comes a little later in our story. Anyways, with new dogs pulled from the sea locked up to ensure they didn’t interfere and a slightly heavier cargo hold we set out after the sloop which was attempting to escape to the colonies for repairs. We were hours behind them after our brief pause for salvaging but we had a good captain and crew and a quick ship. The Vice Grip sailed through the seas, gliding upon the water like we had wings and by evening of the second day we could see the sloop in the distance. We crept up on her through the night and by morning we were nearly upon her. She was a pretty ship, sounds strange to call a ship pretty but even in her wounded state she looked like she could put up a pretty tough fight.
As we approached we could see how deeply the Tigre’s cannons had dug into its skin. Its starboard side had taken the lion’s share of the damage and it was listing slightly to that side. That proved to be a decisive advantage for us since it would make it difficult for the guns on that side to have the same range as ours. We unleashed our pirate colors, our black flag with the bulldog skull cracking a bone and loaded all of our canons in preparation for battle. The English captain, an English Setter or royal bearing, was in a difficult position. His ship was already heavily damaged and doubtless his crew had suffered heavy casualties in the previous battle. Yet, the prospect of surrendering his ship to a crew of pirates without a fight would permanently stain his honor. We approached as he fired his first salvo of shots which fell harmlessly into the ocean well short of our ship. We fired shots into right side, but at a modest pace, not wanting to damage the ship too much. Ultimately our goal was to capture her as intact as possible. We took a little damage as the Vice Grip pulled alongside and we began to send our fighters onto the ship to capture her.
The battle for the Royal Beagle, as we soon learned the ship was named, was fierce but quick. The ship’s dogged crew was undermanned and those numbers had been further reduced by two battles in short succession. Captain Smith, the English Setter who commanded the Royal Beagle was forced to surrender the ship to the Ghost. Ghost gave command of the captured ship to Old Jack, his former first mate, an old English Sheepdog whose loyalty to the Ghost was fiercer than even his loud bark. To crew the two ships, we were stretched very thin and we gave the opportunity to some of our captives to join our crew under close guard. As a part of Snarl’s gun crew, we were brought over to the Royal Beagle and were one of only four-gun crews on the ship. In a fight, we would be in real trouble, but the Vice Grip would escort us back into port at Tortuga. To reinforce our gun crew, we were given two of captured or rescued crew. One of these was a Jack Russel Terrier named Peppin and the other was Reggie the Terrible.
“So why was he named Reggie the Terrible” asked a couple pups.
Well a part of our bounty from the raid was a store of chocolate that we captured. You all know that chocolate isn’t good for dogs, but well Reggie never let that stop him. So, as we were heading back to the island of Tortuga, Reggie managed to break into the stores. That dog always seemed to be hungry and there he would devour anything you set in front of him. Anyways, he was looking for something additional to eat after his kibble, some kind of a midnight snack while he was on duty with Rusty. Rusty must not have paid attention because he found the chocolate and began to eat and eat and eat until he was stuffed and his belly bulged from being stuffed full of chocolate. When Rusty later discovered him lying on the deck with his belly up in the air Reggie was moaning and groaning something terrible, and that was only his stomach. Reggie, Rusty and me were responsible for four of the guns on the port side of the ship and we were attempting to get them ready for battle in case we needed to assist the Vice Grip in a fight. All that day Reggie’s stomach lurched and turned and growled and groaned and the gas that was coming out of that dog was potent enough to make a polecat cry. When Old Jack learned of Reginald’s theft from the ship’s supply of chocolate he wondered about what an appropriate punishment would be, but when he heard the commotion in the dog’s stomach and could see the obvious discomfort of not only Reginald but also the gun crews forced to work in a confined space with him he chuckled to himself and said, “Reginald, let that be a lesson to you. From now on I dub you Reggie the Terrible. Terrible to look at, and terrible to smell. I suppose I don’t have to worry about putting a guard on the chocolate tonight.”
Reggie looked terrible, he was ashamed of his actions and he was in pain as he labored on the gun deck attempting to clean, load and work with the rest of the crew to repair the damaged guns as best we could at sea. He didn’t eat anything the rest of the day and he looked terrible. By the following day he was looking and smelling better and he attacked his kibble with his previous zeal always looking at everyone else’s plates hopeful that they might leave something. He also attempted to redeem himself in the eyes of his fellow shipmates as they made their way back to refit and repair. But thankfully the temptation of the chocolate was just too great for Reggie the Terrible to resist. I suppose we all have weaknesses and vices, but Reggie’s attraction to chocolate would continue to something we would have to watch for all throughout his time at sea.
As I mentioned Reggie’s attraction to chocolate proved too strong for him and three days after the initial foray into the chocolate we seized in the previous battle once again Reggie relapsed and broke into the chocolate stores eating his fill and was found the next day lying on the deck his belly swelling and groaning. Old Jack was about to decide upon discipline for Reggie the Terrible when the lookout cried out an alert for all dogs to man their battle stations. A ship was approaching our two ships from the west and she was another ship-of-the line, a massive ship with rows upon rows of canons. We signaled the Vice Grip to run, since they were still capable of outrunning the approaching ship, but for those of us on the Royal Beagle we knew running was hopeless and fighting would be futile. But that was when Old Jack came up with a terrible plan.
“Oh no, where you captured sir?” Shrieked one of the pups.
Well, we would have been for sure if Old Jack hadn’t been as quick thinking as he is. Although he never put up the white flag of surrender he ordered the sails to be struck and for our ship to drift like it was mortally wounded. He ordered the gun crews, except for Reginald, to go to the port side guns and have all of them ready to fire on Snarl’s orders. He was going to have the ship come in as close as possible to board us and he wanted to capitalize on the angle of the ship and elevate the guns to aim at the masts on the incoming ship. We worked feverishly aiming and elevating the gun barrels in preparation for our one shot at surviving an encounter with a far superior enemy.
The approaching ship was the Spanish ship, the Puma, had a midnight black cat as its captain known for his razor-sharp claws and lack of mercy. His feline crew climbed up and down the masts ready for their assault upon the wounded Royal Beagle. Their gun crews fired several shots across the bow as warnings not to engage them in combat, but their goal was to capture the sloop intact as a trophy for their captain and their crown. Their crew was efficient and the Puma swiftly moved in to pounce upon its much smaller prey. With swords and pistols in their hands they prepared to board the ship and they positioned sharpshooters with rifles upon in their stations on the top of all three masts. They had us outnumbered, outgunned and in almost every way outclassed. As they threw over grappling hooks to bring their ship alongside to begin boarding the only thing they saw waiting upon the deck were Old Jack with a torch in his hand and Reginald laying in obvious pain upon the deck.
The felines taunted our crew and called out for our captain’s surrender but Old Jack stood there silent and stoic while the felines began to put out the boarding planks and nets. As the cats began to make their way across the span between the two ships they began to wrinkle their noses and hiss and gag. “What is that smell?” one of them screeched as it began to cough. Through watering eyes, the cats still continued their advance, although more cautiously than previously. Below deck we waited, with our shirts pulled up over our noses, for the sign that Old Jack had prepared for us.
The Puma’s captain demanded once more that Old Jack surrender to him the ship or face boarding and ultimately destruction or enslavement. But as the captain of the cat’s words were spoken he began to cough and choke as the odor emanating from Reggie the Terrible lived up to his new name. The gas was filling the air when the captain threw his torch into the air igniting the gas and burning the hair off of several of the cats attempting to board at the same time. At the same moment in sequence we fired every canon on the port side causing chaos on the deck of the Puma as the main and the mizzen mast were shattered.
Take us out of here, best possible speed, called out Old Jack. The Puma’s gun crews hadn’t expected a fight and were unready to fire on us in return for the damage we did to them. Most of the gun crews had been pulled up top to assist with the boarding party. Their captain attempted to order the crews below to pour their fire into our ship, but confusion reigned as we pulled away and cats fell from their boarding planks and nets into the sea and we moved away from the side of the Puma. Their forward canons managed to get a few rounds off a close range into the aft side of the ship, but we escaped an impossible situation thanks to some quick thinking and a dog with an addiction to chocolate.
We managed to put a couple parting shots into the Puma, but it would’ve been impossible to sink her or capture her so we turned and limped for home in the Royal Beagle. As we pulled away we shouted, “Hurrah for Old Jack the Clever and hurrah for Reggie the Terrible.” Anytime he entered the room the crew would shout out, “Reggie, Reggie, Reggie!” until he blushed all the way through his fur. But bad stomach or not he was one of us now. He was one of the tiny terrors, who had now expanded in their role among the guns of the Royal Beagle. In one mission, we had captured a sloop and survived run-ins with two ships of the line of the Spanish armada.
As we were spotted approaching the island of Tortuga, the crew of the Vice Grip came out to meet us as we came up to the port. We were greeted by our brothers in amazement and they listened attentively as we told the story of Old Jack the Clever and Reggie the Terrible. By morning the tale had traveled around the island and in his own way Reggie the Terrible became a local celebrity.
From that point, onward chocolate was kept under lock and key on any ship that Reggie would sail upon and he would go on many other adventures upon the high sea throughout his time as one of the Ghost pirates. The tiny terrors became recognized as one of the finest gun crews after the battle with the Puma and they became a select fraternity among the pirates, only accepting the toughest dogs of smaller breeds to be a part of their crews. The Royal Beagle would be refitted, reequipped and renamed after returning to port. Old Jack would become its captain and continue to serve as the Ghost’s chief lieutenant in the Ghost fleet. The sloop would be renamed the Dirty Drawers in memory of the smell that Reggie the Terrible gave off during that fateful battle when it was the Royal Beagle.
“So, he was called Reggie the Terrible because he had terrible gas!” Exclaimed one of the young pups no longer able to restrain himself. Even Shimar smiled as the young pups rolled upon the floor laughing and howling and a few even crying because they were laughing so hard.
Never underestimate the power of chocolate. Now when your mothers tell you that chocolate isn’t good for dogs they aren’t kidding. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good but stay away! It isn’t worth it.
One of the pups named Clint who also has a tendency to overeat had been laughing so hard that he accidentally let out a loud fart and for a minute the room filled with gas. As the other pups started to cough, Shimar looked with his one eye at Clint and said, “Especially you Clint, you could easily find yourself branded as Clint the Calamitous.”
And the laughter started again.