Tag Archives: driving

Pub Dog

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Love Me, Love My Dog

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Today I meet up for a dog park jaunt with an old friend. We grew up together in Western NY and now we both reside on the West Coast–he in Seattle, me in Portland. It’s a distance of 173.9 miles. I know this because I Googled it. That’s a distance of 2 hours and 47 minutes. Which is a distance of nothing to a girl who grew up in a fairly rural area where driving to the grocery store took 20+ minutes, where every friend lived 20+ minutes away (in the opposite direction of the grocery store, of course), and driving to the big city of Buffalo took at least 30 minutes in good traffic. My point is that it took time (and a car) to get to everything, and it was just the way it was. I left my little town every day. My hometown is an unincorporated hamlet, so small in fact that I was unable to find the population count online. I do know that the town it borders (and is controlled by) has around 6,000 people in it. So, not nothing, but not a lot either.
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Now I live in a bubble–a Portland bubble, where everything I need is within city limits. Granted, the city boasts 594,000 people, but still–I never leave. Which means despite my friend living so close, I sadly never make it to Seattle to visit him. But no matter, today he is in Portland. Thanks to a Bolt Bus and his willingness to travel three hours south of his own bubble, I get to drink tea and catch up with my childhood friend/next door neighbor. He was once like a brother, and thanks to a lovely distance of 173.9 miles and the fact that we both found ourselves on the west coast, he is once again.
Between childhood and adulthood there was a span of time where we lost each other–he’s my little brother’s age, not mine, and then his family moved out of town, and so it goes. So it came as a more-than-pleasant surprise when I met him once again as an adult and rediscovered how very awesome he is. When I rekindled a friendship with him a number of years ago I found him to be so very like-minded, but also sweet, and kind, and interesting. And there’s something to be said about being friends with someone as adults that you knew when they were just barely out of diapers (when you yourself were just barely out of diapers). It’s like coming home.
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And he likes dogs. By which I mean to say he loves dogs. So when I asked him if I could bring Ingrid on our tea-date today, he responded, “Do you even need to ask?!” I hold my friends close, but friends who love my dog as much as I do hold a very special place in my heart.
See you soon, friend. Ingrid and I can’t wait.
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Two Hotdogs in the Middle of Nowhere

When Ingrid was a year and a half, I packed her into a car and drove across the county–just her and me, and the far reaching sky. We began in Portland, OR, with an upstate NY destination in mind. I was traveling east to visit family, a three week vacation stretching before me, and I had a singular purpose: to not leave the dog behind. I could have, I suppose, but I wanted to meld my two worlds: my west coast present, my east coast past. I also wanted to explore the possibility that I could travel across the country alone–though I wouldn’t truly be all alone, because when there’s a dog in the car, there is always someone to talk to.

A dog is a good conversation starter, an excuse for someone to approach you with something to say. That summer Ingrid was deep in the “stranger danger” phase of her development, something my husband and I found disconcerting, but a useful advantage when traveling girl-alone on the road. She is an extremely loyal and bonded dog, and I suspect she would fight to the death if called upon to do so–I didn’t love this about her, but it was only one aspect of her total package and so I accepted it.

On the road she wouldn’t let anyone approach the car without sounding off a warning. At a gas station in Wyoming she took on a 12-foot-tall wooden statue of a cowboy, and in a rest stop in Utah she very firmly informed an older gentleman trying to say hello that he had come close enough and there was no reason we couldn’t speak from a distance, thank you very much. This was all behavior I intended to work on, you know, later–when we were no longer one girl and one dog all alone on the road. She made me feel protected, and weirdly, loved, because her intensity was meant for me and me alone. She’d do anything to keep me safe, and I dragged her with me wherever I went–roadside bathrooms (right into the stall), grocery stores (where a dog is always welcome, right?), motel lobbies, everywhere. I was only enforcing the bond and reinforcing the problem: stranger = danger.

Until Nebraska. We were traveling along an endless stretch of I-80, when around dusk I took an exit that promised a gas station. I was maybe 3/4’s empty, but I was tired and needed tea and a break. The exit road was a long one and cut through empty fields. Mine was the only car on the road, even the semi’s had abandoned me. The middle of nowhere, yes, but here was this gas station, built so large several semi trucks and a dozen cars could fill up at the same time. In eerie silence I pumped my gas and then parked my little two door hatchback in front of the brightly lit store. I rolled down the window for Ingrid and got out. A bell chimed as I stepped through the door but the lone man behind the counter didn’t look up from his newspaper. I approached the long counter of stainless steel machines and proceeded to make some tea. As I was finishing up, I tried to snap the plastic lid down but pressed a little too hard, crumpling the styrofoam mug and spilling its contents over just about everything–the counter, the floor, my shoes. Suddenly the man behind the counter was standing before me with a rag, a kind look on his face. “I am so sorry,” I said, but he only waved his hand backwards. “Don’t worry about it. I don’t mind at all.” I helped him mop up the tea and then I fixed myself another cup. He was tall and was wearing a camouflaged baseball hat, a pack of cigarettes tucked into his t-shirt’s front pocket. He glanced out the front window at my car and said “Oregon, huh?”

“Yep.”

“I took the family there once on vacation. Pretty country.”

“It is.”

“That your dog?”

“Yep.”

He looked back at me. “She like hotdogs?”

But before I could answer he had his hands in the rotisserie and pulled out two greasy links.

We stood in the doorway of the store, the door jammed open, the hotdogs cut into bite-size pieces and placed on a paper plate, Ingrid straining at the end of her leash. The man squatted on the concrete, bending his tall body, and held the plate out for her. Ingrid inhaled the hotdog pieces quickly and then gazed up at him with squinty eyes. Then she did something I’d never seen her do to a stranger before–she stepped forward, tucked her head into the tall man’s lap, and just stood there while he gently caressed her sides, murmuring “good dog, good dog.”

I almost cried.

“You come back again, ya hear?”

“I will,” I said. And I did. One more time on the way back west. Two more hotdogs, and a gentle hand.

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