Sunday, July 16, 2006

"Rello, Reorge!"

If you don’t own a dog, you may not be aware that when someone from the country buys a vehicle, especially a truck, dogs are part of the accessory package? Like undercoating. It’s true.

Salesman: “Would you like us to install a black lab or a golden retriever?
Truck Customer: “I think I’d rather have the shepherd mix, and what the heck, throw in a bed liner.”

I lived in the city for five years and can’t remember dogs as passengers in too many trucks, or cars either, for that matter. Well, occasionally, you’d see a little old man driving with the Chihuahua on his lap or the elderly lady with some froofy white animal curled up on the back window ledge of her Monte Carlo--could have been a dog, but then again, it may have been a pillow.

I don’t remember seeing many city dogs riding shotgun, looking for all the world like they knew exactly where they were going. No, this is a country thing. And we should claim it proudly.

You will see this rural phenomenon played out best at the county’s landfills and recycling centers. Don’t ask me why. I’ve never taken a wet-nose count but I’ve noticed, as I’m heaving my Hefty Bags into the dumpster or parceling out my plastics and my cardboards, that a large percentage of vehicles coming through the gate each Saturday has a canine companion along for the ride. The friendly volunteer that punches my “dump card” as I arrive even has a stash of doggie treats on hand for each Fido occupying the shotgun seat. That’s got to tell you something.

I have no doubt these dogs were at the front door, waiting to go, the moment the trash bags were brought out to the truck, similar to when a dog is shown his leash--let the joyous wagging and leaping commence. They just seem to know.

And did you ever notice, when the driver gets out of the vehicle, the dog will move over behind the wheel as though he’s ready, in case there’s an emergency, to move the car for his owner?

Sheriff’s deputy: “You’ll have to move this truck. This is a no parking zone.”
Rex: “Ressir, right array, Reputy.”

In the life of a country dog, the “ride-along” is a rite of passage, not a given. It’s something that has to be earned. Proper passenger-seat behavior calls for sitting up straight, no upholstery chewing, no flea scratching, no hanging of the head out the window no matter how intoxicating the air might smell, no matter how much road kill you might drive past, and under no circumstances will there be any slobbering on the gear shifter.

After proving himself, the experienced, well behaved, ride-along-dog might even earn the coveted red bandana, his very own Frisbee, and the privilege of accompanying his owner to the dump each Saturday morning. Besides a reprieve from the neutering clinic, what more could a dog ask for?

City dwellers own about as many dogs as those of us here in the country. I’m sure they are just as fond of their pets as we are. So why don’t they take them to the bank, to the pharmacy, to the post office? We do. How do we account for the high number of rural folk bringing Ol’ Shep along for the ride?

Maybe I just haven’t lived the rural life long enough yet to answer this puzzling question. Perhaps I should consult The Dog Whisperer. Or, then again, maybe it’s just a country thing.

©g.Slater 2006


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