Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Dog & Her Boy

Unfortunately, nothing particularly interesting happened today (Note to self: Do not start posts with "nothing interesting happened today" if you want people to read it). Which is not to say it was a wasted day. It got me in position to begin my assault on the Blue Ridge parkway in the morning, but more importantly it gave me some valuable information about my travel companion and gave me a general idea of what it will be like to drive another 1,800 miles with her.

I’ve only had Latke for about 3 months. She’s a 21-pound sato (Puerto Rican street dog) who’s about a year old and very much still a puppy. Her favorite hobbies are chewing things and jumping around with other dogs (and people too, if they’ll let her). She’s a good dog but I’m still teaching her how to be a house dog. Since she likes jumping, playing, and chasing sticks outside so much I haven’t gone on very many long walks with her so her leash skills still need quite a bit of work.

She’s also been indifferent at best on the issue of being in a car. Usually she shakes for a few minutes before going to sleep. On longer trips she’ll get up about 3 hours later and puke. So today I decided to be proactive about both of those issues by putting her bed on the front seat (she’s too big for Gordo’s old car seat) and giving her half a Bonine pill before we left. The bed didn’t seem to make much of a difference but the Bonine was a godsend. When we got stuck in traffic 2 miles east of the Pennsylvania border she discovered that, after I finagled her seat belt properly, she could stand up and look out the window. Then I decided to go for broke and opened the window a few inches so she could stick her nose out (I know! Just like a real dog!). But when she tried to squeeze her entire head out I decided that an inch or two of open window would be enough for her. My next valuable lesson about Latke and the windows came when she stood on the window-down button, lowering the window completely. Before she thought to try and escape I hammered the child window lock and returned the glass to its full upright and locked position. On the bright side, she had figured out a way to make car rides fun for herself.

Latke still alternated between this and sleeping, but didn’t quiver nearly as much afterwards. Hopefully if I can use the Bonine as a crutch for a while to get her to like the car, I can eventually phase it out. But for now, I’m happy not to be cleaning puke every day.

You may have noticed a distinct lack of pictures in this post. That’s because I wasn’t sure how Latke would react to the camera being near her. She tends to sniff and otherwise investigate anything new in her immediate vicinity, and this was something I did not want to happen with my camera. She was also sitting in the spot where I used to keep it while Gordo was suspended in his seat so I kept it stowed for the trip (which is just as well, since my windshield was covered in kamikaze bug carcasses an hour into the trip). I figured I also didn’t need a 3rd set of pictures of the welcome signs for Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland either. But it appears she’ll be fine around the camera tomorrow. That and a squeegee should be enough for some of those trademark pictures-while-driving.

I did have one potential photo-op on today’s itinerary, although it was admittedly a little half-assed. Staunton, VA sits near the southern end of Shenandoah National Park, so I knew I’d have to drive the 105-mile length of the park regardless. So if my timing was right, I’d switch over to Skyline Drive and just head south until I found a west-facing overlook with a decent foreground (much less precise than my usual method of analyzing the curves in the road, the side of the ridge-line I’d be driving, and checking what other people had managed from each potential location). Luckily, I found what appeared to be such a combination around mile 39, with the anthropomorphic profile of Stony Man on the left, a few distant ridges on the right, and a tree in between. So I carefully selected my parking space (that would be funny if you were there and saw that the lot could hold 100 cars and I was the only one there), made a picnic dinner in keeping with my tradition of eating at the most scenic locations possible, and fed Latke. Then I killed time before sunset by walking her back and forth about six times through the grassy traffic islands in a vain attempt to get her to “hurry up.” By the time I decided that she was more likely to jump over the wall and roll down the mountain than to relieve herself, it was obvious that my sunset wasn’t going to happen. Clouds had been thickening all afternoon and the fine mist that would have become brilliantly-colored around 7:30 had thickened into an ugly whitish blob. (I’m starting to think that’s all the weather they have in the Shenandoah Valley area.) Oh well, I’ll have another chance on my way back up (maybe even a sunset-to-sunrise combo if my timing is right).

In the end, it was your typical driving day: 600 miles, 2 tanks of gas, 2 hours each of MSNBC, ESPN radio, terrestrial radio, and iPod music, and no real interesting sights.

Except this time I had a neighbor to keep me entertained. Here’s hoping she can keep that up without trying to take the wheel and drive on her own.

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