Rich Ambuske, 127
The two dogs are loaded into the backseat of the small foreign car; the road trip and the story begin. Opposites in so many ways, these two dogs. One at 90 pounds, a slow-witted, retired Greyhound, afraid of thunder and his own shadow who takes up most of the back seat when he finally settles in. The other weighing in at 20 pounds, a terrier full of piss and vinegar and brown-eyed innocence who bounces all over the interior of the car, one side to the other, under and over, back and forth. Unexpectedly the terrier becomes quiet a mere 15 miles into the 350 mile trip. The reason is revealed by a swift sniff. The sight of luggage being tossed into the trunk of the car and the prospect of a ride in that car causes anxiety. And that anxiety leads to distress, of the intestinal kind, and a delayed case of diarrhea, which he deposits onto the belly of his larger companion trying to rest comfortably in the back seat.
The car is immediately angled onto the shoulder of the interstate highway and parked so that the mess can be attended to before it has a chance to run down the smooth coat of the docile beast and soak into the cloth seats. The smell is of course nasty and the sooner it is gone, the better. The intent is to also coddle the victim anddiscipline the offending dog. But before any of this subsequent activity can take place, the Greyhound stands up and shakes himself from nose to tail and all that wet poo is hurled throughout the interior of the car.
At this point there’s a lull in the narrative, a very brief lull so that the listeners and the teller can take a deep breath and chuckle at the incident. Little things take place, humorous details in hindsight, that follow in quick succession; everything happening in a split second and in slow motion at the same time. The Greyhound is removed from the car; there is fumbling for napkins and moistened towelettes; there is swearing and finger pointing and harsh words among the human occupants; patience and nerves running as thin as the poo dripping from the ceiling; and there is cowering terrier just out of arm’s reach. There is also the whole ick-factor of cleaning up dog shit, tiny scattered pieces of wet dog shit; wiping the dogs and the back seat and the headrests and the windows and the ceiling.
While the Greyhound is being tended to, the terrier recovers and cannot tolerate being ignored. He sees an opening, an opportunity, and jumps out of the car, sprinting up the shoulder of the interstate. In a quick exchange, the Greyhound gets handed off to the second human still sitting in the car frozen in disgust and the narrator takes off on foot in hot pursuit. There’s the high-pitched whine of overinflated truck tires on concrete and car horns screaming in Doppler effect; tons of steel speeding by in a blur outside the cone of vision. Time stops and noises are muffled with the exception of the sound of a human heart pounding in the uppermost reaches of a dry, hollow throat.
Despite the adrenaline rush, the chaser is quickly winded and stops, knowing he’ll never outrun the hellion. He spins around and heads back to the car thinking that, just maybe, reverse psychology can work on a canine.
Surprisingly it does and the dog faithfully follows his owner back to the car where he is offered a treat so he can be snatched up and leashed, scolded and confined to doggy prison.
The terrier in his crate, the greyhound on his leash and the second human traveler sit upslope of the roadside ditch while the narrator hastily cleans in silent reflection. The second human sputters and hurls vitriol at the terrier and his owner cursing the day each was born. The Greyhound looks on doe-eyed and forlorn, wanting only attention and affection. With his anxiety now in check, the terrier sits wagging and ready to start another adventure. A pile of soiled napkins and towelettes is left in the ditch and the road trip wordlessly continues. The dogs quickly forget about the whole thing and only one of the human occupants has any sense of humor about what’s transpired.
The moral, the take-home message: When life shits on you, just stand up and shake it off.