Brits of a certain age were taught that a man’s best friend is his duck. We’ve already established, however, that my ducks had gone missing in my hour of need, leaving me duckless and defenseless to Cathy’s insistence. So I didn’t feel minded to have them accompany me on my trip to New England.
In any event, ducks make terrible travel companions. You can’t have a car window down for fear that one of them might fly off; they can never agree on which one should have the front passenger seat; and they keep nagging about taking the route that goes as the duck flies. Honestly, you’d think they’d never heard of Google Maps.
So I have brought my dog along instead. She goes by the name of Strudel. I say “goes” because there’s only a 50–50 chance that she’ll come if I call her. She loves eating, pouncing, and chewing toys and rawhide. Her idea of fun is wandering into some dappled shade and finding some creature in the long grass that she believes must be stopped. Then she pounces on it.
Whether she has actually found such a creature is entirely beside the point. In fact, it’s probably better if she hasn’t, because then she can keep trying to pounce on it. If she does catch something, then she has to decide what to do with it. And that’s more work than this particular 10-year-old brown hound would like to address on a regular basis.
When I told Bob that I was planning to travel round New England with Strudel, he insisted I read Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley in Search of America. That was great advice. But, at least in one respect, I feel this trip has more in common with Tony Hawks’s Round Ireland with a Fridge. If you’ve ever seen Strudel decide that she is simply not going one step further — she flops down theatrically, lies on her belly, and utterly refuses to budge — you’ll understand that she can be just as intransigent as a fridge. Mind you, in all fairness, she’s not entirely like a fridge. If you give her food, for example, you aren’t getting it back again.
Strudel may often be seen performing this maneuver in downtown St. Petersburg to the delight of everyone around. Well, to the delight of all except one. Recently, she has taken to combining this with her desire to be fussed and petted by almost any human, especially if they are female.
A couple of weeks ago, she came across a group of three attractive young women. One of them made the mistake of cooing at her, so she promptly flopped to the ground in the middle of them and refused to move. As she lay there, looking for attention, another woman came up to me, tapped me on the top of the arm and said, with a knowing look in her eye: “You’ve got her well trained! Good job!” So, while I normally have no complaints about Strudel’s qualities as a chick magnet, I have had to explain to her that there’s such a thing as being too obvious.
As a passenger in the car, however, Strudel has given me no cause to complain. She has tried lying on the front seat, with her head on the center console, but her strong preference is to go in the foot-well instead. She can evidently get very comfortable down there, as she snores from time to time, and doesn’t appear to be bothered even by my singing. The only thing that stirs her is when I start laughing at something in the original radio series of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
At least she doesn’t have terrible pain in all the diodes down her left side. Not that she’s told me anyway.