Maybe my dogs should drive

Book 3.335My new book, Dog Therapy & Travel Adventures, arrived a few days ago.  I always give a copy to Toni. She was my dog trainer and a great person.

It’s been awhile since we traveled to her training site. It’s about thirty miles away on the eastern side of Phoenix. I’m terrible with directions. In 2012, for an entire year, I’d driven the same route three times a week. I was confident I wouldn’t have any problem.

Toni used two separate community parks to conduct training. One park, Paradise Valley Park, was very easy to find. Dog Training was held there on Saturday mornings from 8-10. With the Phoenix summer temperature close to triple digits, I decided to meet at the Sweetwater Park.

Sweetwater Park333The dog training at Sweetwater Park was conducted on Monday evening from 6-8. Both parks were in the same general area.

I took Bernie and Chris to their usual exercise place at five-thirty that evening. I wanted to miss the heavy end-of-workday traffic. After rush hour, traffic was much lighter.

Travel with the dogs was never a problem. They enjoyed traveling. They settled down and were very passive as long as the car was moving. However, they could be back-seat drivers when they realized where they were going.

A dog’s best weapon is its nose. Psychologist and prolific dog book author Stanley Coren described it best with “Dogs read about the world through their noses, and they write their messages, at least to other dogs, in their urine. It’s tempting to drag your dog along on a walk when he’s sniffing everything annoyingly slowly but give him a chance to read the neighborhood gossip column and let him do a little writing while he’s at it.”

I hated driving in Phoenix. To me, the streets resembled a huge bowl of spaghetti. Although the birds-eye view may align streets in neat square patterns, I must view it from ground level. The first ten miles were easy. A three-lane highway that easily poured onto a multi-lane inner loop. I was familiar with that part of the loop. The next seven miles quickly passed, and I almost missed my turn to an even faster multi-lane highway. Now feeder lanes were merging. My pulse quickened, and although my knuckles were not quite white, I was getting tenser as I searched for my exit.

I eased over to the exit, and as the car slowed, I felt a subtle motion. Both dogs were starting to adjust their positions. The landscape changed from a tunnel of moving cars to a busy street. Buildings and trees and a forest of signal lights. My eyes were quickly shifting from one object to another: Street signs, signal lights, the car directly ahead of me, a car door directly next to me. My body was very tense as my focus adjusted on the car directly in front of me and the approaching signal light.

Bernie suddenly began whining. Chris began barking. I looked for the street sign as it flashed past. I kept going straight. The dogs continued to shift in the back seat. Chris continued to bark. Bernie continued to whine. I went past another street and another. The dogs settled down, and I kept driving straight ahead.

It must have been a mile, maybe two before I decided to turn around and find a place to park. I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t have a map, and my GPS didn’t help if I don’t have an address.

I wasn’t lost. I just had no idea where that park was. I believed it was somewhere within a few miles. With that knowledge, I backtracked. I circled. I drove due north, south, east and west for a few miles.

Much later when forced to turn on the headlights, I found a street I knew would take me back to the inner loop. The dogs were passive. I was passive. The drive home was uneventful. The entire trip was more than two hours, and I had driven almost eighty miles.

The book remained on the passenger seat.

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