An hour later, on my way back to the car, the scraggly puppy recognized me and clumsily ran my way. I didn't know what to do; he was clearly a stray and I couldn't just leave him there. Even though I could tell by the look in his eye that he would be a difficult dog, I'm a sucker for a sickly animal, so I ushered him into my car and took him home. Five minutes into the trip, he christened himself "Ralgh" after the action of losing ones gastric juices all over the back of a car seat and onto the leg of the really awful and evil prepubescent girl I was babysitting that day. By "ralphing" on the leg of this annoying little girl, he had beelined his way into my heart, and the rest, as Michael Jackson might say, is History.*
*Michael might also take this opportunity to say "He-e heeee! Ow!" but I'm not going to go putting words into the great man's mouth. What right have I to do that?!
From the moment I made that decision, I knew that Ralgh had to remain a part of my life. I wasn't sure how I was going to do it, but I made a commitment to him that day in the parking lot, and I intend to see it through until the sad day of his death. He's not the type to travel as cargo in airplanes, so that left one option: ROAD TRIP!
Though anxious to an extent which I have never seen in a dog, Ralgh is really quite adaptable. He loves the car, maybe because he came from the streets, and he's not unique among dogs in his love of sniffing new places. I think Ralgh's going to love the Vantasy, and this trip has become as much for him as it is for me. If only I could teach him how to help me pack up boxes and fix RV refrigerators (He-e heee! Ow!).
Ralgh's nearing the old age of 11 years, now, and I've noticed him slowing down. He spends most of his time sleeping, and sometimes there's no trace of that mischeivous energy in his eyes. It's been replaced with... complacency. I might go as far as saying... peace? He still has his crazy moments, but he's slowing, and it's sad and scary for me to see. I let him off his leash last weekend at the coast and he ranandranandran, and afterwords he squinted, stumbled, and looked like he was having some sort of cardiac episode. I was sure he was going to die. I pleaded with him to walk a little bit, he complied, and after about five minutes or so he seemed fatigued, but better. I'm still not sure what happened.
The episode threw me into an unexpected depression. I want to be self-sufficient on the road, but I cannot, CAN NOT handle the death of my dog all by myself out there with no support. And I want him to live the Vantasy with me; this is his trip too. And what about protecting myself in the middle of nowhere? That's Ralgh's job, which he accepts enthusiastically. I can't lose him. He's all I have. I'm terrified.
But we can only press on. We'll prepare. We'll go to the vet this week. We'll start jogging together in the mornings, slowly, a block at a time. We'll take our evenings easy, and enjoy whatever time we have left together. And I'll let go of control, learn that the fates are out of my hands, and that whatever happens will be right.
"A journey has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness... All plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us... In this a journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it."
- John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charley, an account of his journey across America with his French poodle.