By Bill Stork, DVM
You may recall my friend Bruiser, the God-fearing guitarslinger from Champaign, Illinois, his venerable collie Hedley and theiradventures during a sabbatical in Austin.
For those of us old enough to recall 8-track tapesand dial phones, we may also remember the early incarnations ofthe Toyota pickup truck. Famous for two things: you could changethe oil the day your son was baptized, then not again until he was an ordainedCatholic priest; and the engine would tick along silent as a Singer sewingmachine. All the while, the wheel wells would start to rustbefore the plastic was off the seats the day you brought ithome from the dealer.
Bruiser had a blue "extended cab." Longbefore "Mega" and "King," there may have been enough roombehind the driver's seat for a set of jumper cables and a sandwich,so long as it wasn't a Dagwood Bumstead model. For ventilation it hada sliding rear window, the latch having broken years previous. As groupieswho didn't know a bar chord from a blues riff, we would help carry theequipment down the stairs and load the truck. The Toyota 4x4 wouldhaul either the lead guitar player, singer and all the equipment for a 5-pieceTexas Blues band, or Hedley.
If not mentioned previously, Hedley had horriblethunderstorm phobia. Thanks to our Behavior Specialist Mittsy, we havesince learned a number of coping mechanisms to help dogs like him. Regrettably,in Hedley's day, she was not in this part of the country, having grown upin Tennessee. Hedley had developed his own coping mechanisms, primarilyinvolving going through whatever separated him from the freshlyplanted arugula in Bruiser's garden, and digging it up.
One afternoon in June, what separated him from thegarden was the screen in the storm door. A few weeks laterBruiser had collected a long enough list to justify a trip to AceHardware, so he loaded the broken door and Hedley into the back of the Toyota.Partly cloudy and cool, it was a perfect day for a drive.
Every place I've been, some barista, bartender or bikemechanic will cackle like it's the first time anyone's ever said, "Ifyou don't like the weather, just wait 10 minutes, it'll change." I'llget to England someday. I've heard the only thing worse than the weather is thefood, and neither has changed for centuries. Possibly this explains whyAmerican blues are so well received in London.
In the ten minutes from home to hardware, partly cloudyand cool became a respectable downpour. Rather than wait for his driver to cometo his senses, Hed used his collie nose like a flat bladescrewdriver, wedged open the sliding window and dove into the comfort of thecab where by his (and our) way of thinking, he belonged anyway. Moving his wipersfrom intermittent to low, Bruiser couldn't get overly upset at thedripping dog in his passenger seat.
Bruiser respectfully passed the open parking spot near thefront door, and took a head-in spot twenty yards away. As he luggedthe screen door through the store, and before the helpful hardware mancould assess, an announcement came over the intercom:
"Would the owner of the blue Toyota please come tothe front of the store, immediately." He was not comforted by the smallcrowd pressed against the store window, pointing and aghast.
Faster than the automatic sliding door, he nearlyhead-planted the glass, as, knees shaking he burst onto the sidewalk to seewhat had happened. Hedley had switched from passenger to driver's seat, and indoing so, he bumped the gearshift. In neutral and weighing littlemore than a Jersey cow, the truck rolled passed the car parked next to it.Without so much as touching a yellow line, in a gentle arc the truck slidperfectly into the open space near the front door.
Oblivious to his audience, Hedley sat behind the wheel,surveying his new view.
On a bench outside the Jo Ann Fabric next door, anelderly gentleman sat, hands folded over the head of his cane.Waiting for Bruiser to catch his senses, he cackled, "Between you andme young man, your dog drives a heck of a lot better than my wife."