After getting mixed up with some unsavory people hauling loads for “cash only,” Mark takes a long haul destined for Newfoundland so he can get out of town for a while. At a truck stop in Kingston, Mark discovers a lost dog waiting for him by Mother Load. Not wanting to be saddled with a dog, Mark sets out to find the animal’s owners.
Mark paid for two plain hamburger patties inside the restaurant and a bottle of water in the convenience store and returned to Mother Load where the dog was patiently waiting for him.
“Here you go, fella!” Mark said, realizing he didn’t even know if the dog was male or female. He took the patties out of the bag and placed them on top of the bag at the dog’s feet. As the dog ate hungrily, Mark walked around behind the dog and learned something new. “Boy!” he said. “Atta, boy!”
Mark leaned up against Mother Load and watched the dog eat his burgers as he tried to figure out his course of action. Obviously, he had to find the dog’s owners and hopefully they were still here at the truck stop. However, the amount of time that had passed since he’d found the dog, and the fact that nobody seemed to be actively looking for it suggested to Mark that the dog’s owners were long gone.
So, what to do?
He could hang around and wait for the dog’s owners to figure out they’d lost him and start to retrace their steps back to the truck stop. That might work, but it would take several days to happen and he was on a tight schedule that required him to be in St. John’s by the end of the week. He could afford to spend the night in Kingston, but he’d have to be on the road early the next morning – say 3 or 4 a.m. – if he was going to be able to make up for the time he’d lost. And if he didn’t find the dog’s owners overnight, he could always put up some flyers with a description of the dog and his cell number, ensuring that the dog would be safe while letting the owner’s know – people who were hopefully worried sick over their lost dog – that the animal was well cared for and could be picked up at any time.
That seemed like the best course of action, one that…
“Nice dog,” someone said.
Mark looked up. “What?” There was a woman standing a few yards away wearing a tight-fitting pair of jeans, cowboy boots and a tight red sweater. She had a smile that said she was a dog person.
“I said, nice dog. How long have you had him?”
“Oh, the dog,” Mark stammered. “Well, just a few minutes actually. See, it’s not mine. I just sort of found it here and…” He shrugged. “It doesn’t seem to belong to anyone here at the truck stop.”
The woman seemed unimpressed. “So he’s not yours?”
Mark shook his head. “No, not really.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” she said, suddenly seeming to lose interest in both Mark and the dog. “I really like dogs… and guys with dogs.” She thrust her hands in her pockets and started walking away in the direction of the restaurant.
“But he’s my dog right now,” Mark muttered under his breath. As he watched the woman walk away, he thought that maybe there were benefits to owning a dog and having it with him on the road. A dog, he thought. Not this one. Perhaps he could get a dog somewhere down the road. In the future. One day.
When the dog finished eating, Mark climbed into Mother Load and got one of his spare leather belts. He wrapped the belt around the dog’s collar to use as a leash and headed off to the restaurant to start looking for the dog’s owner in earnest. Even if the owners weren’t around, maybe he could get a couple clues as to who they were and which way they went.
“Is this your dog?” Mark said for the 25th time.
Again the people he’d asked looked at him strangely, wondering if he was all there, or trying to pull some scam.
“No, eh? Okay then, do you know anyone who’s looking for a lost dog?”
The family he’d asked hurried away from Mark, as if he were trying to sell the dog instead of find its owners.
“No thanks,” said the mother. “I’ve already got a dog and two kids and the last thing I need is another mouth to feed.”
“Okay then, thanks for your help,” Mark said, even though the family had entered the restaurant and could no longer hear him.
The dog looked up at Mark.
Mark looked at the dog. “I don’t think anyone wants to help you, buddy.”
The dog barked softly at that, as if he were trying to say something instead of just make a noise.
“Hey,” Mark said. “Is that your name? Buddy?”
The dog barked again.
“Or how about Copper?”
The dog barked.
Mark gave up on the idea of naming the dog. It was getting late and it was obvious the dog’s owners weren’t going to show. That meant it was time for Plan B. Mark took the dog back to Mother Load and used a marker and some blank papers to make up a few flyers that had a description of the dog and his phone number on them. With any luck, someone would see one and give him a call.
“Now you stay here,” he instructed the dog, leaving him in the cab with the windows open so he’d have plenty of fresh air.
He went back to the truck stop and put the flyers up on the bulletin board outside the restrooms, in the convenience store and just inside the doors that lead out to the rear parking lot. With that he had all the bases covered, or at least as many as he could cover under the circumstances.
Feeling good that he’d done as much as he could for the dog, Mark bought a pepperoni stick at the convenience store and headed back to Mother Load for a few hours sleep. But before he was within sight of his truck, he could hear loud growling sounds that were peppered by angry barks and the snap of teeth.
Then there were screams – human screams – and the sound of fabric tearing.
Mark ran to Mother Load as fast as he could expecting the worst, but when he turned the corner on a Freightliner he saw that the door to Mother Load was open and the dog was pulling on the pant leg of a large man. The man had a bunch of CDs in his hand, Mark’s CDs, which he had obviously taken from the cab of Mark’s truck.
Mark ran even faster, travelling the last few yards through the air, tackling the man and sending the CDs skidding across the pavement. They both hit the ground hard, but the dog refused to release his hold on the man’s leg.
“I’m sorry, okay!” the man said. “Just call the dog off, alright!”
Mark eased up, but kept the man on the ground with an arm bar he’d learned during his days as a private investigator.
“Ow,” the man screamed. “You’re hurting me.”
The man’s cries had attracted a crowd, including the manager of the truck stop.
“There he is,” the manager said, pointing a finger at the man on the pavement. “You’ve been breaking into trucks on this lot for months, haven’t you?”
“Go to hell!” the man said.
The manager laughed. “Yeah, well we got you now, don’t we?”
“It was the dog, actually,” Mark said.
“Good boy,” said the manager, patting the dog, who still had a hold on the leg. “Let me get him some food.”
“That’s okay,” said Mark. “He’s already eaten.”
“So what. Dog catches a criminal, least he deserves is a good meal on the house.”
“If you say,” answered Mark.
“Who’s got an empty trailer we can put this guy into ’til the cops come?”
There was no shortage of truckers volunteering their rigs.
Mark lifted the guy off the ground and escorted him to an awaiting tandem air ride with all the comforts of a cold steel box.
– Next month’s issue will feature Part 3 of A trucker’s best friend.