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.
He has no luck at the truck stop, but on his way back to his truck after getting the dog a bite to eat, Mark sees the dog attacking a man who had broken into Mother Load. The thief had been breaking into trucks at the truck stop for weeks, and the dog had caught him red-handed. As a result, Mark begins to think about keeping the dog for himself.
By Moncton, Mark has given up trying to find the dog’s owner. It has settled in nicely with Mark’s routine and he’s beginning to enjoy the animal’s company. But after a bite to eat, the dog gets in Mark’s way as they’re returning to Mother Load. The dog physically blocks Mark from crossing the parking lot and Mark thinks something’s wrong with it. Just then a runaway rig comes storming through the lot, and would have killed Mark if the dog hadn’t held him back. Mark can’t believe his luck, and decides to name the dog just that, Lucky…
Mark took the ferry from the dock in North Sydney, Nova Scotia and settled in for a quiet five-hour ferry ride to Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland. He’d been looking forward to the ride, not only to catch up on some sleep, but also to spend some time with his dog, Lucky.
Once the truck was parked and all the other vehicles were settled into the hold, Mark decided to take Lucky for a walk. He led the dog to the deck that circled the outside of the ship and walked stem to stern, spending a little extra time on the bow to let the fresh sea air blow into their faces. But as much as Mark wanted Lucky to enjoy the sea, Lucky seemed distracted. He kept looking around, not at the ocean, but at the ship and the people on it.
“What is it?” Mark asked, trying to steer the dog toward the ocean, but his interest remained on the ship.
“Are you hungry? How does a burger sound, or a couple of Milk-Bones?”
That was strange. Lucky never turned down an offer of a burger, and the words Milk-Bone always got his tail to wagging.
“Are you sick?” Mark always felt a bit sea-sick when he rode the ferries and his stomach wasn’t the best right now. Maybe the dog was feeling a bit nauseous too. That sure would explain his behaviour.
“Well?” Mark prodded.
Still, there was no answer from Lucky.
Mark was worried over the health of the dog since something was definitely not right here. “C’mon,” he said. “Let’s get back to the truck.”
When they returned to Mother Load, Mark opened a can of wet food and pulled a couple of Milk-Bones from the box. Lucky ate both but there wasn’t the same enthusiasm for the food as there had been in the past. There was obviously something else on the dog’s mind. Mark wondered what he could do to bring the dog back to him. Bring the dog back to him. He smiled at the thought of that because the answer was so simple. He’d play a game of fetch with the dog. Lucky always loved running things down – a stick, ball or Frisbee – and bringing them back to Mark. Maybe if he could get Lucky focused on the game, he could get the dog calmed down enough to sleep through the rest of the trip.
When they got back to Mother Load, Mark got Lucky’s favourite rubber ball out of the cab. But even the sight of the bright red and blue ball didn’t seem to lift the dog’s sagging spirits. But Mark still wanted to try. He found an area in the vehicle bay large enough for them to play without bothering anyone else, then knelt down to talk to Lucky.
“We’ll play fetch, okay?” he said, holding the ball out in front of the dog.
The dog’s response could only be describe as indifferent. Still, Mark thought it was worth a try.
He tossed the ball away. It bounced three times before Lucky even went after it. It rolled to a stop against a wall where Lucky picked it up in his teeth, then slowly walked it back to Mark.
The dog dropped the ball at Mark’s feet.
“Good boy,” Mark said, tossing the ball again.
This time the dog walked right past the ball, around the corner and out of sight.
“Lucky!” Mark called.
No answer. And no sign of the dog.
“Lucky, come back here.”
Maybe that’s how he got lost from his owners, Mark thought. The dog had been acting like it was somewhere else, and seeing what had happened, it wasn’t hard to imagine how the dog could wander off from its owners and get itself lost. Well, at least they were on a ship. The chances of Lucky getting lost on a ferry were pretty slim. Still, it was obvious the dog wouldn’t be coming back on its own. Mark would have to look for him.
He rose to his feet, and headed off in search of the dog.
“Lucky!” Mark called out as he walked the ship. “Lucky!”
People looked at him strangely, as if he were mentally unstable, perhaps even dangerous.
“I’m looking for a dog, my dog,” he told a woman who stared at him curiously. “It’s about so big, reddish gold in colour, answers to the name, Lucky.”
The woman shook her head and stepped away cautiously. After all, how does somebody lose a dog on a boat?
“Lucky!” he called again.
Then, just as he was about to step onto the large open area at the bow of the boat, he heard a voice cry out in jubilation. “Hero!”
The cry was followed by the barking of a dog. His dog. Lucky!
Mark hurried his pace, turned the corner on the bow and stopped dead in his tracks.
“Hero!” the young boy said again.
Once more, the dog responded with excited barks and feverish wagging of its tail.
The dog was never that excited with me, thought Mark.
The dog jumped up and down too, trying to climb up onto the boy and give him a hug.
“Mom, dad. Over here!” the boy shouted.
Mark stepped back out of sight, thinking it best just to lay back and watch for the next little while.
A man and a woman appeared next to the dog, each one calling out the name, “Hero!” The dog was jumping up on them in recognition and licking their faces and hands as if he hadn’t seen them in months.
Maybe he hadn’t, thought Mark.
A little girl arrived on the scene too, smothering the dog with hugs and kisses, making the family portrait complete. If the portrait had a name, “The Reunion” would be a good one.
‘But how?,’ Mark wondered. He’d found the dog near Kingston, over a thousand miles away from Newfoundland. How could it have been so lost only to be reunited with its family?
It must have known. It had to have known it was lost and known what it needed to do in order to get back home again. But how could it have known Mark was heading east to Newfoundland? It just did. There was no other answer. It knew Mark was heading that way and it did whatever it had to do to keep Mother Load moving east. That’s why the dog had caught the thief in Kingston. That’s why the dog had saved Mark’s life in Moncton. And that was why the dog had been constantly staring out the front windshield since he’d gotten onto the truck – he was looking for his lost family. Finally, that was why the dog had been so distracted on the ferry. It knew the family was on the boat and it was intent on finding them.
And it had found them.
Hero! thought Mark. That’s what his name was, not Lucky. And of course, it suited him. The dog hadn’t been lucky to have hooked up with Mark; it had meant for the meeting to happen. It wasn’t lucky to be reunited with its family, it had struggled to fight its way back home, like a, well, like a hero.
Mark had never seen a dog and four people so happy before.
“It’s a miracle,” the father said. “He’s so healthy…In such good shape.” T
he man looked around. “Someone must have been looking after him.”
Mark wanted to step forward then and at least claim credit for having looked after the dog, but he stayed where he was, watching them lead the dog away so they could get back to being a whole family again. Besides, Mark knew he’d done a good deed, and the dog knew it too. That was enough for him.
As he turned and headed back to Mother Load, Mark thought about maybe getting another dog. It was tempting, but how could any dog compare to the one he’d just had. They’d all fall short, and he wasn’t about to do that to man’s…or rather, a trucker’s best friend. Maybe someday he’d own a dog, but not now.
When he arrived at Mother Load, Mark crawled into the sleeper, laid down and closed his eyes. The scent of the dog still lingered in the cab and that provided Mark with some comfort. It would be a few hours before the ferry reached Port aux Basques, and when he awoke, he’d have a load to deliver and no time to waste. For now, however, there was plenty of time to miss and reminisce about what just might have been, his best friend ever.
– Mark Dalton returns next month with another exciting adventure.