Why dogs make the best travelling companions

by James Menzies

I wasn’t planning to write about this subject this month, but circumstances have warranted a short out-of-route detour.

I have just spent a sleepless night beside my eight-year-old mutt Monty, whose constant whimpering signaled, unmistakably, that the end is near. In just two short weeks something (‘Bone cancer?’ ‘Hip dysplasia?,’ the vet shrugged) has sucked his vibrancy from him, crushed his spirit and left him a whimpering mess. I administered pain medication in the middle of the night, but the relief was minimal at best, imagined at worse.

But I’m not writing about Monty to garner sympathy for him or for me. Rather, as a tribute to the dog lovers among you who travel daily with a four-legged companion. For many of you, I know that your canine companion is likely the best team partner you’ve ever had, even if they don’t contribute much in the way of revenue-generating miles.

I have spent a lot of time driving with Monty, but our driving relationship got off to a rocky start. As a new dog owner, I was determined to bring him everywhere with me, including short jaunts to the store. One of our first trips was a quick run to Subway for sandwiches. I left him for a few short moments and when I returned to the car, subs in hand, I noticed Monty was cowering in the back seat, guilt written all over his face.

I prepared to put the car into gear before the pungent smell explained my dog’s sheepish reaction. I glanced all around for the evidence: back seats, passenger seats, rear and front floor mats. Nothing. Then it hit me like a kick in the teeth. I slowly stood, and sure enough discovered he had chosen the driver’s seat as a home for his stinky deposit. You can imagine how long I spent scrubbing the cloth seat. I don’t think I ever did eat the sub.

I eventually forgave Monty and continued to take him with me on short trips. But our greatest trip together – and possibly our best time together, period – was the four-day drive from Calgary back home to Ontario. I was initially reluctant to bring him with me by car; after all, he was now prone to car sickness. But lacking any real viable alternative, I decided to give it a shot.

Soon after we left Calgary city limits, headed east on the Trans-Canada, Monty climbed up onto a suitcase I had in the backseat and that would remain his perch for the rest of the journey. I was aware that a sudden panic stop may have reduced him to a black smudge on my windshield – like so many bugs on the other side – but he was so content back there, I let him stay.

During our trip, we stopped at the occasional park or field to stretch our legs. I even welcomed the short breaks he imposed on me, despite the inconvenience. At nighttime, we checked into pet-friendly hotels and he burned his excess energy by jumping from bed to bed.

Never once did he complain about the long hours on the road or my choice of music. No wonder so many professional drivers prefer the company of a four-legged companion to that of another human.

I’ll always have fond memories of that road trip.

But soon, it’s now clear, I’ll have to make the unenviable trip to the vet that all pet owners dread. Six legs will walk in, attached by far more than just a leash. Two legs will walk out. It’s the sad reality of pet ownership: they expire far too soon.  

So, do me a favour and if you’ve got a four-legged pal riding shotgun with you today, give them a pat on the head for me and enjoy every mile.

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