Many moons ago, my late boyfriend Chuck was about to drive from Florida to Arkansas to help a friend remodel her home. This was all well and good, except that the old pickup truck he was planning to go in was held together with baling wire, duct tape, and good intentions. I couldn’t imagine how he was going to make it all the way out there, let alone come back in one piece. Half the time it barely made it across town.
To say I was worried was putting it mildly. But Chuck always made his own choices. Sometimes those choices made me feel helpless. So in this instance, all I could do was buy him a guardian angel. I got him Travel Dog, a stuffed animal that looked sort of like my dog Devo. From then on, Chuck kept Travel Dog in his truck, through good times and bad.
He’d often send me pictures of Travel Dog on the road, in various places, like the laundromat where Chuck was hanging out while his clothes were drying. I think it was his way of saying that he was okay, and thinking of me, and that Travel Dog was keeping him safe.
I’m not going to say our relationship was a bed of roses. Chuck had a traumatic brain injury, so sometimes his wiring would go a little haywire and he would be, shall we say, less than rational. During those times, he felt it was best to be on his own, and he’d make himself homeless. He’d live out of his truck, and Travel Dog would watch over him as he slept in the Walmart parking lot. Eventually he’d come back home to me. We just couldn’t seem to quit each other.
One time he posted a picture on Facebook, late at night, of Travel Dog sitting on his dashboard, and he wrote about his despair about starting over at age 58. He also said that Travel Dog was such a ham that he had to get in every picture. He went on to say, “He keeps losing the garlic press. How is a body supposed to make scampi? I ask you!” Chuck had a great sense of humor.
About a month after that Facebook post, Chuck died in his truck, clutching his asthma inhaler, and Travel Dog bore witness. It breaks my heart knowing he died alone. I’m glad Travel Dog was there, at least. But that’s extremely cold comfort, indeed.
After Chuck died, I inherited Travel Dog. He now lives in my car, and watches over me. I haven’t had a single accident in all the years he has been there. He even rode across the continent with me, when I basically fled Florida after Chuck’s death. I was terrified to start over at 49, and Travel Dog had seen that all before. But it turns out Seattle was exactly where I needed to be.
Recently I decided that Travel Dog deserved a vacation. It takes energy to bear witness. It takes strength to watch over someone. And he’s done an excellent job. So I took him with me on my trip to Oregon, and decided to take pictures of him in various places, just as Chuck had. I plan to continue doing this on all future trips, so you never know where Travel Dog might show up next.
So without further ado, here are some pictures of Travel Dog at Crater Lake, Haystack Rock, Sea Lion Cave, and Tillamook Creamery. I may have gotten some funny looks from bystanders while I took these pictures, but it was the least I could do for a dog that has seen so much. I think Chuck would be proud of his adventures.