A Dog of a Trip

My dog, Henry, is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that doesn’t get out much. He spends most of his day slumming around the house, looking for a cozy place to nap. I, on the other hand, spend most of my days hard at work and wracked with guilt for leaving His Royal Highness alone all day.

Henry, my "backseat driver," doesn't like being relegated to the front seat.

Which is why, I decided to take him with me when I recently drove up to Ventura to help my son, Josh, move home. It was a three-hour trip each way, and while Henry’s been on car rides before, this was the longest by far. But, I figured, he enjoys car rides, so why not take him?  I brought along some treats, a water bowl and a blanket to help him get cozy in his usual spot in the backseat. I also tuned my satellite radio to a channel that played nice, soothing music that would lull him into a tranquil sleep. After all, Henry descends from royalty and expects to be treated like a king.

He slept soundly on the drive up. Not so much as a peep. When we arrived, he leapt from the car, refreshed. While Josh and I loaded the car with his belongings, Henry happily explored his surroundings. Of course, by the time we finished, I realized there was no longer any room for Henry in the backseat. Which meant he’d just have to sit on the passenger seat in front. No big deal, right? Wrong.

Turns out, Henry is completely used to being in the backseat. He’s in his zone. But the front seat is another matter. I’ve never seen a dog so nervous. It was as if he was overtaken by an anxiety attack, or going through OxyContin withdrawal. I tried calming him as best I could, to no avail.  Occasionally he’d lie down and close his eyes, but seconds later, he’d sit up again, trembling and panting.

So I drove like mad, convinced that the only solution was to get him home, and back on terra firma. My plan was to take him on a walk to the park, as I was sure he would feel better once he returned to his routine. But Henry had other ideas.

No sooner did we pull into the garage, that he walked right up to his dog bed, the one in the garage, and plopped down in a heap. Which is where he stayed for the next several hours. Not able to walk the 10 extra feet into the house, and not even interested in having his dinner. And forget about walking! In a word, he was pooped. Too pooped too pop. Hours later, I raised the garage door, thinking he’d jump up at the chance to go outside. No can do. The boy wouldn’t budge.

So I tried one last trick. The Ace up my sleeve that was guaranteed to get him to get up and go. The old reliable tennis ball. The one thing Henry could never resist! His one true obsession! I felt so clever for thinking of it.

But nothing. Henry looked up, barely gave the green ball a sniff, and lay his head back down on his bed. The ultimate test and it failed! I was the one driving for six hours, but this little king was the one who was the worse for wear. Now I felt guilty for forcing him to come along! How could I have been so cruel?

I decided to leave him be. Clearly, he needed his rest. Which is why I went around my business the rest of the evening and left him alone. And what happened next is one for the history books.

Just as I was finally ready to turn in for the night, Henry arose from his bed. With his tail wagging, his little legs carried him swiftly into the house. Whereupon, he assumed his usual position in the kitchen, signaling to me that he wanted his dinner. Stat. And by necessity, eating would be followed by a walk. Which is why, exhausted though I was from the long day of driving, I took him outside, into the cold, dark night and, as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, I could swear I saw a little jaunt and an extra bounce in Henry’s walk. Ah, yes. The boy was back in town!