Bear in wild-eyed comtemplation of nature.
I took Bear for his first open window ride through the woods a few days ago. Up until this time, most of his rides have been air conditioned voyages to the Vet or to puppy obedience school.
This was more of a real dog ride.
We drove windows up and fast down the two-lane highway that zips past our favorite wildlife management area. As we pulled off the paved road and into the park, I unzipped the JEEP windows, turned off the A/C, and cruised slowly down a dirt road.
How would he do? I had visions of his claws, backed by 65 pounds of puppy muscle, ruining the vinyl windows of the JEEP, but he remained seated with only his head extended.
Occasionally he would jut his head back inside to either ponder the buzzing horseflies that were crawling around the windshield or give me quizzical looks, but mostly he was amazed at the scenery whizzing by.
(Enlarge that photo and look at his face in the mirror ... that's amazement)
Watching him trying to absorb the sights, smells, and sounds as we bounced along triggered memories of past dogs and rides taken.
When I was a kid, we had a rescued stray dog named "Clyde" who was a terrier mix with an underbite and a scrappy attitude. He was a tough guy who loved riding in my Dad's International Scout, halfway out the window, barking at each car that went by.
Each car that passed us got a double bark.
We were a beach family and spent alot of time surf fishing at Anastasia Island State Recreation Area in St. Augustine. The ride home from the park included an intersection near the Alligator Farm where the road department had put those warning strips of raised asphalt to vibrate your vehicle and remind you that you had a stop sign coming up.
Clyde, who never backed down from any dog, was scared to death of those strips.
He would ride along, perched on the back of Dad's seat with half his body hanging out the window barking at cars, and airing out his ears and tongue ... just as happy as a clam.
But as soon as we hit the first set of warning strips, he was reduced to a cowering, needy pup who retreated from the window to press his head against my Dad for comfort.
Once we were past the four or five sets of warning strips, he was all bark and bluster again.
We never let the dog hang out the passenger side as that door had a tendency to swing open if you leaned against it as the driver made a left turn.
Raise your hand if you ever fell out, or almost fell out of my Scout ... Kevin? Billy?
I think the only pal who actually wound up running along side the scout as I made a turn was my friend Rex, who apparently saw his life flash before his eyes, but I thought it was pretty cool the way he landed on his feet.
He had PTSD (post traumatic scout disorder) for a little while after that.
Rex was human though and not a dog, so one more dog ride memory.
My Grandfather (Papa) was a JEEP man who loved the beach and camping in his trailer that he and my Grandmother (Nana) would tow everywhere. To tow that trailer, Papa had installed large side view mirrors on his JEEP so he could easily back it into campsites up in the mountains and maneuver around traffic along the way.
Nana and Papa owned a great, rotund, fluffy sheepdoglooking dog named Smoky who went everywhere with them and was completely spoiled. Even though Smoky was too chunky for his own good, he loved to ride to the beach with his hind feet perched on the top of the passenger door and his front feet perched on the U-shaped side mirror bracket.
Essentially the entire dog was out of the JEEP.
St. Augustine was still mostly a small town in the '70's ... not yet colonized by the hordes of newbies that "discovered" it in the 80's.
Everybody knew Papa and his dog and would wave to them as they drove through town. Smoky never fell from his perch which I suppose is both a testament to his perchability and my Papa's easy going pace.
The St. Augustine Record (newspaper) even did a feature story on Papa and Smoky, since everyone had seen them on their sojourns back and forth through town.
Smoky lived a long happy dog life and was seemingly unchanged by his newfound fame.
Papa used to say, " I hope I die before this dog does ... I just couldn't stand it."
In the years after Smoky, Papa still drove through town, still went camping, still surf fished on the beach, but the JEEP never looked the same without a shaggy dog perched on the mirror.