By Tracy Ahrens
One day I saw a pet contest announcement that requested sharing an essay about the most memorable trip you’ve taken with your dog. Maybe it was a humorous experience on the way to a groomer, the contest said or a serious experience during a holiday excursion.
The one trip I would have written about is the day I brought Trucker home from a shelter.
We met a week prior during an adoption event at a pet store. I was forewarned about his anxiety issues and the shelter offered to let me foster him for a week to see how he integrated with my cats and lifestyle.
For five months he lived in the shelter. He had chewed through more than one chain link kennel while there, injuring his gums and teeth. He started taking Prozac and sedatives daily to help him stay calm. He feared storms and always liked to be with someone.
With his history in mind and some suggestions on how to help him cope, I led Trucker out of the shelter and into my Ford Escort.
I remember how he sat on the passenger seat, his 60-pound frame in the seat with his front paws on the floor. As we rode along a country road, he eventually reclined back in the seat and peacefully watched out the side window.
To reassure him of my presence, I kept one hand on him at all times. His tongue pulsated gently from his mouth. His eyes looked sleepy from the medications he took.
I remember asking him, “What do you think?” and “You think we’ll be okay?”
I wondered what thoughts swam about in his mind.
Trucker came “home” that day. I never made him take a trip back.
Trucker’s past consists of being thrown out of a semi truck as a puppy, rescued and sold at a garage sale, driven home from that sale to a family that separated in divorce, driven to another home to live with the husband, and driven from there to an animal shelter.
From the shelter he was driven to an adoption fair where the ex-wife spotted him. She drove him to her home and then back to the shelter because he was tearing up her home due to anxiety.
As often as car trips have resulted in abandonment, Trucker still loves to ride, sitting calmly in the passenger seat like a human.
Several times he’s fled from our home during bouts of anxiety and fear. I remember each drive I took to find him and bring him home. I remember his thankfulness, his exhaustion and my tears of joy.
Though we’ve had to move in the past two years, Trucker learned that home is where love and peace wait for him. It’s where I return to, where his feline brothers and sister sleep and eat and play with him, and where neighbors always seem to love him as their own.
My presence, behavioral training and his knowing that I will not leave him have ended his need for Prozac and sedatives.
Today, every trip we take to a park, to visit friends, to see our veterinarian or to have him groomed, I observe Trucker and wonder what he’s thinking, what he’s remembering of past trips.
I still keep one hand on him to comfort him while we ride, to remind him that “I love you,” and “We’re going home.”
Tracy Ahrens is a veteran journalist, author, artist and mom to three rescued cats and one dog. See her web site at www.tracyahrens.weebly.com and add her book, “Raising My Furry Children” to your collection, www.raisingmyfurrychildren.weebly.com