b Papa Dog's Blog: Dispatches from the Road, Part I

Papa Dog's Blog

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Thursday, August 19, 2004

Dispatches from the Road, Part I

The question since before Baby Dog even arrived on the scene has been: “How will we ever get anywhere with both the baby and the dog in the car?” This is not as simple a question as it seems on the surface, and certainly not as simple as it was when I was a pup. Back then, in a time we called the sixties, children were pretty much stuffed into whatever space was available in the station wagon. In the wheel well, strapped to the roof, whatever. Back then safety was an abstract concept like, say, democracy; something that people were vaguely in favour of if asked, but didn’t give much thought to practising on a day-to-day basis. Today, it’s the law. (Safety, not democracy.) I’m sure Baby Dog would be perfectly content in an apple crate lined with newspaper balanced on my knee on the passenger side, but no. The law says she has to be in a safety-approved infant car seat, in the back seat, facing to the rear. Moreover, the California Highway Patrol (starring Erik Estrada) recommends that she should be in the centre seat in the back, that happy niche known delicately far and wide as “ridin’ bitch.” But tell me: if you also want to bring the hundred-pound dog along for the ride and want to practice safety to the extent of not putting him in a position where he’s liable to turn around three times and curl up on baby’s face, how’s that going to work? Mama Dog was even driven to the extremity of considering becoming one of Those People and getting a suv, but thankfully that didn’t prove necessary.

Step one was the acquisition of a canine restraint system. We bought a doohickey called the Ruff Rider Roadie Dog Car Restraint Seatbelt. Word of warning: if you get one of these things, before you do anything else you should take the enclosed instructional video, put it on a raft on the nearest body of water, douse it in kerosene, and give it a proper Viking funeral. The video very carefully and clearly describes the use of a canine restraint system, but repeated viewings have failed to demonstrate any relation between the product shown in the video and the product that comes in the same box as the video. Better to take your dog down to the pet store where you buy the Roadie and have the fine folks there show you how to use it.

Step two was mustering the will to ignore the instructions of Jon and Ponch and put Baby Dog’s seat on the passenger side in the back, rather than the middle. The reason they specify the middle, as I understand it, is to protect baby from side impact airbags, which can seriously damage those not of full adult size. Since we don’t have side impact airbags, all we’re risking additionally by moving her is injury from, oh, a side impact.

Step three was finding a volunteer to ride bitch between Baby Dog and Doggy Dog just in case the Roadie has less than the advertised level of effectiveness. Hi there. Papa Dog reporting for duty, ma’am.

We had lots of good intentions of doing trial runs to see how the whole thing worked before putting it to practical use. In fact, we did take Doggy Dog out using the Roadie a few times, enough to satisfy us that it seemed to sort of work; but we never did try it with both critters in the back seat. So yesterday at the crack of 1 p.m., we set out with some trepidation, braced for the most hair-raising and stressful journey of our adult lives.

It turned out to be maybe the most peaceful drive to Santa Barbara we’ve ever had. We never ran into a bottleneck – hey, San Jose, good on ya with those two extra lanes; Doggy Dog remained obediently in his spot (though I did have to keep telling him to lie down so Mama Dog could see if we were in danger of a side impact when changing lanes); and Baby Dog slept pretty much the entire way, waking only in the last leg around Pismo Beach or so at the onset of her regularly scheduled cranky hour.

My one word of advice for those planning to repeat this experiment themselves: if you’re the one ridin’ bitch, don’t bother to shower before you leave. Much as I love my dog, I can’t deny that spending an afternoon next to him left me feeling about as filthy as I have in my entire life, alcoholic blackouts not excluded.


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