Rugby is everyone’s dream dog in the car. He’s calm, he’s quiet, and he just lays down in his crate and naps. He does better over the road than with stop and start traffic, because he’s more anxious if we stop and start all the time. Once we hit the open road, he’s not going to make a peep until we stop!
We left on our big adventure about mid-afternoon, and wanted to get as far down the road as we could that first night….hopefully at least halfway there. We had no idea how much time we had to get to Dad’s bedside at the hospital, so we knew we needed to hurry!
Time was something that we thought we’d always have, but time was now running quickly through the hourglass like grains of sand….disappearing at the other end…
We stopped to stretch once along the way, and Rugby did just fine. We always park in remote areas at a restaurant or gas station, and we carefully watch the landscape for other dogs or humans to make sure no one gets too close to Rugby. I’m also very careful to watch the ground to be sure Rugby doesn’t quickly eat something dangerous that’s been discarded on the ground.
I always offer him a drink before we start back up, but he rarely ever accepts it. Usually, he’s too keyed up about new surroundings to be interested in water.
After driving in rain for about six hours we decided to call it quits for the night. We found a pet friendly motel, and unloaded the car in sprinkles, and tried to walk Rugby away from mud and puddles. By now it was dark, and Rugby is typically more reactive once the sun sets. Michael and I try to team up so we can make the best of the situation. Over the years, we’ve perfected our performances. Michael plays the plucky lookout, and I play the sneaky dog handler!
Rugby has visited in motels before, so this wasn’t his first time staying somewhere new. The motel was quiet, and we had a comfortable room, so we got Rugby into our room, and hoped to get him settled down for the night, so that we could all relax.
The problem was, Rugby was close to terrified. He wasn’t just asking to snuggle with me…he was in an absolute panic! He frantically clawed my legs to be picked up, and that’s not something Rugby ever does, unless he’s really wigged out. So for the first twenty minutes or so, I stood and held him close while he shook in my arms. Anytime I tried to put him down, he scrambled right back up my legs to be picked up again. So I stood up and held him until he calmed enough that he was ready to let me put him down.
The look in his eyes just broke my heart that first night. Rugby’s eyes had a look that said, “PLEASE don’t leave me!” He was so panicked that I was taking him somewhere and leaving him…..or handing him over to someone new and walking away forever. It was heartbreaking to see! I’m always aware that Rugby still has a fear of being abandoned, no matter how much trust he has with me. So many times in his past life, this sort of thing really did happen to him, so when that scenery starts to look familiar to him, he panics and wigs out! Just a few short hours ago, I had taken him from his home and all that he knew, and he had no idea if he was ever going to see anything familiar again. It was heartbreaking for me to see him so frantic and so scared. None of us slept well that first night. Rugby barked a few times at strange noises, but he was glued to me, no doubt wondering why we had taken him away from everything that he knew, and wondering if he would ever see his familiar home and life again.
His small predictable world. The familiar sights, sounds and routine that created security in his little life. There was no way that I could explain to him that our current situation was temporary, and soon enough he would be back in that familiar world and routine. I had to hope that he trusted me enough to know that as long as I was nearby, he would be safe….even if I was the only thing that was familiar.
That’s a whole lot to ask of a little dog with a small brain and no opposable thumbs! And when you add Rugby’s history of being in so many previous homes before I was lucky enough to get to be his last one….and it’s a recipe for one worried little pooch! I have rarely seen him as absolutely terrified as he was that night, and it reminded me once again, just how fragile my little dog really is. He seemed so much smaller, and so much more vulnerable that first night on the road. All I could do was hug him close and promise him that he was safe with me and that I loved him and would never leave him or give him away to someone else. And we drifted off to sleep together, and I hoped he would dream some sweet dreams….and understand what I promised from my heart.