One of my very favorite books is Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, in which he drives around the US accompanied by his French poodle. Given this, and since I've had dogs most of my life, it's surprising that I've never taken a road trip with a dog. Driving from Santa Monica to San Miguel de Allende with my little dog Henry was a first.
Henry came into my life at Thanksgiving so we're celebrating our fourth anniversary this week. But at first, I didn't want him. I was grieving the loss of Andy, who had died at age 13 from cancer a few months before. Andy was a black lab/tank mix and weighed more than many a Hollywood starlet. When he became sick, getting him up and down the stairs at my house and in and out of the car to go to the vet was a nightmare; and having him die in my arms was a heartbreaker. I swore I was going to take a good long break before getting another dog. So when my neighbors asked me if I'd take Henry, I said a decisive, "No!"
Henry's story was that he had been abandoned in a park and it was three days before anyone realized he'd been left there chained to the fence. Subsequently he was adopted by a couple who named him Henry. After a year they separated and neither wanted custody of him as they thought he would cramp their style as new singles. So my neighbors took him in. But they already had two dogs and two cats and adding Henry to the mix caused friction in the pack. With this history of people wanting to be shot of him, I thought be must be some kind of serious bad-ass. I was surprised then, when I went to my neighbor's house for Thanksgiving dinner and discovered he was an 18-pound powder puff. That only strengthened my resolve not to take him. After all, I'd just lost a "real" dog.
|That bad-ass Henry|
After dinner, Henry unbidden jumped on my lap and curled up in a ball. In my tryptophan/carbohydrate/cabernet stupor it felt kind of nice. I'd never had a lap dog before. "Okay," I was surprised to hear myself saying, "I'll foster him until we can find a permanent home for him." Before the words were out of my mouth, my neighbors had his bags packed: toys, food, dishes, grooming tools, and so forth. Henry and I trucked off next door; me telling him all the way not to get too comfortable; this was only temporary.
That plan remained valid for about three minutes. Henry sat in middle of my living room and looked at me with his head cocked. I know I'm anthropomorphizing but I swear he looked resigned and stoic. It was as if he was saying, "I don't know who you are or what you're going to do to me, but I guess I'll handle it." From that moment on I wanted nothing more than to protect this little dog and make him happy and we've been inseparable every since.
Henry turned out to be talented. He can run, leap, dance on his back legs, and swivel on a dime. I suspect he's mostly Bichon, a breed with a history of being circus performers, so this make sense. I enrolled him in agility class at the Zoom Room in Culver City. He went with his good buddy, Yoda (who is on a mad adventure of his own right now). With another dog they formed a team that we named The Three Dog Knights. The third dog quickly flaked out so The Three Dog Knights were actually only two. What they lacked in finesse they made up for in enthusiasm. Yoda became known as a "bleeder." With wild abandon and with an endearing eagerness to please he'd regularly crunch into some piece of apparatus and cut himself. Henry did only those elements of the course that he liked and stubbornly refused to do the rest. He'd run up and down the A-frame multiple times but wouldn't jump through hoops for anything. On one occasion, he simply walked off the course and made himself comfortable in a spectator chair and just watched for the rest of the day. At the end-of-school tournament, the two Three Dog Knights came in dead last but were given ribbons and trophies anyway. They seemed absurdly happy to get them.
|The Three Dog Knights and their last-place trophies|
Henry's not just an athlete. He also writes poetry. I have voice recognition software on my computer and one day when it was on, he went into a barking frenzy over something. The program picked up the sound and started translating it into words! I thought I'd made a quantum breakthrough in human/animal communications only to find to my disappointment that dogs talk gibberish. But then when I took another look, I realized there was a rhythm and rhyme to the words: it was poetry. I give you one of his compositions here.
While world while the wow out while our web.
How will the Tao end violent that it will gladly read that who will pattern
But Hong black bow
As you Boone in the high but big room
The both were in Manhattan.
All awards. Why are all four no?
Will all the worm wow and while?
It will hold a hole in a workbook
The blue, the real world opal, will will will will bore
All the talk. All the talk.
Now you tell me that's not genius. You tell me that couldn't have been written by one of the beat poets. Henry might just have finally found his place in the world because, as it happens, San Miguel has a history with the beats. Although from what I've been able to gather, many of stories about their times here are apocraphal. Legends have it that Jack Karouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and William S. Burroughs were here variously in the '50s and '60s but whether or not it's true and if so for how long and what they did all seems a bit, well, hazy. For sure, Neal Cassady died in San Miguel in 1968. (There's a highly entertaining back-and-forth among some colorful self-proclaimed experts about the whole business here.)
In any event, Henry's here now and like many an ex-pat in San Miguel, will surely continue to explore and express his latent creativity.