Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Travels with Ivy

It is widely acknowledged among those who are in the know that the world's finest dog lives at my house. She is known to her loyal subjects as "Princess Ivy" or "The Iverson." Those of us who she permits to dwell here on West Taylor under her benevolent reign recognize that she rules with an iron paw. What Ivy wants, Ivy gets, period.

Now that I am retired, much to my wife's envy and Ivy's delight, I have time to spend amusing myself with various entertaining activities, most to which require a short trip in the truck. As the old advertisement for Toyota trucks read: Dogs love trucks. Iverson is no exception. If I am going somewhere in the truck, she expects to go, period. If I leave without her, she is visibly irritated and even gets mad, often demonstrating her anger with a sharp bark at me.

Ivy and I have a routine every morning. Lovely Loon is long gone to work when I get up at 7:00 am. Ivy lies in her bed, while I take a shower and get dressed. I fix breakfast in the kitchen and read the newspaper. Ivy remains in her bed, pretending to sleep. I usually clean up the bedroom and kitchen. Ivy slumbers on in her bed. Finally, I say "Let's go." Like a bolt of lightning she is out of her bed and streaks for the back door. I hit the garage door opener and up comes the door.

She runs for the truck and usually stops halfway to look back at me and bark, as if to say, "Hurry up, we've got things to do!" As soon as I open the truck door, she leaps up onto the seat and quivers with excitement. She usually barks and leans over to give me a playful bite on the arm. The day has begun! Travels with Mike! (Forgive me John Steinbeck.)

I have learned that certain business establishments in Kokomo are dog friendly. Some do not even require a leash. For example, Moody Cycle is a wonderful eclectic motorcycle shop straight out of the 50s. It is the only motorcycle shop that I know that has two or three stools in the back next to a permanently plugged-in amplifier and a couple of guitars for anybody who happens to want to play some music, preferably blues or rock and roll. Is that cool or what? And even better yet, your dog is welcome. Ivy loves it. She races around to see everybody and excitedly sniffs everyone, because they all have dogs, some of which may have been there earlier. Iverson is petted by all who are there, while I hang out amidst the Harley-Davidsons and BMWs, and swap tall tales with my friends.

Rural King is also dog-friendly. For those of you who are not familiar with this chain store, it is kind of like K-Mart for the farmer or pseudo-farmer. I am to understand that there are lots of people who live in the country, who have small farms. They do not raise any crops, but they do have a few cows, pigs, or sheep. They need stuff for the animals.

So, Rural King has fertilizer, feed, garden supplies, tractor repair parts and peanuts. Yes, I said peanuts. Rural King encourages its patrons to stop in and get a handful of peanuts to eat as they shop. Of course, you know who has to have a peanut? Around the store we go, Iverson and me, eating peanuts. Is America great or what?

One of my daughter's friends pointed out to me that her dad, who is a retired Delphi executive, spends every morning at Rural King. Since I was not retired at the time, I asked what on earth he was doing there. She shrugged her shoulders and said she did not know. Since then I have noticed a significant number of older, retired gentlemen (like me) wandering seemingly aimlessly in the store with and without dogs, eating peanuts. I conclude they (we?) are there for the free peanuts.

Hollingsworth Lumber is dog-friendly. I go there to buy hardwood for my furniture projects. The retail counter is patrolled by Sam and Daisy, a golden retriever and chocolate lab, who are usually both asleep, until we get there. Then there is much sniffing, snorting, and tail wagging as the three dogs to catch up on the latest events in the dog world.

We often have to stop for lunch on our daily travels. Iverson prefers Wendy's. We were coming home from Winona Lake last week. Ivy had been running all afternoon and I could tell she was thirsty. I ordered the usual three cheeseburgers and two fries, along with a Coke. Then I pulled up to the drive-through. I thought about it for a minute and then told the girl at the window that I needed a cup of ice water for my dog, as she was parched. The girl looked at me funny as she handed me the cup of ice water.

"Will your dog drink out of the cup?" she asked.

"Of course she will," I replied, "She has excellent manners." I held the cup at a slight angle and Ivy happily slurped away half of the cup's contents. The drive-through girl giggled and called her co-workers over to watch Ivy drink from the cup. I gave Ivy her fries and cheeseburger and we were on our way.

One of my favorite stops each day is the Frozen Custard stand. Last week I stopped at the drive-through to get a large ice cream cone. It was particularly good, since they had black raspberry -- my favorite -- that day. As always, as soon as the girl handed me the cone, I gave Ivy the honor of the first lick. Off we went on our errands.

As I pulled out into traffic, I had the cone in my right hand. Some idiot in the left lane swerved into my lane, forcing me to turn right sharply. As I did, my right hand slipped off the steering wheel and the cone dangled briefly within Ivy's range. In a split second, she snarfed all the ice cream in one lightning quick bite all the way down to the cone. I couldn't believe it. I got one lousy lick.

She wasn't sorry, either.

Unfortunately, not all businesses are dog-friendly. Iverson says that this is discrimination based solely on the fact that dogs have no thumbs. I am not sure about that. Nevertheless, when I have to leave her in the car, I always crack the window and tell her I will be right back. As all dogs are able to do, she settles down for a short nap. This has developed into a game we play.

My truck has an electronic door lock feature, so the door can be unlocked as you approach the truck. When you hit the button to unlock the door, it makes a beeping noise, which wakes Iverson up. When she hears the beep, she knows I am approaching, so I see her head instantly pop up and she starts scanning the parking lot to locate me, her head on a swivel.

Sometimes I hide behind a larger truck and watch her looking for me. When she begins to get worried, I jump out into her view and her tail wags with joy to see me return. As soon as I get into the truck, I have to be sniffed thoroughly to determine if I have been around other dogs and she demands to be petted as we drive away.

The simple truth is that dogs make your life better. They don't expect much -- just some food and a pet now and then. In return you get unlimited, unconditional devotion that you probably don't deserve. Dogs never lie and they are always happy to see you. They know when you are worried or sad. They know when you are sick. Sometimes the best medicine is when they lay their head on your chest and look at you. Sometimes when we are going somewhere, Ivy simply looks up at me with those big brown eyes and I can tell that it is her way of saying "I love you." People should do as well.

Mike out.

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