by Henry Lane Hull
[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or the 15 years that I drove back and forth between the Northern Neck and Alabama, making 125 round trips in all, accompanied by three faithful and willing dogs in succession, I increasingly came to appreciate the welcome centers and rest stops. On one occasion, exhausted and fearful of falling asleep, I pulled into a spot in Tennessee, quickly began communing with Morpheus and forgot the outside world.
I was awakened by Daisy, my constant companion, emitting a soft, but determined growl. She did not bark as such, but merely made her presence known by the somewhat less than melodic growl. I looked around and realized a car had pulled in next to us. Nothing was wrong, but Daisy wanted to let the driver know not to bother us.
Getting out of the car, I spoke to the driver, a nice gentleman who was quite friendly. He remarked, “Mister, with that dog in the car, you have nothing to fear.” When I got back in the car, I said to Daisy, “Good dog!” She nodded approval, knowing she had done her job. In later years her daughter, Daisy II, was less concerned with undertaking that responsibility, but still I was comforted by her presence while dozing off at the rest areas.
That incident came to mind when Virginia and Maryland instituted the ridiculous pseudo-budget-saving measure of closing the rest areas at night, the time when they are most useful to tired drivers. Fortunately, Virginia dropped the ill-conceived plan, but Maryland has adhered to it, as witnessed when traveling up U.S. 301 after crossing the Nice Bridge over the Potomac River between Dahlgren and Morgantown. Closing the rest stops is not the proper means to economize, as they are a legitimate service that government needs to provide its citizens and visitors.
Returning to my days to and from Alabama, I witnessed the construction of I-81 through the Shenandoah Valley into Southwest Virginia. Initially, most of my travel was on U.S. 11, passing through the delightful towns along the way. Gradually I-81 opened in a piecemeal fashion, a few miles at a time. Years later I learned from Kilmarnock’s Cindy Pittman that she had learned to ride her bike on the yet-to-be opened part in front of her family farm. At first truck traffic was sparse after the opening; now the road seems to have more semis than automobiles.
My trip was a total of 743 miles, house-to-house. Early on I stopped using motels and drove the course without overnight stays. Daisy seemed to prefer going that way as well; after all I did not want her keeping other travelers awake in a motel when emitting her growl when she heard a noise.
At the end of each summer, Daisy and her predecessor, Misty, knew when the time was coming to go south. I would pull my old Pontiac station wagon up to the door and spend most of the day packing and loading. As soon as I began the process, each of them would hop into the car, sit in the passenger seat and adamantly refuse to get out, even for necessities. I would have to put the leash on and actually lift the dog out of the car, take her for a walk, then let her get back inside. The trips were serious business for my pets.
In the years that have followed, all of my dogs have enjoyed car travel. The present two Welsh Corgis, actually the Elder B.E.’s dogs, like the car, but prefer to be on the floor on the passenger side, rather than on the seat observing the passing scenes.
Traveling with dogs was my lifeline in my bachelor days, a reminder of my grandmother telling me of her mother’s admonition, “Every boy should have a dog.”
I think the same for every girl as well.