“These puppies won’t be weaned for a while yet, but I have one here that’s ready to go home with you right now,” said the breeder as he poured us a glass of sherry. The little guy was shaking with fright as he was deposited in my lap. I petted him to put him at ease, and it worked! He focused his gaze on a plush tiger twice his size on the backrest of the couch, leaped at its throats and began shaking it to pieces.
“He’s perfect; we’ll take him!” I said impulsively. My better half would remind me of those words for the next sixteen years, as we came to realize that he may have been a “return” by a previous buyer.
Jack Russell puppies are a nature’s way of testing your patience and sense of humour, but fortunately, Ringo was fully grown and somewhat tame by the time I graduated to highway driving. My wife had a full-time job, and with “grandma and grandpa” not always there to babysit, it looked like I had got myself a swamper. Now, I’ve seen many drivers with canine companions, but usually of the white fluffy type, not like our pint-size terrorist. I was a bit apprehensive of how this would work out as we set off on a five-day trip to Alberta.
I was pleasantly surprised when Ringo was on his best behaviour, instinctively understanding the rules that kept us both safe. From then on, he would be at the back door whenever he saw me pack my trucking bag.
He became a regular visitor in several small-town “shipping and receiving” offices as I attended to the paperwork. Fortunately, the ladies did not realize that his meandering from desk to desk was actually a hunting expedition for unattended snacks.
He caused Customs officers to break into smiles (OK, maybe just the female officers) and kept me warm at night in -30 weather in Edmonton.
But the best part was the mandatory walks that cleared the stupor of the road from my head and straightened out my sore back. We found some incredible scenery and had many “I can’t believe they pay me for this” moments.
Our favourite place on the Edmonton run was the pretty little Portal Lake on the BC - Alberta border. A short trail cut through the woods and along the lakeshore and took exactly 30 minutes, making the grumpy woman who lived in the electronic log system happy. We arrived one late afternoon and found the car parking area empty. Great, we’ll have the place to ourselves! But instead of his usual enthusiasm, Ringo refused to follow me. With a lot of coaxing, we made it back to the truck and resumed the trip. A short distance away, there were numerous cars and RVs, haphazardly stopped all over the road. The occupants were milling about on the shoulder, some holding toddlers. (A former Park Ranger gave the Latin name “Touri Ignoramus” to some park visitors - for a good reason!) Adjacent to the roadway was a mountain stream, presently occupied by several bears - big guys, with humps on their backs. Fortunately for everyone, fishing appeared to be good, so they were busy getting lunch. As we slowly drove by, Ringo quietly surveyed the scene from the passenger seat and gave me an, “I told you so look.” I reached over and scratched his ears. “OK little man, from now on, I’ll listen to you!”