Being a free roaming dog, Ted sometimes chose to hitch a ride with me in the farm truck. It was easier than walking for sure and often times it went to territories outside of a day’s walk or trot if you will. Most of days he would ride in the back of the pickup up on top of the rectangular diesel fuel tank up near the cab that we used to fuel up tractors left in the fields. It was of perfect height to allow a full size yellow lab/golden retriever dog to stand on and just see over the cab. Down the road we would go with Ted’s nose to the wind and his body leaning this way and that to maintain balance as we went around corners.
Only twice in my memory did he ever lose his footing on this perch and one of those was his choice. During his younger days he had decided to give chase to a rabbit and completely forgot the fact that we were traveling around 40 miles per hour down a gravel road. By the time his body quit spinning down the shoulder of the road and got the dust shook free of his fur, he had completely forgotten about chasing the rabbit but he did learn a lesson. The second time occurred while going around a curve on a highway when for unknown reasons, he lost his footing. If it weren’t for the scraping sound of toenails digging into the top of the diesel tank, he would have probably fallen off and died. But as luck would have it, with most of his body hanging over the road and only the two front paws digging in preventing him from hitting the pavement, we were able to get almost completely stopped before he lost grip completely. I would have thought he might have been skittish over this but he hopped right back up on the tank for the duration of the trip.
On cold days or rainy days or simply days when I needed companionship, I would let him up into the cab of the truck. He would hop up on the bench seat and sit right next to me, butt to butt, shoulder to shoulder as we drove down the road. It always embarrassed me and I’m sure amused passersby to see us driving by looking like two lovers out for a cruise. As my grandpa used to say, “There’s one of those trucks that take two to drive.”
One of my favorite pictures of Ted hangs in the hallway of my parent's home and was taken of him in the farm truck. It was one of those sunny fall days and my brother and I were windrowing pumpkins for a buyer to load later on. Ted had joined us but had decided to sleep the day away on the seat of the pickup. I had picked a small pumpkin earlier and set it between his front paws and he had fallen asleep cradling the pumpkin with his paws and head resting on top. The lighting was perfect in the morning sun. One of my parents snapped the picture. I would post this picture of Ted on my blog but his life and my life as a camera owner never coincided.
Towards the last couple years of his life when the arthritis really started setting in, he was unable to jump up into the bed of the pickup or even the cab. He had good days and bad days like perhaps anyone with the disease so I would sometimes forget. I would hop into the cab and hear a low whine coming from outside the door. I would have to get out, walk around the back, and lift Ted up and into the bed before proceeding. He could still leap down on all but the worst of days so I didn’t often have to hoist him out.
Ted died in the early nineties and over the years most of my memories have faded to the point where I remember the incident but can no longer visualize it like a home movie as I used to be able to do. But two of the images remain crystal clear. The first being the picture of him cuddling the pumpkin in the pickup mostly because I have a picture of it that I see every time I go back to the farm. The second mental image is of him and my father driving down the driveway, my father behind the wheel and a large reddish brown dog leaning heavily on his shoulder like two young lovers in one of those pickups that take two to drive.