By Sharon Lynch
All that was missing was an elbow hanging out the open window. It was a warm fall day, and the truck was parked in the grocery store’s lot, windows down. A pleasant breeze carried the scent of bread and sunshine on pavement. The truck’s occupant watched as people moved back and forth between vehicles and the automatic store doors. It was a good spot for people watching, and Murphy’s head moved back and forth as he kept an eye out for his companion.
After about twenty minutes the driver returned. She told Murphy to move over so she could climb back into the driver’s seat, and he obliged willingly. He knew he couldn’t stay behind the wheel. Dogs don’t drive. Their legs can’t reach the pedals.
Sarah reached over and rubbed Murphy’s ear in thanks. Once they were both settled, the two of them headed out of town for the drive home. Other dogs and drivers passed them on the road, some out for a leisurely drive and others clearly on a mission. A delivery truck driver, stopped at a red light, was having a conversation with the Great Dane seated beside him. The dog appeared to be listening intently, glancing over at the driver every now and then.
When he and Sarah were out for a drive, Murphy liked to lean his head out the passenger’s side, catching the smell of forests, lakes and all that could be found therein. It was especially satisfying after a rainfall, and he let his ears trail out behind him in the rush of air.
The two of them were friends. They were familiar with each other’s routines, likes and dislikes, when to give the other some space and when a little comforting would be welcomed. It had been that way for seven years.
On farmers’ market days, they strolled around the vendors’ tables with all the other dogs and their people. Murphy knew which dogs to avoid and which were good for a sniff. He knew this just by the way they walked and how their humans’ reacted when they saw Murphy and Sarah. Sometimes Sarah would talk to the human while Murphy sized up the other canine. Scared little ones might cower behind legs while confident, friendly dogs would walk right up to them, tail wagging while its owner looked on with pride.
The variety of dogs was as varied as the humans holding the leashes. Short leash or long, retractable or not, singles, couples and families all made their way through the market in companionable ease, unless there appeared a high-strung walker, human or canine. In such cases, Murphy noticed how these people grew nervous around the other dogs, perhaps worrying about their own unpredictable companion. But mostly everyone got along just fine, and the odd chronic barker or mischief maker was soon escorted out without much fuss. Murphy was always sad to see them go when this happened because he knew the dog probably preferred to stay and socialize but lacked the necessary skills.
In addition to checking out the local markets, Murphy enjoyed walking downtown with Sarah, especially when the weather was mild. There was always plenty of other walkers, both two and four-legged and sometimes Sarah’s friend Richard would join them along with Richard’s German Shepherd, Judy.
But what Murphy liked most of all was when the four of them went for a hike. He and Judy were allowed off-leash and were free to explore the trail at their own pace as interest dictated. Judy was especially drawn to old stumps while Murphy found culverts fascinating and just begging to be explored. That was usually when Sarah called him back, away from the culvert and all it might conceal. However, knowing a small treat was the reward for compliance, meant Murphy did as asked. Besides he wanted to be included on the next outing.
And that was when he chuckled to himself. Because although Sarah thought she had Murphy well-trained, he knew who really was in charge. After all – who got the treat?