And so, the car was packed, and I came out from my parent's apartment, maps in hand and asked Steve and Josie "Where is Molly?"
She'd been happily licking out a peanut-butter stuffed bone in the living room. I knew Josie had let herself out to help Steve (or, you know, to get away from my shushing), so the "too quiet" part never occurred to me, as I tried to find some side routes on the map, sitting at my mom's plastic-covered dining room table and inhaling stale potpurri.
Heart in throat, I called her, hoping that Molly was just eating rabbit poo behind the building, as is her wont. But I knew that it had been ten minutes or so that she'd been out, and she's a runner. Steve and Josie walked around and called her, and I jumped in our own car, rationalizing that she'd recognize it before she'd clue into me in the rented car (she's about as sharp as a sack of wet mice, if you didn't know), and began driving slowly, calling out the window in the slight drizzle, and praying I wouldn't see her furry tri-coloured carcass on the road. Because that would really cast a pall on the first "real" vacation we've had in four years, wouldn't it? Craning to see into back yards, thinking sometimes that I shouldn't call her when I was on a busier street so she wouldn't run into traffic (she's stupid that way), and asking strangers, I alternately fought then conjured hysteria.
I came back to my folks' home, and thought about karma - can it work within the same lifetime? On our visit there two weeks before, I'd found a stray dog when walking Molly. It had been on a Sunday, so the SPCA was closed, and I called the Dog Warden, whose closed office's message directed me to the police. As I left the stray's information with dispatch, various family members rolling eyeballs at how I often put myself out over such things, I just hoped I was doing some good. So the number and procedure were handy now that it was Molly's turn, and the Warden's office was open. Leaving Molly's description (Bassetty, slobbery, doofusy, purple collar), I left my cel number and prepared to cruise the neighbourhood again. I called my dad's cel, hoping they'd come home quickly from the racetrack to help look (fat chance) - and while I was on the line, the Dog Warden's office beeped in. Thank goodness that unlike us, my parents don't mind spending the extra money on Call Waiting, and that when I'm at their house, I indulge myself in the rudeness of using it.
Molly had been picked up by a police officer, who'd just dropped her off. Dashing up to the pound, I thanked lucky stars, good karma and any powers that be that we weren't going to have to ruin Josie's first big vacation by explaining how pets die from being hit by cars, or run away forever, especially when little girls let them out of the house by accident and don't tell their mommies and daddies they did and the daddies in the family don't notice and the mommies couldn't have known. As I pulled up and looked into the chain-link kennels at the motley crew (I know - I wanted to type Mötley Crüe too) of doggie characters, I could hear Molly baying inside the building. The kind warden didn't even charge me the $25 fee, because she didn't even fill out the paperwork, and she just wanted the very loud slobbery beast to leave.
So, on the way back home with the fugitive, I stopped at a PetSmart (being grateful, for once, for charmless large chain stores in every American suburb) to have a tag made up for Molly's collar with my parents' address. There's your tip -- if you're traveling with your pet, or boarding it - make sure the temporary info is handy or available. Otherwise, the warden would have been calling our number in Canada, and I'd never have thought in my panic to call home to get the message if someone else had found her.
That meant that our long drive started later than we'd planned, or hoped, or had even realized it might. Still, we kept to the side routes, watching the fog roll in as we entered Pennsylvania.
We passed through small towns, smiling at the diagonal parking and the low-key feel - but also not seeing any places that begged us to stop and explore. You'd think they roll up the sidewalks on a Saturday evening.
We zigged, and zagged, and drove through some of the many state parks. At one in particular, we stopped in an area that was created as an elk and deer refuge. It also had bat boxes, with special bat nursery boxes to encourage the large local population. It was a magical little break.
You see, one of Josie's dearest wishes for the trip was to see deer on the side of the road. After she fell asleep in the car, the deer would come out, and Steve would glimpse them. You know, they'd be putting on the deer show at the side of the road, looking gentle and wild and still, an entire deer family one time - but Josie didn't see any, and was eager to. And whining to.
So, when we stopped off at this place, where deer were supposed to come in the hour before twilight, we had our hopes up. Crickets hopped around our ankles, the place quiet and misty and lovely. Of course no deer came, they were probably snickering at the silly tourists from behind the bushes.
We had to move on, the only dream realized that of Josie's being the one peeing in nature. She really wanted to pee by a tree, as at one point Steve and I had to make a roadside pitstop, though she didn't have to go then. It had become a mission for her, one better accomplished sooner, as whining about wanting to pee by a tree too is just so ridiculous.
As much as we like rural routes, there gets to a point where it's blah blah blah train tracks blah blah blah mountain ahead blah blah blah small town. Then, we had to turn back due to a accident on one road, where it could have been a matter of a ten minute wait or a two hour wait. Then, another trip along blah blah blah train tracks blah blah blah mountain ahead blah blah blah small town - in the growing darkness, with no small motels or any place to stay in sight. After too much time in the glare of oncoming brights on twisty roads with sheer drops on one side and cliffs on the other, we headed to a Holiday Inn off the highway. So, no to the Good family staying at a quirky motel - it was puffy pillows and a pool and a Denny's for dinner. No view, no charm. The only redeeming feature, apart from the fact that Josie loved the pool, was that Steve found combs in the vending machine. The well-designed package was appealing, but it was when it was opened to show the comb had been molded with the word "unbreakable" that we felt it was fate.
One of Steve's tattoos is shown here, and he got it because as a family, we're unbreakable (like Ace rubber combs, if you don't have a remarkable grasp of the trivial like we do).
Now, the funniest thing from when Steve got his latest tattoo was that the artist remarked, in response to Steve's question about how the TV shows like Miami Ink have changed tattooing was "Well, the biggest problem is that people think I give a shit about why they're getting a tattoo." But in this case, it was important for our family to be reminded that though we have a stupid wandering dog, the much needed and anticipated road trip was fizzling already, and a Mustang is really too small for a comfortable trip through an America that is growing ever more bland - we're unbreakable.