In June, 2014, my dog and I are setting off on a 10-day trip across the continent from of Ojai, California to my hometown of Toronto, Canada. In August, we’ll drive home along an entirely different route. This is our summer on the road, a couple of middle aged pals in search of America – or simply whatever strikes my fancy to write about. I intend this to be the first, season-long segment of an ongoing webpage featuring my writings about Place. Feel free to join us on the journey:
THE DOG: This is Gunter. I didn’t name him. His previous owner is a friend of mine who, in March, 2012 , was looking for a home with more than a postage-stamp sized yard for her dog to run around in. She named him Gunter because he is a German hunting dog (a German short haired pointer) and Gunter rhymes with Hunter. Those of us who speak German instinctively pronounce it Guenther (Geuen-tayr), rather than Gunter (Gunn-tur), but I managed to adapt. Within a week my teenaged son had given him the nickname Goon Dog, and that quickly stuck. Today he answers to all three, and even to Boo Boo, which mysteriously comes out of my mouth sometimes, perhaps recovered from a deep memory recess in my primitive brain which stored the Yogi Bear cartoon I watched during childhood. I also have been known to call him Magoo, as in Mr. Magoo. I can only surmise that an intimate unequal relationship, such mine with my dog, taps into the realm of the psyche where childhood resides. But enough amateur analysis.
Goon Dog is nine years old, a bit of a goofball, and a really affectionate, gentle soul. When we had a baby living with us for a few months, she could sit on him, grab his ears, pull his hair and perform other minor indignities and he would merely sit calmly, like the Buddha, his brown eyes occasionally looking up for some understanding. He has already mentored a puppy. And when out on the trail, he presumes every other dog is going to be his best friend and then is surprised if one reacts in the least aggressively. Gunter is fairly obedient but he is, alas, a cat chaser. And his bird-hunting instincts are such that a chicken coop would be out of the question.
I admit it; he owns the couch. But when guests come over, I switch out the fleece doggie blanket for a mauve and blue cotton spread from India. If I even glance at my hiking boots, Gunter is up off the couch, jumping and pacing, thrilled to hop in the car and then onto the trail. But for the most part, he sets his own schedule, going in and out of the house at will through his doggie door and amusing himself with the natural critters on my 1.2 acre lot while I do what I do. He is a country boy. I’m sure it will not be easy for him to be on a leash, in parking lots, walked in the morning and evening, with myself at the ready, plastic bag in hand, a canine hygiene practice which is decidedly foreign to those of us who live in truly rural areas.
I’m not a hard-core ‘Dog Person’ who seeks to build an enormous blog subscription base of dog lovers worldwide. This space will feature much more about our travels than about the dog. But it seemed appropriate to introduce him as we start out on our journey. And yes, I am very fond of him – and he adores me. Now, let’s see how we do spending hours together in a car and in roadside motel rooms in more than a dozen states. Stay tuned.