My regular travel companion has four legs.
Banjo is an Australian shepherd-border collie mix. He is about 4 1/2 years old. I was introduced to him in March 2006 by my friends at the Humane Society of Central Oregon. I named him Banjo not because he’s high-strung (he is) but to honor A.B. “Banjo” Paterson, the Mark Twain of Australian literature. Paterson is so well known in Australia, his face graces the $10 bill. (You’ve heard of “The Man from Snowy River”? And “Waltzing Matilda”?) Imagine if the U.S. Treasury put a picture of Robert Frost on a bill instead of Alexander Hamilton (who?). That might lead some to believe the federal government would lend significant support to the arts … and we all know that’s not going to happen.
Banjo is sweet and smart, but he has his quirks. Indeed, he is psychotic. If he walked on two legs, he probably would be institutionalized … or at least have a good lithium prescription. I call him an attack dog, but he attacks only himself. Give him too much attention, like an extra scratch of the ear, and he bares his teeth and turns viciously upon his own haunches. Give him a canine-style gourmet meal (a few table scraps with the dried food, perhaps?) and he gets quite upset with his tail. Give him a soup bone and he spends at least 15 minutes growling and guarding it from invisible phantoms creeping from behind. My vet says he’s never seen anything like it. He wrote a prescription for Tian Ma Gou Teng Pian, a Chinese herbal supplement that’s supposed to relax my dog. He might as well have offered an all-expenses-paid trip to the Great Wall.
Nonetheless, Banjo is a good traveler. He has adopted my Kia Optima as his surrogate doghouse. Sometimes he sits beside me in the front seat (“Dog Is My Copilot”); on other occasions he retreats to a den in the trunk through a retracted rear seat. When we stop at a rest area, I often don’t use a leash, as he returns to the vehicle quickly on voice command. He loves to hike on forest trails and to scamper across sandy beaches.
But he is very protective of his space. He doesn’t tolerate strangers getting too close to his car. He especially doesn’t like intruders wearing day-glo vests, like gas-station attendants and road-construction crews. He’s got a real problem with semi trucks, whether we’re passing them on the freeway or encountering them traveling in an opposite direction. And he truly despises roundabout art. (There’s plenty of it here in Bend, and I’m not too fond of some of it myself.) One particularly ugly piece is at the Revere Avenue exit from the Bend Parkway southbound. You know the one: Its rusted hulk looks like the bombed-out remnant of the 1945 Hiroshima attack. I know now that when we pass, I must cover my ears or my eardrums will be blasted.
Banjo doesn’t mind sleeping overnight in the car, but he’d rather share my hotel/motel room. Fortunately, throughout the Northwest, there are lodgings that cater to dog lovers by setting aside special rooms. A few days ago, we overnighted at Belknap Hot Springs, which in addition to lodge rooms and luxury cabins has three rustic “dog-friendly” cabins available. At $65 for the night, this was a bargain with a full kitchen and bath. The only catch was that no linens or towels were provided; guests are expected to bring their own bedding to share with their dogs. No problem. Banjo enjoyed romping in the snow, chasing his Frisbee (hands down, his favorite toy … and he’s good!) And I appreciated a good warm soak in the mineral pools.
You’ll be reading more about Banjo in future blogs. Now he’s had a proper introduction.