another chapter from the Book of Brutus, the Wonder Dog
Shortly after taking Brutus to Big Bend, I quit my job at the Brown Schools, broke up with my girlfriend, and moved out of the house. Free from those constraints, I was ready to pack up and leave — except now I had a dog. And the van wasn’t really running so great, so when my old buddy Mike offered a ride out to California for me and Brutus, I jumped at the chance — not so much as solution as diversion.
Brutus proved to be a great long-distance rider, mostly settling into his spot in the back seat of Mike’s little sports car, lying there and resting as the miles rolled by. That is, “resting” until we’d get to a designated rest area. Once there, we’d open the door, releasing this dog-sized bundle of exploding energy where he would race around the whole rest area at breakneck speed, then head back to jump into the car.
At one stop, as he finished zooming around the place, he ran over and jumped into the wrong car car momentarily. As usual, though, his friendly manner got him praise and pets instead of causing problems. Another time, he ran up to a car where a tired woman was resting her arm on the window sill. Brutus reached up and licked her arm, startling her into a sudden scream, before she relaxed and started laughing and assured us she was fine.
We stopped late in the night somewhere in Arizona and got a room. As it turned out, the room had 3 beds, so Brutus got his very own bed, which he loved — once I managed to convince him it was okay for him to stay up there. As we got ready to leave in the morning, Brutus got revved up running back and forth across the 3-beds in our room, burning up energy and prepping for his long day sleeping in the back seat.
Our second day included the drive across the Death Valley desert. After an hour of this, the car’s AC was barely managing to cool the air off to a lukewarm breeze coming out of the vents. I looked back to see how Brutus was doing — and found he had knocked the top off the little cooler back there and was holding his head over the cooling vapors rising off the rapidly melting ice. “Dog!’ I yelled and pushed his head away, closing the cooler and moving it away from him. He gave me a hurt look as if to ask why I ruined his solution to the heat.
Visiting our friends in Sausalito, Mike and Kathryn, may have been fun for us, but gave Brutus little to do in the day but take a short walk or two around the neighborhood. On Saturday, though, we bundled up for an outing and Brutus got excited riding with all 4 of us people in the car as we wandered up the coastline to Point Reyes.
Unfortunately, signs as we approached Pt. Reyes National Seashore pointed out the obvious: dogs were not allowed on the beach. Well, we managed to sneak him into the park past the checkpoint, so we continued to hope for the best. But we were quickly spotted on the beach by a ranger riding a horse who trotted up to us, with Brutus acting a bit intimidated the Extremely Big Dog (the horse).
The ranger suggested we could try the nearby nude beach, so we wandered back to the car to search that out. What none of us guys knew at the time, was that although we were all used to skinny-dipping from back at Lake Travis, Kathryn had never been skinny-dipping in her life. Suddenly, she found herself getting naked with her boyfriend and 2 strange friends of his from Texas. She uttered not a protest, though, instead braving the new experience we had forced her into.
Well, this nude beach was a lot different than Paleface Park. Mostly because no one was swimming. I made some noise about going into the water, but our host, Mike, laughed, and said, “Go ahead — I live here, so I know better.” Sure enough as I touched my toes to the lapping waters, it was cold — not just tinglingly cold, but bone-chillingly cold. I hesitated briefly, but I had not come to the edge of the world to to not get into the water.
Now, let me explain about Brutus and water. He could swim just fine, but he preferred not to. Generally, he would stand at the water’s edge just watching me. If I went out too far, or stayed gone too long, he would eventually venture into the water long enough to swim straight to me as if to tag up, and then turn to go to the closest piece of land available.
So I wasn’t too surprised to see Brutus watching me as I wandered out into the surf. By the time I got far enough out that the waves would lift me up from the ground and break over my head, sure enough, here he came, head bobbing just above the water as he swam straight towards me. The wave that had just washed over me swelled as it reached him and then I saw it sweep completely over his head. In a moment, he showed up again, head bobbing as he double-timed swimming away from me back to the shore. When he reached it, he shook off and gave me a last look,as if to say, “You’re on your own out there.”
We spent another day or two in California before we had to head back. Mike and I loaded the sports car for the ride back to Texas and held the car door open for Brutus. Beaming as he bound into the back seat and took up his spot, Brutus shot me a look asking, “Where to next?”