In the fall of that first year I had Brutus (or more properly as I would come to understand, he had me), a friend and I were headed off to Chicago for a week. For the first time, I felt the anchor weight of having a dog to tend to.
Fortunately, my buddy, Mike, volunteered to host our erstwhile travel companion for the week, so I left Brutus with him down in Houston.
Me, I had a great week in Chicago.
It turns out Mike & Brutus had them some fun, too.
First off, Mike discovered a basic flaw in his plan for the week with Brutus. Monday morning, Mike took Brutus for a short walk and then put down food and water for the day in the apartment patio where he planned to leave him. As Brutus chowed down happily, Mike locked the sliding door to the patio, exited the apartment, and walked out to his car — where Brutus met him, tail wagging wildly and water dipping from his dangling tongue.
Taking Brutus back to the patio, Mike moved several pieces of patio furniture and boxes away from the six-foot wooden fence, reasoning the dog might have used those to get over it. Once again, he left a happy Brutus there on the patio and headed back to his car. And once again Brutus met him at the car. Indeed, throughout most of his life, Brutus would prove that, as small as he was, given the chance, he would still scale nearly any type or height of fence.
So, Brutus got to go to work with Mike all week, making him one happy doggie.
Mike had a long commute, from west Houston across town to sell new homes being built in a subdivision east of Pasadena. Pasadena has been affectionately referred to (by some) as “Stink-a-Dena” due to the high concentration of chemical processing activity and the ensuing pervasive and persistent industrial odors.
Driving past there one particularly odiferous morning that fall with the windows down, Mike looked over to see Brutus, head hanging out the window, a series of spasms tightening his mid-section. Mike watched as Brutus gagged a couple of more times and then heaved out the window, letting loose that morning’s breakfast kibble. Bringing his head back into the car, Brutus looked over at Mike somewhat sheepishly. Mike just shook his head, and said, “You’re right.”
So that became their daily routine (not the barfing, just the drive), and Brutus proved a pleasant enough workplace companion. When Mike was in the construction/sales office, Brutus just hung out on the cool linoleum floor, digging the AC. When Mike headed out onto the site to check construction or show houses, Brutus could tag along in the car, enjoying the ride.
Now, Mike had always been a bit of a terror as a driver to some of his friends. I personally left footprints bracing myself against his dashboard many times in high school, convinced we were about to die. Anyway, one day, as he’s racing across the sprawling subdivision (which is mostly a web of concrete street to houses and neighborhoods not there yet interspersed with construction sites and debris piles), he rounds a sharp left corner quickly, then glances over — and Brutus is not there any more.
Screeching to a halt, Mike turns to look over his shoulder and sees Brutus picking himself up from a pile of half-broken bricks and start trotting back to the car, somewhat dazed but barely rattled, really.
That was not the only quick exit from Mike’s car that week, either. One morning, Mike was in enough of a hurry that when he saw the traffic light on the highway turning yellow, he hit the accelerator instead of the brake and went sailing through the tail end of the yellow and the first couple of seconds of red. As he did, he glanced to his right, where he saw only one car — a police car.
“Damn!” he swore as he snapped his fingers, knowing he’d just gotten nailed. Sure enough, the cop rounds the corner with lights flashing and pulls Mike over.
“You know what you did,” the trooper calmly said, pulling his pad open, “And I know that you know what you did ’cause I saw you see me.” Mike didn’t try to deny it, so the cop was putting pen to his pad to start writing a ticket, when Brutus suddenly jumped out of the passenger window and took off running down the shoulder of the highway. Startled, the cop looked up, said, “Your dog!” and started off running after Brutus.
Mike decided not to shout out “He’s not my dog,” and the fellow caught up Brutus ,who gladly joined him for the stroll back to the car. The dog looked delighted but the trooper looked winded as he brought Brutus back to the car to talk to Mike. “Try to keep your dog in the car, sir, and —” taking a breath, “Let’s watch those lights, okay? I’m going to let you off with a warning this morning.”
Brutus got extra doggie treats that evening for helping Mike escape a costly ticket.