My family had dogs in my preschool years, though I can’t remember much beyond their names. By the time I was old enough to want a canine companion to call my own, a stepfather who did not believe in pets had entered my life. But my friends had dogs, and I very much enjoyed playing with them no matter the breed.
Eventually I lucked into marrying a fascinating woman who came with a dog. Mercedes was a stubborn old bitch of a golden retriever, set in her ways, determined to follow her own drummer. She accepted affection and companionship on her own terms. But she was a good snowshoe buddy, a fair retriever of tennis balls, and intermittently goofy in an endearing way. At some point my bride, Tamara, and I decided Mercedes needed another dog to keep her active.
Glenfiddich was our first venture into the world of canine rescue. He was a stunning nine month old blonde boy, gentle as they come, and at the smaller end of the breed standard. Watching him run across our meadow or launch himself into the pond at a flat out run always brought a smile to my face! When I was sick he would check on me, tuck me into bed, and stay with me just in case. When I showered he kept the bath matt warm. But he was still a pup at heart, with a young dog’s energy level, active most of each day and well into the night. Mercedes was just the opposite – ten minutes of play followed by ten hours of rest.
We decided Glenfiddich needed another dog to keep him active.
So we began fostering for the New York State rescue that had given us Glenfiddich. April, Shawnti, Killian, Canisius, Oliver, Harley, Penny, Cosette, Talisker and so many more came to us and moved on. Along the way we adopted Molson, a magnificent Alpha male who ran a tight pack. A remarkable dog who lived to sixteen years, he helped us form our own rescue and cemented our reputation in the rehabilitation of horribly abused golden retrievers.
Our core pack stabilized at three or four dogs. Cycles of love and loss. Tetley, my first soul dog, who bonded to me so strongly that he actually sang with joy when I came home at the end of the workday, was lost to hemangiosarcoma at seven years. Little Tuppence the Wonderbitch, whose antics and drive brightened our home till the day she died at age ten, also of hemaniosarcoma. Tadcaster, as good as a dog can possibly be, taken by lymphoma far too soon at the age of five. Barley, with his incredible prey drive, who tried to attack a bull moose at the tender age of ten weeks…while the older dogs fled the other way. Kazoo, 98 pounds of love and gentleness. And our most recent addition, Tullamore, a bright and extremely athletic field golden who is a master at sucking up.
The joy I felt at home with my wife and canine family conflicted with the joy I felt on the open road. Long distance dual-sport riders in general, and BMW riders in particular, tend to travel either solo or in pairs. I understand that many bikers enjoy the social aspects of riding in large groups where individual riding skill is secondary, but in my circles we find group rides about as exciting as merry-go-rounds, and our safety at the mercy of the least competent rider, well, no thanks! Different strokes for different folks.
But that independence comes at a price. As much fun as I have setting my own pace, deciding when and where to stop, to refuel, to eat, or to camp for the night, the bottom line is that solo evenings around the campfire are a little stale, my own company a little flat. And the nights are so long! Turn in early and I’m up at 3am. Turn in late and, well, I’m an early riser. Plus I could converse with my wife wherever there is cell coverage, but not with my dogs.
I found myself cutting trips short because I missed the dogs so much!