Sunday, 15 January 2012

Jango's Trip Across Canada

As poor old Jango heaved himself into the passenger side of the Dodge Caravan, his back paws smacked lightly against the sill of the door panel, an effect of his recent doggie stroke.  He was naturally excited as dogs can be at the prospect of an outing. A trip to the beach?  A walk around the lake?   He had no idea, the poor bugger.

We had removed the passenger seat as there was no where else for him to lie down;  the van was packed floor to ceiling with electronic equipment, tools, bags full of clothes and  towels, guitar cases and the odd small appliance.  Did he notice this?  Did he notice that he lay on his fleecy bed that was normally on our deck?  And that his favourite squeaky toy was by his side?  He looked at me apprehensively and I realized he knew that this was not an ordinary car ride and I worried about the consequences the journey would have on him.

Jango, a gentle giant of 115lbs, over twelve years of age was about to embark on a long trek across Canada, from Victoria, B.C.  to Stratford, Ontario.  We were moving.  He wouldn’t be alone of course, Del, my other half, (one of Jango’s preferred people) was his chauffeur and travelling companion. As I waved goodbye, watching the van with 15ft trailer in tow, pull away from the curb, I was secretly relieved that there was no available space for me, but I feigned regret, blowing kisses, and prepared to fly on ahead to spend time with my mother in Toronto.

The first night for our travelers was relatively uneventful.  They arrived in good time into a campground just outside of Hope, BC Jango slept comfortably on his fleecy pillow under the van canopy outside.  Del, however had to re-arrange his planned sleeping compartment; it had become smaller during the packing, he discovered it was too squat and cramped, his feet rested on the accelerator pedal and his body was in the rather hairy area of where Jango had just lain.  Eventually, he managed to get somewhat comfy, said, “Goodnight Jango pupps.”  And fell asleep. 
Early next morning, on the road it began to rain, and rain and really rain.  A variety of radio stations as well as much loved CDs, such as Mark Knoffler, Doobie Brothers, Django Reinhardt (Jango’s namesake), Tom Petty and the Beatles, kept their spirits up as Del sang along.  Early evening the rain still had not abated and so they checked into a campsite.  Jango was drenched from going out for a pee, and the torrential down pour also prevented him from sleeping outside.  This had not been planned for.

They both settled in for a quiet night’s sleep.  However, the campsite turned into a party zone for teenagers as soon as the rain stopped and the loud music grew to a crescendo of festive whooping it up!  Jango paced and fussed stepping on his master and smelling literally like wet old dog.  When Del found Jango’s backside staring him in the face, he tried to wedge some plastic container lids as a barrier between them, looking for a bit of privacy, a bit of a break from the smell.  But with Jango so restless from the social activities, it was very difficult and Jango couldn’t understand why there should be distance and would insist on snuggling in closer.  Finally at around 11:00 p.m. the carousing stopped and the two began to fall asleep in their separate plastic cubicles. 

However, the nap was short-lived as all hell-broke loose with the bangs and pops of firecrackers.  Jango began to whimper, to shake and lay right on top of Del’s head, pushing his nose in between Del’s legs.  “Bloody Hell, what the f*#@ is going on?”  Del’s  yelling like that only made Jango tremble even more as Del jumped up and pushed his beloved doggie away.  Outside the fireworks were getting louder.  Jango, who grew up close to Butchart Gardens in BC, where fireworks happened every Saturday throughout the summer months was terrified and had never enjoyed.  He usually had to be shut in a closet or the bathroom while the display was on.  There was nothing to do, but start the engine and drive away from the noisy colourful display.  Jango banged his head a few times and fell over as he would not lay down.  Del looked at the clock and it was just past midnight, he had no idea where he was going, he was just trying to find a quiet spot to help Jango settle down.  Eventually, he found a desolate side street, pulled over and Jango lay down again on his bed and started to sleep.  Del slumped over the steering wheel in the driver’s seat and had a sporadic snooze.  Not sure how much time went by when there was a tapping at the window, a policeman with a flashlight…..Crikey!  what next?  Del thought.

“What seems to be the problem here Sir?”
Yawning, he replied. “Well, I don’t want to lie down with a wet dog, that’s all.”
“Do you have some I.D and what’s in the trailer?”

After a short explanation and a bad joke about letting sleeping dogs lie, the policeman directed Del to a motel that allowed pets.  Finally a dry bed and pillow and Del was dead to the world well past ten in the morning.  He had a shower, watched the news and a huge breakfast and Jango also benefited from a bit of bacon. 
When he called me in Toronto and explained their trip so far, all I could say was, “I am so glad I am NOT with you.”  However, he was optimistic that the trip could only get better. Unfortunately the month of June across Canada proved to be one of the wettest and all the scenery that he was so excited to see was lost in fog and wet wind.  All the fields Jango longed to explore and sniff were brief episodes, only traces of wild scents washed clean by the falling rain.  Too soon he was ordered back to the van before he had any chance of interpreting the old residue from passing animals.  His instinct was to stay and linger but this was not to be.  His ever hopeful doggie dreams were dashed and he reluctantly returned to the confined space of the moving vehicle.

After a few more days, the optimism Del had felt began to dissipate.  Large trucks barreled past spraying pints of  water onto his windscreen, blinding his view.  Each time he swore aloud, Jango would shudder, giving Del a hurt expression, glancing around for a place to escape to.  “Not you Jango Pups.”  And Del would give him a reassuring pat. But after many occasions, Jango wasn’t convinced and for the first time seemed afraid of his ill-tempered master.  It was getting dark and Louise the annoying voice of the  GPS unit kept commanding that Del was driving in the wrong direction.

Now too exhausted to drive, sick of the rain, sick of feeling road rage, sick of Louise’s voice and sick and tired of placating Jango. He wished for sunshine and a slightly less doggie companion. Ahead, he saw a hill and turned off the highway and drove toward it.  He had no idea why, just to get away from the traffic, he was lost and it was dark, all he knew was that he was now somewhere in Ontario near Thunder Bay.  He drove to the top, the signs said there was some kind of rest spot, but because of the road works it didn’t state where or what the spot was.  He parked and decided they would stay the night, there was no one else there.  The rain had just stopped and he and Jango got out of the van to explore.

They both lumbered along as Del tried to get his bearings, wondering why on earth he thought this was going to be a fun trip.  Ahead in the dark, he glimpsed some kind of large statue and so he walked toward it.

A sudden leap of understanding, as this was not an ordinary statue.  It was a memorial to an amazing and courageous, young man.  He was 22 and he had run across Canada with only one leg, of course it was Terry Fox.  The artist had captured his determination and agony, and each soft brown curl on his head. How trivial Del's agitations now seemed.  He had just driven across Canada in an air conditioned, automatic transmission, Dodge Caravan, a luxury indeed, compared to what Terry had to endure.  He had never given much thought to Terry Fox, not living in Canada when he had been alive.  And now standing looking up at Terry in the dark, Del truly felt humbled and blessed.  And even though the signs said, No Camping.  He and Jango spent the night with Terry.

From there the rain cleared and the scenery was beautiful, the sun, at last began to shine; Corny but true.  Jango spent over a month in Damax Kennels in Stratford while we looked for a house to buy.  When I worried again about him during the heat wave in July, Maxine, the caring lady who ran the kennel, emailed me a few photos of Jango, which brought a huge smile to my face and made me laugh.  It was of Jango and his new girl friend, Dolly playing in a wading pool along with his beloved squeaky toy.


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