req·ui·em/ˈrekwēəm/noun 1.(especially in the Roman Catholic Church) a Mass for the repose of the souls of the dead.
There is something about a three-quarter-ton pick-up, once I manage to make the standing leap into the cab and crank up the air conditioning to the “jet-engine” setting, that seductively whispers in my ear, “Perfect Purse.” It’s a flawless carryall for a certain sort of woman. For the years that I was on the road training in Colorado, I always brought a saddle, an oversize first aid kit including colic remedies, and a bucket of bits. Of course, I had a few sizes of halters in case I came upon any strays that needed wrangling, and two or three dog beds.
I bought my last used truck fourteen years ago. It had been a no-frills work truck, half of the dashboard gadgets didn’t work, but it had low miles. It also dropped its transmission the first month I had it. By the second month, I had repair bills that added up to just less than I paid for the truck and a reputation with tow truck drivers with dog hair aversions. How bad of a lemon was it? Friends who were watching the debacle unfold felt so sorry for me that they all chipped in and bought me a set of tires. Alas, the truck and I were in a long-term relationship at least until I was out of debt.
Eventually, I’d replaced most everything under the hood and it stopped breaking down, so I drove it through a few more sets of tires. It carried posts and wire when I re-fenced the farm. It stayed between the yellow lines on the road pulling horses home in ground blizzards more than once, always with a good dog or two in the passenger seat. After we crossed 200,000 miles, I stopped looking at the odometer. Last Christmas eve, I’d scored a huge bunch of fence panels from a Christmas tree lot, loaded them into my horse trailer, and headed home. The truck and I had time to talk on a long slow trudge up a long slow incline and I took the hint. The truck wasn’t dead yet, but it wasn’t going to outlive me.
With the help of a friend, a new truck was found, a beautiful monster in a sweet horse-manure-brown color with a huge chrome cowcatcher on front. All its dashboard implements work simultaneously. It’s a whole other kind of purse entirely. More like an evening bag… if you’re a certain sort of woman. It arrived and then parked beside the house for the next three weeks waiting for temporary tags. Some of the joy was killed by a COVID loan delay, followed by a weirder-than-usual pandemic at the DMV. Okay, I did drive it around the round pen a couple of times honking the horn at the geldings. It has a horn!
But I dawdled trying to figure how much my old truck was worth at nineteen years old. Should I donate it? Meanwhile, I got mushy driving it to the feed store. Things got positively weepy as I cleaned it out. I emptied the glove box filled with scribbled addresses of past clients, pulled my writing notebook off the dashboard, the jumper cables from under the seat, my extra jack, and that can of grease that’s rolled around for a decade. I just stared at a few old dressage pads in the gap between the front seats; the wool cooler on the floor in the back.
You’re like me. You can recognize a single strand of hair from a dog that died a few years back. It can be a sunny day and just like that, your lungs explode out your tear ducts. A memory of loss never goes away completely. Yes, I have dogs now, and this old truck became haunted early on, but the enormity of knowing I had lost more dogs than I would have in the future sucker-punched my heart and took my breath. I ached for the smell of puppy breath.
I thought of the line of good dogs who sat in the passenger seat and watched me give riding lessons. I called the truck their IMAX crate. When the driver’s side door was open, they’d sit behind the wheel waiting. They didn’t want out, they wanted me in. Dogs helped me find this farm and helped me survive the first years here. Some of the dogs came home for the first time in this truck, lost and afraid. We built my horse business driving over backroads and freeways together. The only way I can tell time is by the dogs that were there with me. Giving up this truck is the end of an era.
I sprayed Windex and wiped the last of the nose prints, remembering the dogs that rode in the blue truck before this white truck. The dogs who worked in the gallery with me over a 30-year art career when I had the red truck. The dogs that stayed when humans left. The dogs that walked me at night and then, pushed tight against me so I could sleep. The good dogs all the way back to my first VW Bug. The absolute best and worst days of my life have ended with me and a dog, bumping down the road, being relieved to share each other’s company.
Will I ever let those dogs rest in peace?
The Craigslist ad read: For Sale: Ford Truck, not a city truck. It was used for the purpose it was built for- farm work and hauling. Decent tires, Tow package. Nothing fancy, bumpers have been bumped, honest scrapes and dings. Tailgate missing for your loading convenience. Jump seat missing for your dog’s convenience. Cash only. No dealers.
There were so many texts in the morning, that I worried about parking. The first looker arrived, the man introduced himself and his wife. He checked under the hood and asked if I would start it. More questions, then could he test drive it. He opened the back door to his car, and with extreme politeness, asked me if his dog could get in the truck. With a chuckle, I assured him she wouldn’t be the first and opened the dog door. Others call it the suicide door. The three of them went for a test drive. Back just a moment later, he said he’d take it and offered full price. As I signed the title over, he asked if he could borrow the plates to get home. He promised to return them, showing me his military ID. I thanked him for his service, and he added that his dog was an emotional support dog. He said her name was Hero. I turned to look at her; a chocolate lab sitting behind the wheel with everything under control.
“And in this conditional world, it’s only dogs who believe in free love. Friendships naturally ebb and flow, the circle of life can’t be controlled or altered much, but dog love is eternal. Let there always be dogs.” -Anna Blake
Anna Blake for Relaxed & Forward
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