The “red” dogs, as I call them, (Razzie and blond Bodie), and I have been traveling quite a bit recently. The end of June we went to Jackson, Mississippi for a few days to attend a dog show. Razzie did a marvelous job for a two-year old, coming home with nine ribbons, of which six where blue. She was exhausted by Sunday. Bodie was there for socialization and worked in the training matches. You never know what will happen at a dog show and this event didn’t disappoint us. There was a Comic-Con convention in another part of the building, which meant people in strange outfits were walking around the parking lot or standing in line each time we took our dogs outside. But as far as I know no dogs where scared witless and no characters were chased off by one of our canine entrants.
Last weekend the red dogs and I went to DeLand, Florida for what is called a Dog Camp but is actually an intense weekend of obedience training. This was my kind of camping because it didn’t require eating outside, bugs or outhouses. After the days activities were done the participants went off to homes or hotels with air conditioning and bathrooms and showers with hot and cold running water, thank goodness, because the humidity was unbelievable, the heat index rose to record levels. Simply unloading the van in the evening made me afraid that my dogs would succumb to heat stroke. I had three loads of stuff to run into my hotel room, with the dogs last. But they survived and we all sat in front of the AC unit in the room and literally chilled out.
When it was time to drive home from the hotel in Daytona Beach, I loaded the dogs in the van at five a.m. At that hour I had the roads almost entirely to myself and headed over to Ormand Beach to Route 40, the east/west connector back road to Ocala and Interstate 75. Route 40 is also called the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway but I saw no bears that weekend.
At one point as I was driving on highway 40 I looked in the rear view mirror and felt a strong desire to slam on the brakes and pull off to the side of the road. The sun was coming up, a red and yellow glow covered the lonely two lane highway like a watercolor painting. I wanted to stand in the middle of the road, on the double line, with my camera and take a picture. Common sense stopped me, regretfully. Many times on the trip the same thing happened, such as when I admired dark clouds backlit by the sun or sharp streaks of lightning or huge clouds that looked like canine figures. I missed so many good photo opportunities that I became mad and cursed myself. The only time I really regret not stopping was in a little town in the middle of the state, still on Route 40. On the way over I saw a tall giraffe and a rearing horse and a bull standing next to the road with more animals standing like sentinels behind a tall fence. Mesmerized, it was hard not to stop but it was stifling hot. There was no way I could leave the dogs in the van. Now on the way back I came across the same business, now closed, the town quiet and desolate. There was nowhere to safely pull over and I could have stayed there for hours and taken picture after picture, but again too hot to leave the dogs in the van. These were, I’m guessing, fiberglass figures, painted in excruciating detail and all looked very real. I cannot find the name of the business but next time I’m stopping and spending an hour there with my camera.
My goal on the way home wasn’t to take the short and fast route, 75 north and then 10 west. I wanted to see the Gulf Coast shoreline again after my last visit about eight years ago. I drove under I75 onto Route 27 and found myself in horse heaven, with mile after mile of meticulously groomed horse farms with Paso Fino horses and thoroughbreds, and/or herds of cattle. Tall locked gates led to clean barns and paddocks, with the owner’s homes so perfect that I imagined they were featured in prestigious home design advertisements. In between these properties were those that were abandoned or neglected, for sale, perhaps farms that had been in the family for generations but now have no one or no money to continue. The prosperous horse and cattle breeders lived next door to people down on their luck, a patchwork of haves and have-nots, success and failure.
Eventually I made it to the shoreline where hurricanes had once decimated homes and businesses. Now there is no sign of the devastation, people have built right on the lip of the beaches, not caring or believing that one day another hurricane will lift the new buildings up into the air. I shook my head in disbelief.
The dogs were quiet in their crates all the way home. Finally released to their back yard at home they ran and stretched and became pets again. As I was bringing them back into the house, out of the corner of my eye I saw something small and white struggling on the ground. A violent storm had come through my area a few minutes before I arrived. The wind had knocked down a nest of baby squirrels, possibly only a few hours old. There was nothing I could do to save them. The next time I went out the creatures were gone. Maybe they were saved by their mother. I’ll never know.
This week the storms have come off the Gulf Coast every afternoon, pouncing on us suddenly with their power, deluging us with water and then disappearing north. I’m told this is the normal cycle for Florida. Previous summers have been very dry. Now the grass is lush and beautiful but the dogs come in the house with wet feet, a trade-off.
I’m glad to be home, back to a normal life, but back to the reality of TV and sensationalism and politics. Sigh.