Everything changes when there’s a dog in the car.
Turn down the speakers in the back – so much for surround sound. Repack the luggage to leave the rear clear – cases go on the seats, so there’s a huge empty area in the back.
And if it’s a road trip, stop every couple of hours for walks around crap-covered grassy knolls, all the time muttering, “Good boy. You can do it. C’mon already – just squeeze it out.”
Like I said, everything changes.
This was our first road trip with Elvis. We’d driven to Memphis to collect him from his breeder, and now, at eight months old, he was coming home with us to become our family dog. Elvis is a purebred Clumber Spaniel, like a giant white Cocker, already 60 lb. and very hairy. He wasn’t quite sure what was going on but came with us all the same.
It helped that my wife and I were driving a 2015 Cadillac Escalade Premium – a $94,000 SUV with all the bells and whistles that General Motors can slather onto it. Our two teenage boys took over the heated leather of the second row, and the third row lay flat to make space for a large dog crate. All our luggage was stuffed around the sides of the crate and Elvis looked out from it and over the tops of the seats at us, puzzled about his circumstances.
“He looks sad, Dad. Do you think he’s sad?” asked my youngest, as we drove over the Mississippi from Memphis and onto Arkansas’ northbound interstate.
“What’s that smell?” asked my eldest, looking at his brother, before they both looked at the dog and realized the source.
The Escalade wasn’t the only thing full of gas that afternoon. The big Cadillac was consuming 12.8 L/100 km of regular gas (though Premium is recommended for better performance) and Elvis was probably emitting about the same.
This was going to be a long drive: almost 1,700 km from Memphis to our Canadian home, just east of Toronto. We’d driven down in one shot through the night, following a route that included Detroit, Cincinnati, Louisville and Nashville, but the GPS showed this alternate route was only marginally longer. It would take us north toward St. Louis but then cut over to Indianapolis and up toward Detroit, and I hoped the highway would be less chewed up by road works than on the way south.
It was smooth, but it wasn’t scenic. The flat fields of Arkansas and then Missouri were desolate under a heavy November sky; none of the passengers bothered looking out the windows. Well, except Elvis, who sat up every now and again and peered at his countrymen in their cars and trucks as we cruised by at a steady 75 mph. They didn’t notice him slipping past behind the tinted glass.