Saturday, August 13, 2011

Driving With Starbuck

Most of you know by now that I'm a dog-lover (cat-lover, too, but we're not discussing that at the moment). For a long time, I had three dogs. But, faced with the decision to pursue a career aspiration or "keeping the family together," I was forced to leave two of them. It's a decision that bothers me and will continue to do so. Hopefully, one day, I can get them back. Until that happens, though... it's just me and Starbuck.

L-R: Starbuck, Jax, Jasper - happier times

I've learned a lot about Starbuck over the past year of just him and me. You see, I initially acquired him for my then-girlfriend, who often liked to complain (playfully, of course) that she didn't have a dog that loved just her. Which was, I'll admit, true. Jax was mine (but adored the girlfriend) and Jasper was mine (but looked upon the girlfriend as his surrogate mother). She wanted a dog that was hers and hers alone.

Silly thought, yes, but I figured... why not?

So we went to a local PetSmart on a Saturday and spent some time looking at the not-great selection of dogs they had for adoption. There was Starbuck (named Skeeter - bleh - at the time), sitting in his cage, basically looking scared and curious at the same time. I could tell my girlfriend was on the fence, having something else in mind (probably a Yorky or some sort of purse-dog), but she was taken with his personality. Something about him screamed "I need you." We asked one of the workers if we could walk him around the store for a while, and that's what my girlfriend did. She probably won't admit it, but she found herself liking the guy. I told her to get him, and that I'd pay for everything. She balked at the price tag (rather hefty, I'll confess), but I said it was okay. She wanted a dog and I was more than willing to get her one (I will, however, also confess to being apprehensive about getting a third dog... keep in mind that, at that time, we also had six - SIX - cats).

Wondering where his mother is...

Long-story short, she took him home and he latched onto her like glue. Point of fact was that he was scared of me. It was revealed to us, both by the adoption worker and by the dog's behavior, that he was severely beaten by his previous owner. He avoided me like the plague, going so far to beg, scratch, and whine at the bedroom door whenever my girlfriend closed it. We had an on-again, off-again rule pertaining to no pets in the bedroom, and while we broke it often anyway, she always broke it for Starbuck.

Yeah, fine... he was hers. I'd pretend to argue, but I didn't really care. She loved that dog more than, again, she'd probably admit.

Over the years, we moved around a lot and my girlfriend took off for home, leaving me with Starbuck. It bothered him greatly, at first, but eventually he came around to trusting me. I can now raise my hand, sweep the floor with a broom, and put him in a vehicle without him freaking out (he used to throw up in cars... I'm thinking his previous owner locked him in the trunk or something).

So, another long-story short, Starbuck - the dog I didn't really want - became mine. He was stubborn, smart (showing a strange knack for escaping and problem-solving in general), and altogether loveable. He was reunited with my ex for a while, and it was clear that he (along with the other two dogs) remembered her fondly (which she'll deny... but I had a howling German Shepherd to prove it). The reunion didn't last very long, and he was mine alone once again.

Then came the decision to move for my career. I could only bring one dog with me. Jasper, the Shepherd, was too big and too loud. Jax (my preference, since I had him the longest) couldn't go, since there was already a dog living where I'd be moving to, and she wasn't spayed (Jax still has his nuts). So, by default, I took Starbuck... fearing countless escapes and altogether bad behavior.

Only... it never happened. Yes, he escaped from a gated, concrete-and-brick-walled yard the first week there, but as he was alone (without his escape buddy, Jax), he generally stuck around. He became my best friend. I found I could walk him around town without a leash. I found he got along with other dogs extremely well, even whining when he could smell a German Shepherd or other large dog (I'm guessing he initially thinks they're Jasper). I found he was a good companion for my cats (although maybe not my squirrels). I found, truly, I had a good and loyal friend. A dog I was never even supposed to have.

Caught in the act...

Now, one of things I used to do with all three dogs was go on drives, hikes, and road-trips in general. They used to ride happily in the back of my pickup, enjoying each other's company in anticipation of the adventures ahead. Obviously, without the other two, riding in the back is now lonely proposition.

So... I started letting Starbuck ride in the passenger seat up front. Not an easy decision, mind you, as cleaning his white hair on my charcoal gray upholstered seats is not something to look forward to. But I just couldn't leave him by himself.

That's when I discovered his fear of driving at night. Oh, he's tip-top and blissful during the day, but oncoming headlights terrify him. And I do mean terrify. He flinches at their passing, sometimes even hiding on the floorboard. Very often, if you look carefully as I drive by, I'll have my hand over his eyes so he doesn't freak out. It's pathetic, I know, but I can't bear the thought of him again becoming afraid of an activity that he, not so very long ago, had gotten over his fear of.

What else can I do but engage in a modified form of peek-a-boo with oncoming traffic?

 He's not just sticking his head out the driver's side...
he's fucking driving.

And you know what? I couldn't care less. He's an awesome dog. I used to mock-complain about how my girlfriend should come take him off my hands (three dogs is expensive, you know), but she'd have to shoot me to get him back now.

That stated, he's still a stubborn bastard, getting into trouble whenever and however he can. I got the mugshot to prove it:


  1. fun.

    you think 3 dogs are expensive? try having a wife, 3 kids, and a Toby.

  2. He's my favourite. Very naughty when you're off camera and he snores like a trooper but look at those eyes, that face. What's not to love.You'd better get those white hairs off that passenger seat before I ride in the front! Haha . . .go Tom. I'll raise ya . . Try having two kids a Lily and two horses.

  3. Aww...he's adorable. Loved reading about your history with him. And he can drive? Then he's just about perfect. ha.

  4. Cute name! Cute dog. Our dog found us, and truth told I didn't want a dog. But she was so abused and bedraggled, I couldn't refuse her entry into the family. That was about ten years ago! She's as crazy nuts as I am. Needs meds to be sure, but who can shell out for doggy valium. So we put up with her, same way as they put up with mine :)

  5. He's a sweetie. Need someone to take him while you’re in Croatia? –J