General Non-Fiction posted October 2, 2016

This work has reached the exceptional level
A road trip, a rescue dog, and perhaps a miracle...

Lady Bird's Adventurous Road Trip

by Mary Wakeford

The author has placed a warning on this post for language.

First, a little background for the story. Our daughter and son-in-law were married on New Year's Eve 2011.  Three months later, her husband, an Army medic, was deployed to Afghanistan with the 4th ID out of Fort Carson, Colorado. Our daughter, a high school teacher, remained in Arizona during his deployment. We were ecstatic when we received word nearly a year later with his tentative return to Fort Carson scheduled for November 2012.

This brings us to the week of my daughter's Fall break in October, and the need to get my son-in-law's truck to Colorado Springs before his homecoming.  A chick/hen road trip was declared.  The mission for the week was to sign for an apartment, furnish and ready it for Tanner's homecoming, and her eventual move to the Springs in January. I was looking forward to the adventure, and reconnecting with a friend I've known since grade school who offered her home as base camp.  Life was good.

Two days before our scheduled launch, I was taking care of last minute details at work when an urgent email from the Yavapai Humane Society in Northern Arizona popped up in my "You've Got More Fooooooking Mail" box.  You can see where this is going...

The mass distributed email told the story of Lady Bird, a dog who had been returned to the shelter by several different not-forever families over a three year period. Lady was a bird dog with an overactive nose constantly seeking excitement and possessing a heart that demanded adventure. Small fenced yards and crates were proving impossible at keeping her contained.  Lady Bird was clever enough to return herself to the shelter following her most recent adoption fail.  She was on the euthanasia list due to overcrowding at the facility and in consideration of her repeat offender record, it wasn't looking good; she was definitely a case for the three strikes and you're nuked law. 

With options quickly running out for Lady Bird, a woman in Denver read her story and offered a loving home that came with the added perk of fenced acreage. The only challenge was getting the bird dog from Arizona to Denver. The email featured Lady Bird's photo with an urgent call for transport. As I stared at the email, I couldn't believe the timing...This hound dog was two hours north of me and in perfect alignment for the drive to Colorado.

The animal rescue adrenaline gene I inherited from my dad began pulsating through my body as I multi-tasked, forwarding Lady's S.O.S. email to my daughter while dialing her number, as I hit the send button on my email to the Yavapai County Animal Control with news we would be leaving in two days for Colorado and would be happy to get Lady Bird as far as Colorado Springs, if her new family could meet us there for the exchange; a ninety minute drive for them. 

Bar-iiiiing, Bar-iiiiing...

K: "Hello"

M: "Hey, how would you feel about us picking up a large dog on the way out of town, and driving her to the Springs? She's a runner, so it could be tricky during potty stops. I just emailed you her story from the Yavapai Humane Society"

(Silence ensued as I considered I may have jumped the gun in notifying the shelter we were a "GO"...)

(The apple doesn't fall far from the tree)

M: "Ok, good, it will be cramped with all three of us on the bench seat, but so worth it saving this girl. Are you sure Tanner won't mind finding white dog hair all over his upholstery?"

K: "We can get it detailed once we're there."

M: "Perfect, I will give them a call."

Arrangements were confirmed. Lady Bird's new owner would meet us at my friend's home in the Springs.  I would keep her in the loop with updates as to our ETA, anticipating a 12 to 14 hour drive, dependent on weather, puppy and hen potty stops.  

The morning of October 5th rolled up, kisses goodbye, prayers for safe travel, a dog bed, water dish and a Kong with treats to keep Lady Bird entertained.  Like clockwork, a volunteer from the Yavapai shelter delivered Lady Bird to us in the McDonald's parking lot in Cortes Junction at 9:00 a.m. with the advice to keep treats and food to a minimum to avoid tummy trouble.  It was obvious the volunteer had a special bond with the dog, but was happy to send her off to her rosy future.

Once the handoff was executed, we loaded the sweet girl between us on the bench seat and settled in for the long drive.  My daughter entered the drive-through for a Mickey D's sausage McMuffin to go.  At the first whiff of "Where's the Pork," Lady Bird was on Kate's lap the minute her astute nose caught wind of the sausage patties sizzling forty feet from the drive-thru window.

It was obvious, given her exuberance and the danger in overzealous lap sitting while driving the interstate, we would not be eating on this trip either. Lady Bird was an enthusiastic foodie without boundaries for personal space, requiring us to pull in and park while Kate ate her McNothin' outside the cab of the truck.

Lady Bird settled in like a champ as we pulled out of McD's and seemed to enjoy the green pine trees near Flagstaff, taking in all the sights with an unusual curiosity as I had ever experienced traveling with dogs.  They usually lie down and sleep it out, but this girl didn't want to miss a thing.  Lady Bird was all in--completely committed to the Chick/Hen Road Trip at times standing and balancing as the trees whizzed by.

We stopped in Gallup, New Mexico, to give her a chance to stretch her legs and do her business, while we did the same.  My daughter bought a roll of chocolate Rolo's as we departed the convenience store.  A few minutes later, we nearly experienced death by Rolo as she quietly tried to unroll one without the "Bird's" nose and ears catching a hint of the chocolate and caramel deliciousness stored in the driver side door pocket.

We rolled along the I-40, Katie at the wheel; Lady Bird sitting up between us, and me updating my Facebook page with photos of the adorable dog we had fallen in love with.  In other words, I was not paying much attention to the road.  Let me clarify, I was not paying any attention to the road.  I was a lousy co-pilot.  

As I updated my Chick/Hen Road Trip with photos and witty captions, Katie took her eyes off the road for a second or two or three, to snag and quietly unwrap a Rolo candy from the hold next to her seat without alerting Lady Bird, sitting tall and taking in the desert's vast nothingness.  

The 'nose' likely witnessed the "OH FOOOOOOK" moment before either of the non-canines did.

The first inclination of trouble was a gasp, followed by a calm, but tense "OH SHIT!" Lady Bird might have been thinking it, but Kate gets credit for the audible relay.  I looked up as we cleared a rise in the road to find both eastbound lanes of the I-40 at a complete stop, at least fifty cars deep due to road work and two high speed lanes being reduced to one lane with a cramped slow moving crawl. 

We were headed fast for impact into the back of a semi-truck completely stopped in our outside lane.  At a speed of 70mph, it was obvious we did not have enough road or time between to even brake for impact.  It all happened in a matter of seconds.  

In what I thought to be my inside voice, I calmly surrendered the moment with "This is it, this is it."  

My daughter would later tell me when she heard my meant for inside/but definitely outside words, she refused that ending and in her inside voice that remained capped, retorted, "THIS IS NOT IT!!!!  MY HUSBAND IS COMING HOME IN A MONTH AND THIS IS NOT HOW IT IS GOING TO END!!!"

With that, she turned the steering wheel sharply left, causing us to exit the interstate down an incline before roaring through the median rocking back and forth on alternate wheels, tipping side to side as we annihilated tumbleweed families and unsuspecting prairie dogs that popped out of their holes to see what all the excitement was about.  

Our silver streak rocked and rolled a good distance, passing the line of stopped cars and trucks on the interstate.  I clearly remember Lady Bird's excellent balance and long ears swaying back and forth across my face as we tore through the terrain.  There wasn't a single sound shared among the three of us until the truck came to rest.  Not so much as a whimper. 

Once the silver bullet came to rest leaving a jet stream of a dirt cloud in its wake, we did what we always do in times of extreme stress.  We began laughing--hysterically.  There was quite a bit of shaking with the laughing, and it's safe to say our legs were reduced to rubber, but we both realized how close we came to not being able to laugh.ever.again. 

How we didn't roll, I have no idea.  I was certain we had blown a few tires and lost some of the housewares but a complete walk around the truck told a different story--we were completely intact, with the exception of our nerves.  With another twelve hours of travel time ahead of us, we got them under control, fired up the silver bullet and reentered the interstate.  We wondered if anyone in the line of cars got our epic Chick-Hen-Bird Dog shit show on video, and made a mental note to check YouTube at some point.  A few miles down the single lane highway, we had the tires checked for leaks at the nearest service station.    

Lady Bird was lovin' the extra excitement and thought we were happenin' peeps.  Not once did she try to bolt from us over the road trip, and we loved on her for the remaining time we'd share.  We considered Lady Bird our lucky charm.  

My entry the following morning sums up our chick/hen/ladybird road trip best: 

October 6, 2012 - Waking up this morning in the Springs after a very long and exhausting road trip very grateful on so many levels. Foremost to God and our angels for keeping us safe from a near collision at 70mph just outside Gallup.

For my amazing daughter, her grit and skill at avoiding what I don't even want to imagine. She took us into the median where we rocked back and forth on opposing wheels for a good distance avoiding a roll. Katie rode it out like a boss. Lady Bird took it like a boss sitting between us watching without a howl, and Mamabear was boss by not screaming like a banshee, remaining calm, cool and not shitting my pants.

Grateful for the kinship of those who came together to bring an amazing dog, Lady Bird, to her forever family in Denver after three years in and out of the Yavapai Humane Society following three failed adoptions, and was doomed to euthanasia due to overcrowding.  I just received word Lady is doing great in her new home with lots of fenced-in acreage.

For a woman I have known since the 7th grade, who has evolved into one of the strongest and most amazing people I know. She opened her beautiful home to us, and stayed up late awaiting our nearly midnight arrival.

For a dog named Lady Bird, who finally found her happy future with the Barry family. She is the sweetest creature and repeatedly showed her gratitude throughout our 14 hours sitting on a Ford bench seat in an overloaded truck.

For the teachers who covered classes for Katie, allowing us to change plans and drive most of the leg in daylight.

Finally, to the deer who kept to their own lanes on the darkened and rainy Raton Pass. :).

A new day, a new adventure!




Rolo candy commercial compliments of YouTube

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