Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dog, Beer, and Vienna Sausages

I wrote this a while ago....Dog, Beer, and Vienna Sausages.

Dog and I are going to celebrate.

I just finished my final exam. What a relief! I have been taking
classes at Middle Tennessee State University since last fall. The drive
is about two hours long. It gets old fast. I usually stop at a gas
station near Winchester, Tenn. at the intersection of U.S. 64 and I-24
to get a drink and gas up. It's the kind of gas station that locals
hang out at. A place hard-working folks stop for a beer and a burger
and chat about the Civil War. (I actually heard patrons once arguing
about state's rights in the Civil War. I imagine the argument has been
going on since before the Civil War.)

The first time I stopped at this rural oasis in the Tennessee hills I
met Dog. She's a collie mix. Her hair is all matted, but if she had a
bath she's be a good-looking dog. I was pumping gas and Dog walked up,
sat down, and offered me her paw. I'm sure Dog knew this trick after
years of living at an interstate gas station. I'm sure it got her lots
of special treats from softies like me. Doug Mendenhall, a coworker
who rode with me to school last semester, looked at me like I was a bit
crazy. I could tell that he didn't usually go up and greet strange
dogs. I knew I could trust Dog, she just. has that look. My first dog,
Kodak, had that look. That empathetic look which seemed to look into
your soul. Some dogs have it, other dogs just look stupid. Dog has the
gift. With that look, I'm sure she's never gone hungry. When I first
asked the lady at the register the dog's name, she said -"Dog." Like
there could be any other name for a dog at a interstate gas station.

Week after week, I drive by the gas station on my way to class. Dog
almost always lies by the door, waiting to greet all visitors. There is
always some food spread out by the door. I found out that a neighbor
lets dog sleep under a nearby house on really cold nights. If she's
gone, there is a dirty spot on the wall where she always lays and a
handful of dog food on the step. The store owners would toss some food
out by the door for her every day. She never tried to go in the store.
She waits just outside, no matter how cold and wet it is. She never
fails to wag her tail and lift her paw to shake. Sometimes I'll stop
just to scratch her head, even if I have more than half a tank.

Week after week, I stop by and see Dog. No matter how stressed I was
about class Dog is always there, wanting to shake. I always look
forward to seeing Dog, a friendly face on an otherwise boring trip. The
semester is nearing a close, only three more classes and I'm done for
the year. I can't wait. Graduate school is hard work for me. During
one of the 250 mile round trip miles, I had a great idea. After the
last class, I am going to stop at the Exxon and buy a beer and Vienna
Sausages. The beer for me and the Vienna Sausages for Dog. I'll sit
on the curb with a beer while Dog eats sausages and listen to locals
argue about the Civil War . In one of those really quirky ways,
everything will be right with the universe. It seems like a perfect way
to end my first year of graduate school.

Tonight I stopped by the gas station to fill up and get my usual
caffeine jolt. Dog wasn't there, but her food was scattered around the
door. I got my Mellow Yellow, paid the friendly blond lady. As I turn
to leave, I ask "Where's Dog?" I want to shake with Dog before I get on
the highway to Huntsville. The clerk said "Dog's dead. Her teeth were
so bad, she couldn't eat her food anymore. She died two weeks ago."

It was a long drive back to Huntsville. I hope there are Vienna
Sausages wherever Dog is.

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