The last time I did something really, really out of character was when I adopted my dog Sadie…nine years ago. On a typical Tuesday lunch break this week, I did it again…I picked up five hitchhikers…three humans and two dogs. Now, those who know me, remember I didn’t even allow someone to keep their shoes on in my house and then I got a puppy. I’m constantly telling my young nieces and nephews to be careful with strangers so why did I do this? It was because of the dogs.
I was returning to my office from running errands when I spotted them on the side of the road near the entrance to I-64 by IHOP on MacCorkle Avenue. The people were loaded down with backpacks, a sign I couldn’t read, and the dogs…they were just being dogs…eager faces and wagging tails. Traffic was heavy and I kept moving, but I couldn’t forget them, so I turned around as curiosity got the best of me.
As I pulled the Jeep over to where the group was standing, they put their sign down, (which I still didn’t know what it said) and ran to the Jeep….both people and dogs smiling broadly. I got out to meet them and was greeted by two very friendly dogs who were obviously well-fed, well-cared for and happy, plus two girls and a guy who looked like they’d dropped in from the 60′s.
Turns out, they were hitchhiking to St. Louis, then on to California, but since I had only my lunch hour, I couldn’t help them…or could I? They had such hopeful looks on their faces and the dogs were looking at me with that look I’m so familiar with from my own dog Sadie…the one that says “don’t disappoint the dog” and they knew I wouldn’t let them down as they wagged their tails faster. I stooped down to pet them and they were obviously in such good shape and happy with these people, that before I knew it, I offered to drive them as far as I could toward Huntington, (which was what their sign said) and was helping the dogs into the back of my Jeep.
Crazy in this day and age? Sure. And if someone had predicted I’d do this, I would’ve laughed. I can’t explain it, but I had a feeling this was the right thing to do. After everyone got settled, the dogs decided they wanted to sit in the back seat and jumped up onto the laps of Arbie and Sundance…Lindsay sat in the front passenger seat next to me. The dogs were Anabella, a 6 year old pit/lab mix and Bly…an 11 month old Siberian Husky.
We chatted as we drove down the road. They’d left Ambler, PA several days ago to hitchhike to St. Louis and meet meet up with friends, then on to California….in a vehicle. The rain on Monday night had forced them to take shelter at the Knights Inn here. When I asked if they were students or “wandering the world”…they laughed and confirmed the latter.
Our conversation flowed like we’d been friends forever and the dogs were content. Lindsay got out her phone and added me to her Facebook Friends…I wanted them to let me know when they got to St. Louis. We talked about our dogs and how much we love them, our backgrounds, and shared a few philosophies before we got to Cross Lanes where I thought they’d have a good chance of getting a ride to Huntington. I asked where they would stay that night and they said they would camp out…which explained the big backpacks and the guitar.
I helped the dogs out of the Jeep and they jumped on me expressing their thanks. After posing for photos, and exchanging a few hugs, I watched the five of them walk away…and I was envious. Part of me wanted to forget my 9-5 world, go get my dog Sadie, and drive them to St. Louis. When I first saw them, I thought they’d make me feel old…I was wrong. I remembered being their age and some of my own adventurous trips…not as risky as hitchhiking, but exciting for me. I thought of the time my best friend and my boyfriend travelled for hundreds of miles in my MG Midget. Though I don’t remember where we were going all smashed together, I do remember how I felt and I had these kids and dogs to thank for that. I too had done my own “wandering in the world” and in many ways before I got Sadie, I was still doing that behind the facade of owning a house and having a career. I’d tried many things attempting to recapture that feeling of wonder and freedom and never managed to capture it until my dog came along. Sadie not only made my house a home; she’s inexplicably made my life both a journey and a destination.
I don’t know if I’ll ever pick up hitchhikers again, but I’m glad I did. I drove back to my office feeling lighter…somehow a better person. I realized that maybe I am not in love with the world and the shape it’s in, but itdoesn’t matter. I am in love with my world, the dog that shares it, and the dogs and people she’s given me the courage to bring into it.