Thelma Lou rode in the truck. She sat in a passenger seat that once belonged to a good dog named Ellie Mae. Chew marks and all.
Thelma is only pup. Seven weeks old. She’s not even big enough to climb honest-to-goodness stairs yet. But she’s ready to give truck-riding a shot. Baby steps.
Ellie Mae lived for rides like this. To Ellie, watching traffic through vehicle windows was the best life offered. Throw in a jar of peanut butter, a few pig ears, a swim in the bay, and Ellie was in Beulah Land.
Thel is too short to see above the dashboard. But she tried. She stood with her front paws on the dash, watching the windshield.
She stared out my passenger side. She wagged her tail at stoplights. She smiled at cars. She licked the window. She chewed upholstery.
This truck’s interior is well-loved by Thelma Lou’s predecessor. The zig-zagged snot traces on the window are Ellie Mae’s—I will never wash them. The ripped chair cushion is Ellie Mae, too.
So today was a pretty day for driving. Thelma Lou had a lot to look at. Sun, trees, birds. There was almost too much to look at.
I went to the hardware store. I took Thelma inside with me. I carried her in my arms. Three employees wanted to hold her. One wanted a photo.
Later, Thelma and I stopped at a fast-food joint. She howled in a squeaky voice while I ordered at the speaker. It wasn’t a mature howl, more like a baby yelp, but Thel gets an “A” for effort.
The girls at the drive-thru window went nuts over her. They came outside to take turns holding her. Thelma Lou licked the makeup from one woman’s face, chewed the hair off another, and ripped the name tag from some poor kid’s shirt. Baby steps.
Still, I was proud of Thelma Lou. And I can’t explain this pride thing.
Long ago, I was proud of Ellie Mae, too. Whenever I would take her into public, I had the same high feeling a fella has when driving a ‘63 Stingray Corvette.
After lunch, Thelma Lou and I made the drive toward home. She slept in my lap while I steered. She got exhausted from the day’s excitement. She made water on the floorboard. No big deal.
Nothing a little WD-40 won’t get out.
I pulled over by the bay in a spot where Ellie used to swim. Once upon a time, Ellie and I would fish in this same place. At night, I would set pinfish traps. Early in the mornings we’d go fishing. Ellie would sit beside me.
Then, after I’d fished my heart out I’d throw Ellie’s toy duck. I’d hurl it toward the horizon. She’d swim toward China to retrieve it. Those are good memories.
Thel hopped out of the truck. I tried to help her toward the water, but she tripped on her oversized paws. So, I placed her into the water. She got as deep as her ankles before she got distracted. Namely, she started chewing on my pant legs.
Maybe we’ll try swimming lessons tomorrow.
Anyway, tonight, Thelma Lou has crawled onto my lap. She is asleep, making a gentle snoring sound. Her eyes are closed tight. She’s had a busy day. So have I.
The memory Ellie Mae is still with me. I know that my old dog is above the clouds, soaring. And I know I should be happy about that. But I’m not yet. I’m thinking about her most moments of the day.
Even so, I’m smiling. I’m smiling so big my cheeks are plumb sore. And that has to be a good sign. Holding Thelma Lou does something good to me.
It makes me just as proud as ever.