I was 61 years old. A widow. And I had never picked out and brought home a dog just for myself. To be sure, there had been dogs in my life. As a child, I loved my cousin’s collie, Bing. (named for her favorite crooner, Bing Crosby.) My first love asked me to keep his dog, Lassie, when he moved to another state. My children paraded several dogs through our house. But no dog nuzzled a black nose straight into my heart until Otis, a white lab-shepherd mix my daughter brought home from California. On the second day, I revoked her custody.
Next, my son moved back into our home with a pit bull named Carmen. After the deaths of both my son and my husband, the sleek, brindled pet transferred her affection to me. As a single woman traveling in a motorhome, Carmen’s head bopping up from the passenger’s seat gave me a sense of security.
After Carmen died, I argued with myself for several months the pros and cons of owning another dog. Dogs are responsibility. Dogs are expensive. Yet, dogs give unconditional love. My daughter told me about a co-worker’s litter from a stray mother and an unknown father. What would it hurt to look?
The friend trotted out a medium-sized white dog with a brown face and one black spot marking the base of a long, white furry tail that stood straight up. He wore no collar, having romped through the woods around their house for all of his nine months. She assured that he was housebroken. His chocolate brown eyes melted my heart.
I brought Spot home. From freedom to chase rabbits into the woods and splash daily in the lake, Spot protested the confinement of a house by peeing on a chair leg and depositing a pile of poop on the carpet. He strained against a leash for his outdoor excursions.
The first time, I left him alone, I returned to shredded magazines, lamps askew, and chewed decorative fruit. Different from Carmen, who roamed the yard without venturing into the street, Spot lunged through any cracked door and raced over the neighborhood, his tail waving like a white flag. He did not comprehend, “Come.”
After a week, I could not cope with this four-footed white tornado. I went to bed, praying, “God, what would You have me do with this dog?” From a drowsy sleep, my mind leaped alert. I sensed God’s answer: Keep the dog. I never again doubted that Spot and I were destined to be together.
That’s not to say, “…we lived happily ever after.” Spot still does not heed “come.” On the eve of my second marriage—and only minutes before dinner at a restaurant, grandchildren opened the sun porch door and invited Spot outside to play. For an hour, members of my new family chased a white streak around the neighborhood in what Spot considered a grand game. Once we corralled the muddy, dirty mess, he had to be bathed and dried—again—for our honeymoon trip.
My patient new husband agreed to tolerate Spot, accepting the flurry of white dog hair with every hearty shake. Only a few weeks into our marriage, I overheard him command Spot to jump in the backseat of the Jeep, and then say, “I guess you know I love you!”
Over ten years, we’ve adjusted to each other’s personalities. Lee still calls Spot a nuisance, a definite consideration when we want to take a day trip. But his heart, like mine, caught in his throat when Spot bolted from the motorhome on the shoulder of a busy Interstate where we had pulled over to strap down a flopping awning. We watched as he leap-frogged back and forth across lanes of traffic. We’ve learned that Spot will return. But that doesn’t erase the danger of dodging a vehicle.
Once on the corner of a busy city in Mazatlan, Mexico, I believed I would never see my dog again. He sprinted across four lanes of speeding, crazy traffic. As he disappeared down a side street, visions of somebody whisking him into the back of a truck raced through my head. Yet, he returned to the compound where we had parked, and lay down to pant and watch us from a distance. Eventually, the pop of a firecracker spurred him through the motorhome door and to safety.
At home, Spot gets into a large kennel when we go out. He often goes to his kennel when he sees us dressing for church on Sunday mornings. One summer, we spent 12 weeks as support staff at a training camp for aspiring opera artists. Every morning, Lee and I left for breakfast in the dining hall. For some reason, Spot experienced separation anxiety when he watched us walk away together. One day, he ripped the screen from the motorhome door. My husband found me and said, “I don’t want him anymore!” I knew his anger was momentary—and he knew we could not give up this dog.
I suggested that Spot needed the security of his kennel. Since we did not travel with his garage-sized box, I borrowed one from a co-worker. The next morning, I put Spot in the cage, and when I returned to the motorhome, he greeted me at the door. He had clawed his way through the wire contraption and destroyed the door.
We solved the temporary problem by putting him in the backseat of our Jeep and driving 200 feet to the dining hall, leaving him in the vehicle. He was content. After breakfast, I took him back to the motorhome, and all was well, at least for that day.
Stretched between our seats in the motorhome, this dog that once roamed freely on Arkansas hillsides has traveled from Mexico to Alaska and from the Pacific Ocean to Atlantic shores. He completes our family—our very own Spot.Research Campgrounds, Plan RV Safe Routes & Turn your phone into an RV GPS.
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Traveling in their motorhome several months each year, Arline and her photographer husband, Lee Smith, make their permanent home in Heber Springs, Arkansas. She currently is a presenter for Workamper Rendezvous, sponsored by Workamper News. Arline has dozens of magazine articles published, as well as five books: “Road Work: The Ultimate RVing Adventure” (now available on Kindle); “Road Work II: The RVer’s Ultimate Income Resource Guide”; “Truly Zula; When Heads & Hearts Collide”; and “The Heart of Branson”, a history of the families who started the entertainment town and those who sustain it today. Visit Arline’s personal blog at ArlineChandler.Blogspot.com