Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
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It’s a dog’s life

—Ty Belknap

Lalo, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever made famous in the Signpost’s Lalo’s Pet Prints, has traveled to California twice this year. Both times, his masters made an impulsive decision to go due to an illness in the family—they just got in the car and started driving. Lalo climbed onto the dog sling in the back seat of the family sedan and settled in for a long ride.

Road trips are not easy with a hundred pound dog used to the freedom of a dead-end road in Placitas. There is an endless stream of people, other dogs, traffic, and regulations to deal with: “Dogs must be on leash at all times,” “Pick up your dog’s poop!” Most hotels won’t let you in, and animal rights fanatics call the cops if your dog is left alone in the car for five minutes. Nevertheless, it beats being penned up at home, waiting for the pet sitter to show up with food.

While on the road, there are the usual meals at dawn and three, along with the occasional French fry, passed back from the front seat. Nothing much to do but sleep.

Fatigue and blinding sun forced a night in Kingman, Arizona. The hotel furnished a nice vacant lot to fetch a tennis ball at sunset. No dogs on the bed.

In the morning, they left all that oppressive truck traffic on I-40 and took CA 62 through the Mojave Desert for a quick drive through Joshua Tree National Park. Bizarre rock formations and weird trees. No dogs on the trail.

From there, as Lalo’s people tag-teamed from leash to hospital bedside in Riverside, Lalo walked the streets, master in tow with plastic bags.

There was no staying at the family ranch, because of potential dogfights. Instead, they camped out down the road for a few nights at Perris Lake State Park, which seemed to be the quietest place in southern California. The campground was nearly deserted, but for an occasional ranger who insisted that Lalo stay tied up. No chasing the ground squirrels.

One day, they moved camp to Crystal Cove State Park, up the coast from Laguna Beach. No dogs on the beach for environmental reasons. So, they fought through heavy traffic to Huntington Beach, where dogs were allowed off-leash. Lalo enjoyed his first swim in the ocean, fetching sticks while getting pummeled in the surf. Those California dogs were very impressed until the unfortunate incidence of projectile diarrhea on the boardwalk. How’s a New Mexico dog supposed to know not to drink the salt water?

Lalo waited in the car, parked under a tree, while they had dinner at the ranch, then camped one more night at Perris Lake. Up at dawn, they drove straight through—I-10 to Arizona, mostly two-lane highway to Winslow, I-40 to Albuquerque. Twelve hours.

A month later they were once again off to California, this time backtracking the two lanes, ending up in Wickenburg, Arizona, at the height of tourist season, greeted by a blooming desert and no vacancy signs. Lalo was welcomed at the last room in town at the Log Wagon Inn for a mere fifty dollars cash and no paper work. He hung out with the chain-smoking copper miners next door and the motel owner’s Chihuahua.

After spending the afternoon in a shady parking lot at the hospital, they drove through the LA rush hour, back to their favorite campsite at Perris Lake, where Lalo enjoyed the next day out of the car, hiking the rocky hillside and illegally chasing ground squirrels.

Finally on the way home, again, truck traffic was so bad on the interstate that they detoured down AZ 191 and took NM 53 through Zuni and El Malpais. Stopping next to the historical marker across from Inscription Rock to stretch the old legs and fetch a tennis ball, a park ranger lit up his lights and pulled a screeching U-turn to nab the unleashed beast on National Park land. He exited his truck with a hand on his gun.

When California happens again next month, maybe Lalo will choose to just stay home at the end of the road. No leashes, a bed to sleep on, acres and acres to poop on, and plenty of rabbits to chase—the good life

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