Susanna J. Sturgis   Martha's Vineyard writer and editor
writer editor born-again horse girl

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Plog 3: Me and My Puppy

April 27, 2008

Lafayette Motel, Canandaigua, N.Y., 7 p.m. or so

Recommendation: If you're passing through or visiting around Canandaigua, this is a great place. Clean, unpretentious, friendly, and $50/night ($60 for a double; may be more in summer). The Lafayette Diner next door is open for breakfast and lunch. Check it out on the Web.

Here I am with my puppy! Who doesn't have a name but is sacked out under the little dinette table in my room. He'd never ridden in a car before. That was No Big Deal. I carried him into the Burger King. One of the cashiers took a digital picture of us. I managed to fumble one-handed with my wallet, my food, and (most challenging) the drink machine.

It was a long day driving but not bad. Great weather until about exit 40 on the Thruway -- well into the Finger Lakes region -- then there were sporadic attempts to rain. Cloudy above but still partly sunny. Somehow I passed inspection with two windshield wipers that are overdue for replacement. Found the Lafayette Motel without much trouble, checked in, headed off for Route 21. destination: Masasyu Kennels, Goff Road, off 21. Signage was excellent (I guess we're not in Massachusetts anymore?). Heading south on 21, just west -- and eventually within sight -- of Canandaigua Lake, the sky went dark, the wind came up fast and hard, lightning cracked -- great forks of it branching up the sky -- and the sky opened. Rain! Hail! Couldn't see the road, never mind the road signs, so I pulled over to the shoulder. Several cars behind me did likewise. The tune and story of Stan Rogers's "White Squall" played in my head. Maybe White Squall would be a good puppy name? No way. "Squall" makes me think of a really ugly spoiled-brat human baby face, and besides, the song was about Lake Ontario.

After a few minutes hail stopped pelting against metal and the wind gave up trying to blow the truck over; the rain let up enough for me to see both sides of the road. The other cars peeled off and I followed. By the time I got to Goff Road, the rain had almost stopped. By the time I turned left up the drive to the kennel, the sun was shining through the clouds. Percherons and at least one pony grazed in the very green pasture to the left. The pickup in front of, and just below, the house had a Masasyu Kennels sign (with malamute face) in the rearmost side window. Right place.

Harold was walking down to the barn; we introduced ourselves. I went in. Met Lori and two young girls -- the elder introduced themselves as the Rent-a-Kids -- who help with the puppies and are also horsekids. They all liked my Barn Again T-shirt. The "puppy box" was pretty much the whole living room, with walls on two sides, a couch on the third, and two easy chairs on the fourth, one of which Lori was sitting in. The floor was covered with newspapers -- no sign of pee or poop anywhere, and after a while I watched one pup go over to a small paper-covered area and pee. The kids were on the couch. On the table in front of them was a puppy-size travel crate that turned out to be full of baby chicks, all peeping away. At least two cats presided the entire time I was there.

Actually the floor was about 3/4 covered in squeaky toys, stuffed animals, and chewies of various kinds. There were -- how many? -- eight puppies, nine? Two were spoken for: Eli, whom Lori is keeping, and Odin, whose new people came to pick him up while I was there. They had a different look from the others, and I guessed correctly that they were from Sara's litter. The others were all Mayhem's, and telling them apart -- whew! There was one girl, Woo, and little Feisty, who came by his name honestly. Another boy was noticeably more reddish (a very very pale orange) between the ears. I got down and played. Are you my puppy? Are you my puppy? One big stuffed reindeer turned out to sing "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer." Want to get a bunch of puppies to pay rapt attention to you? Make a big stuffed reindeer dance in their direction while singing "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer." One puppy flopped over on its back next to me. I rubbed its tummy. (Lori said, "They've all got dropsy" -- they drop on their backs and wait for you to start rubbing.) He nestled against my leg. Then he went off to play with his siblings, then he came back. That happened a couple more times. I knew which one was my puppy. Then Lori and the kids took me downstairs to meet Trouble, Mayhem, Sara, and the other grownups -- including a 19-year-old named Train whom Lori rescued when he was 8. He was an old guy but in amazing shape for 19. Someone had thrown him out of a car; that was how Lori got him.

We passed contracts and checks, and I turned over the cranberry bread. My plan had been to spend the night at the motel and come back for the puppy in the morning. The motel had a NO PETS sign in the office, and besides spending the night in a motel with an 8 1/2 week old puppy who's just left home for the first time didn't seem like a great idea. Lori said, no, no, dogs stay there all the time. OK, I said, more than a little nervous, but I figured, Hey, I've got the travel crate; I can probably keep him from destroying anything. Turned out the only trouble was when I tried to shut Puppy in the crate: cry cry cry! Bad idea for a motel, so I took my chances letting him sleep on the rug. Spread last week's Martha's Vineyard Times out in a corner, filled up the little water dish, and used the ashtray for a feed dish. Puppy was exemplary -- did all his business outside (on the lawn, but I cleaned it up). He came to breakfast at the adjacent diner, with the owner's permission. Since the owner of the diner and the owner of the motel were the same person, I figured it was OK that Puppy had spent the night. The woman at the table behind me introduced herself to me and the puppy. She does rescue. She's also either on or an employee of the local board of health, and she didn't have a problem either. (Can't help wondering if the health agent in my town or a couple of other island towns would have been so friendly.)

Puppy and I hit the road. I'd come south from the Thruway on Route 332, which turned out to be the long way. I went back on 21 North. Hit the tollbooth at Exit 43 at about 10 a.m., having managed to fill Uhura's tank with self-serve gas and without embarrassing myself. It was a long drive home, made longer because whenever we stopped Puppy drew a crowd and I got to have conversations with complete strangers, some of whom had dogs. Had lunch at a Roy Rogers, my fast food of choice from my D.C. days. I'm glad to report that both the chicken and the barbecue sauce are as good as I remembered. Puppy started off each stage of the journey in the front seat but soon moved into the back of the cab, where he curled up on a bed of jumper cables and miscellaneous tools.

En route I tried out names. Narrowed it down early on to Small Rebellion (Reb, Rebel, or maybe Keelo) and Fellow Traveler (Traveller?). By the time we got to my sister's, Fellow Traveller (Traveler?) had won, but I'm still calling him Pup, Puppy, or Pupster about half the time.


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