We drove south on Hwy. 45 as road crews worked on the beginning steps of making it into a four-lane divided highway instead of the two-lane track it had always been.
Still in the early months of becoming a teenager, I rode in the baby blue Dodge Coronet sedan. I don’t recall who was driving, but I remember the other passengers — our family mutts, Poochie and Plato. The dogs were a German Shepherd-something-or-’nother mix named after my brother’s first puppy and a Feist-Border Collie mix named for his persistent serious demeanor.
There were no issues with the pets on the hours-long drive that I recall, but I remember how they perked up as we slowed to turn in at our new home. It certainly wasn’t the first time we had slowed down or turned, but maybe they sensed the journey was almost over, or felt our excitement and shared it.
We drove through Natchez — six of us and the pit bull mix named Woody — headed toward our new home in Louisiana. We looked for any good spot of grass on the side of the road we could let Woody visit and not cause problems for anyone. We finally found a grassy spot between two businesses that were closed and Woody wasted no time marking it.
We loaded back up and pulled back over at Taco Bell to grab lunch and let the humans among us visit a restroom. My youngest son stayed outside with Woody while we got food for him (the son — wouldn’t want to feed tacos to a dog on a driving trip, for sure). The two sat on a grassy spot between trees at the parking lot’s edge, one of them with a mournful look like he didn’t want to ride in a moving kennel anymore that day, and the other panted and wagged his tail. It was that son’s birthday and he was not happy we were spending it moving. We made sure to have a party with his friends before we left, but I think it was more than just not getting to “do something” on the day of his birthday — it was leaving behind friends and a house he’d known since he was just 5.
I like to think Woody helped make the transition better — for all of us.
We loaded up in three vehicles to move my future wife and daughter from the Coast to Central Mississippi — the two of them, my two sons, two cats and a Dachshund, and me. Maggie, the wiener dog, rode with her “momma” and the cats rode with me in the moving van. I quickly found out why one was named Gabby — though beautiful, she would not shut up and was very loud — and why the other one, named Jason, should have been named Gassy. I honestly thought I was going to get sick.
It’s usually the dog that rides in a vehicle with its head out the window and tongue flapping in the breeze. Fun fact: You can still drive a vehicle with your own head out the window, tongue flapping in a similar manner as you try not to lose your late-night Subway dinner.
Each of these animals — and others — made transitions easier for us over the years, allowing us to keep a sense of “home” as we moved to different living shelters, whether they were houses, an RV or anything else with a roof and walls. They were part of our family, and family does that for you, helps you feel safe and connected even when the rest of your view has changed completely.
And that’s a good thing, because every day is some type of moving day.