Stuck at a standstill on southbound I-75, mile marker 126, and no way to tell what was happening. The temperature gauge on the van read 86. It was only 10:18 am.
After the first hour, people started getting out of their vehicles and walking around. I thought about the evacuees in Colorado ditching everything to outrace the wildfire. Apocalyptic. That's how it was described.
When FLD Scout sat up from her spot on the passenger side floorboard, panting, I took stock. Half a bottle of cool water, another bottle in back that had been in the van for who knows how long, a handful of salty pumpkin seeds. Luckily the van wasn't overheating.
I kicked up the air-conditioner fan and poured most of the cool water into Scout's collapsible water dish. I drank down the rest. We'd be okay, I thought.
Luckily, we were. An hour later we inched along the left shoulder, the three other lanes blocked by state trooper cars, a fire engine ladder truck, and a fire rescue vehicle. A surveyor's tripod stood rooted in the middle lane blackened with tire marks that veered off past the right shoulder and into the ditch. A gaggle of tired firemen, looking weary in their full gear, caught a bit of shade beside the rescue vehicle. They must have gotten most of the mess cleared up--what was left of a crinkled mini-van lay rubber-side-up in a burned patch of ditch grass. Windowless. I think it was blue. Hard to tell with how badly scorched it was.
An instant later we were free and 70 miles an hour flying back to the city.
I had made arrangements to drop FLD Scout off at the kennel at Leader Dogs for the Blind for a few hours while I visited my parents. I'd be back at 5:00 to check in for "Puppy Counselor" training...three days of intensive training for 48 volunteer puppy counselors. Those of us from out of town got to stay in the Polk Residence Center, just like the blind or visually impaired handlers who come here to learn how to work with their Leader Dogs each month.
When I walked FLD Scout to Bay 1 and into her designated kennel, it felt like a rehearsal for what will happen in a short two months. Scout is due to return to Leader Dogs for her formal training before September 30.
With a toss of a few morsels of chow, FLD Scout scooted into the kennel. I had her leash off and the door closed before she gobbled them up. Three other dogs in the bay barked in typical Lab hysteria.
I didn't look back as I walked away, but I did peak through the window as the door eased shut. FLD Scout was silent. She stood, stood looking calmly at the door after me.
I hope we both do as well in September.
I will try to post updates of our time here at Leader Dogs, but I suspect my brain might be too full in the evenings. So, posts might have to come later...
|Lab-wrestling break--FLD Scout (on the right) hangs with her sister, FLD Anie.|
|Quiet now in our room, FLD Scout snoozes on her bed brought from home.|