Monday, March 23, 2009

The Ride Of His Life

Back in 1999 I had the great fortune of getting a book deal through Chronicle Books. My pitch was that I would hit every state in the country and photograph at least one dog to represent each state. It would be titled Dog Bless America. Chronicle gave me a handsome enough advance that I was able to get in a van and with my two best friends--Seamus and Otis--and cover what ended up being 17,000 miles of road. The journey was epic in every way. And it is certainly true what they say about the journey being the destination. I'd say that was my greatest lesson from the trip--that the journey is the destination. I think Otis always knew it. The day the three month ride ended might have been the lowest in Otie's life. The morning after we returned home to Portland I couldn't find him. I peeked outside to spot him sitting next to our van ready to roll. He had become accustomed to the routine of the road. It took a good two months to get him out of his funk. I used to say he was walking around as though the weight of a piano were on his back. And I do contend that life was never quite the same for him after such an historic ride. Eventually, life became routine again and Otis was able to once again live fully in the moment. But whenever the opportunity for a ride came up, you could see the glimmer of hope in his eyes that maybe, just maybe, this was gonna be another one for the ages. 

Thus begins a recounting of our journey through the eyes, ears and nose of Otis Kerouac.

Greetings From Boise! 

The three of us have reached Boise, Idaho and boy is it hot. The weather reminds me a lot of Portland--clear blue skies and no chance of rain!

We left Portland on Monday and made our first stop about five hours later in Walla Walla, Washington. We met and photographed a herding dog named Daisy on what seemed to me to be the most beautiful farm I might ever see--then again, this was only day one.

Miss Daisy was a perfect subject for my human up until one of the cows got a little out of line. All hell broke loose when Daisy's housemate Jack the Shitzhu wanted to herd some cattle too. Jack the Shitzhu just can't stand being stereotyped as a little lap dog and will sneak out into the pasture any chance he gets. The problem is that when Jack charges the cows, the cows charge back. Needless to say, we almost witnessed the end of Jack.

After photographing Daisy and getting Jack the hell out of there we sat down with their parents and an ice cold glass of homemade blue ribbon winning beer. Over beer the conversation immediately turned to the fascinating topic of UFOs. Turns out that Daisy and Jack's parents had only very recently discovered "crop circles" right in their wheat field. They showed us the newspaper articles and everything! At present, they are the talk of the town and I suppose they will continue to be until they finally meet the little green men and their little green dogs.

We said good-bye to Walla Walla a little behind schedule (UFOs and blue ribbon winning beer will do that to you), and we headed out for Boise. Three hours later (about midnight) we were being pulled over for doing 83 in a 65. Thank goodness Seamus was driving because my human says Seamus gets away with just about anything. And sure enough, the kindly officer let us go with a warning after learning a little bit about our journey. "That's a lot of driving ahead of you," he barked, "You be sure to get enough rest now, you here?" 

Yes, officer. Thank you, officer. And off we raced.

Boise, Idaho is a hoot. Last night we sat and discussed archeology and the history of dogs with world renowned archeologist Max Pavesic and his two Shi Tzus, Kashmir and Chibi. Later, Max broke out a seven dollar bottle of wine and the conversations continued into the night. By the way, Max too believes we're not the only ones out here.

Today we head east to Jackson, Wyoming and the Grand Tetons. I hear it's kind of pretty there.

That's all for now. We are all getting along swimmingly. And I just can't get enough of all the new smells!



P.S. My human, as I like to call him, is documenting our trip in both moving and still photographs. The Polaroid Company supplied all the film for his project. Because he takes all of his photographs with a 1965 Polaroid Land Camera, he approached a wonderful woman at the corporation named Anne McCarthy who agreed to donate as much polaroid pack film as he needed. And he's gonna need A LOT! He started snapping as soon as we hit the road. And if I know what's good for me, I will be game to be his subject whenever he needs, so long as he gets the shot in one take. Their are just too many scents and scenes to just sitting there wasting time for a photo-op.
The human has set a goal to take a picture of every single state welcoming sign as we go. Washington, being only minutes from my digs in Northeast Portland, was his first snap.

I get the feeling we are going to pull over quite a bit on this trip. Fine by me cause I can mark territory with the best of 'em. This is the famous Columbia River Gorge which divides Washington and Oregon. Look at all those trees! My goodness, I am already on sensory overload.

The human spotted this sign along the highway and decided it was worthy of a snap. Like I said, get it in one shot and it's fine by me. That said, I'm going to need to increase my intake of water or I'm going to run dry attempting to mark all this stuff.

Interesting play on words.

Here's Daisy. Her human says she's the greatest herding dog ever to live. I saw her in action and I totally believe it. She's a freak of nature the way she rounds them up. I was extremely impressed and kind of turned on. I just had no idea we dogs had that kind of talent.

Here she is having wrangled them up. They didn't dare stray either, even when she turned her head for my human's quick photo-op.

I like cows.

Eastern Oregon, Idaho and Montana all kind of look like the road ahead. Long, straight stretches as far as the eyes can see. The human and Seamus started playing a game where they guess how many miles away a high point in the road will be. So far, they are both terrible at it. One will guess three miles and the other will guess nine and it will end up being six. If only I could talk.

Idaho is, of course, known for its potatoes. That's me up there on the train tracks waiting for the click of the camera. Nobody mentioned the life-threatening nature of this part of the deal.

Kashmir and Chibi were pretty funny. They were the same looking as Jack the Shi tzu from Walla Walla, but I don't think they would have raced out to challenge the cows. These two were more secure in their lapdog lifestyle. They were pleasant enough to me, definitely more engaging than 'ol Daisy who wouldn't give me the time of day, but I still don't think they were sorry to see me go. I get the feeling I might be imposing myself on quite a bit of territory along the way. Dogs are just going to have to get over it.

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