A Man and His Dog

OC and Quilly are taking a vacation from Hawai‘i – yes, yes, we know, we know – and are spending some time back on our other island home, in the San Juan Islands of Washington State, and at various other locations in mainland USA. In this space, miscellaneous impressions of our first significant travel since the onset of COVID, almost exactly two years ago as this is written.

blackdog“May we sit here?”

Quilly and I were planted on a bench at the departure gate, waiting for the Eskimo Airline’s overnight flight to Seattle from Kona. We had been watching as an elderly, portly gentleman with a full, dingy-white beard, and his all-black, middle-sized service dog, contended with two pre-teen boys in shark pajamas, over whom their mother, a far taller and heavier woman than seemed to belong to the boys, conducted indolent supervision.

As the boys lost interest and started to move away, the gentleman noticed the empty space on the bench between us and a skinny twenty-something male, and asked if he and the dog could fill it. We said yes. The twenty-something moved away. The dog, gently, buried its nose in my mid-section, grateful for scratches behind the ears, and then took up station on the floor in front of his master.

The man did not introduce himself, but did introduce the dog, Robert. “A better airline passenger than many people”, he told us, quoting airline flight attendants. We thought this likely, given how well Robert had coped with the sharks.

tsIt soon became apparent just how much practice Robert had at being a good passenger. For the man, on this occasion, was departing his home in Hawai‘i for Seattle, then straight on to see family in Houston (“they can’t say ‘no'”), and, when that was done, on to his permanent home in Alaska, which he would be happy to see again after winter had finished with it. That was this year … He had a successful business in Alaska, the man said, and he spent some time in his travels pursuing leads and connections, but a son was running the business in his absence, and was, the man asserted, happy that his father was doing the traveling, for “he had earned it.” We began to wonder how come Robert, the dog, didn’t have stickers stuck to his flanks, like a well-traveled suitcase.

A young man walked by. The back of his shirt proclaimed allegiance to ‘Quartz Lake‘. “Just outside of Fairbanks”, the man commented … and then disclosed his puzzlement at how little traveling folks do in Hawai‘i. How he made the circuit from Kona to Hilo via Waimea twice in three days, one time, and got the response from acquaintances, “why would you do that?”

Screen Shot 2022-03-20 at 5.15.25 PMThe distance from Fairbanks to Quartz Lake turns out to be around 80 miles – which is about how far Hilo is from Kona. Of course, one can drive one hell of a lot further in Alaska without spinning in circles, or needing an amphibious car, than one can in Hawai‘i. The man understood that, but did not understand how anyone could be content with that. He would have been astounded by Quilly’s experience with a young woman in a small Utah town who, when Quilly asked her how to get out of that town, responded “I don’t know, I’ve never left.”

Abruptly, the man gasped. Robert came to attention. The moment soon passed, and the dog relaxed. His master explained. “Robert is here to help me cope with my emotions, to help settle me down when I need it. Or otherwise, I can be ugly company. And I hate hot flashes!”

“You too?” Quilly exclaimed.

It turned out that both Quilly and Robert’s master were suffering hot flashes due to medications, an estrogen blocker in her case, a testosterone blocker in his. “And they’re making me take these pills every day for the next ten years!“, Quilly complained.

His physicians had given the man from Alaska three years.

The man and his dog sat in the seats directly behind us during the flight to Seattle. As promised, Robert was an exemplary passenger. Only once, as we were all disembarking, did the dog display any emotion, any need to get out of there.

“He probably has to go shi-shi”, the man explained.

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