Climbing into my friend John's old "beater" Jeep on a recent cold
winter day, I was pleased to find the seat warm. Shivering from my short walk
in wet, blowing snow, I snuggled gratefully into the warmth, conscious that I
owed my thermal comfort not to a built-in, high-tech seat warmer, but to
Murphy, John's somewhat scurvy, but loveable black mutt, the seat's recent
"Back seat, Murph!" John had commanded, as he always does, just as
he opened the passenger-side door for me. There was a time when I might have
resented being offered a seat recently vacated by a hairy, sometimes smelly,
four-legged passenger. But over the past few months I've realized that, hey, I
may be John's best girl and frequent companion, but Murphy is his best friend
and nearly constant companion. If I want a pristine seat in a late-model, luxury
vehicle, I'll date someone else. If I want to spend time with John, I'll tolerate -- perhaps
even appreciate -- the seat vacated by that warm-bodied, tail-wagging,
duck-fetching, mixed-breed pup.
More Than A Warm Seat
"Whew!" I breathed, relaxing into the warm, albeit frayed and
somewhat broken-down Jeep seat, "Thanks for the seat heater." John
knows me well enough by now to understand that this was not sarcasm, but a
statement of acceptance and genuine gratitude. Attired in boots, old jeans, and
the stained coat I wear to walk my own dogs, I was in casual mode and so was
he. The truth is, John is a classy guy -- if the situation called for a clean
car, he'd rent one or borrow mine. But when your best girl is stranded in the
cold and needs a ride, your hunting rig -- warmed by your hunting dog -- will
do just fine.
"You're welcome," he responded. "Ol' Murph is more than just
a seat heater -- he's a vacuum cleaner, too." Indeed, not a stray French
fry or morsel of trail mix was in evidence. "Good point," I observed.
Then I started wondering how many other functions a good hunting dog might
perform that would replace costly options in a well-used, older car.
Anti-Theft, GPS, Entertainment Center
Perhaps the most obvious function a good dog fulfills is that of
"anti-theft device." Luxury car owners pay hundreds of dollars for a
security system unmatched by a Rottweiler who doesn't like the look of you.
And what about Global Positioning System (GPS)? What dog doesn't know when
you take the exit that leads to the vet's office? How different is that from
the reaction you get when you round the corner to your own home or that of a
friend with children, or a favorite hunting spot? Tell me THAT isn't GPS at its
Of course, there's the entertainment value of a canine companion as well.
For companionship, clowning, and a non-judgmental listening audience, you can't
beat Man's Best Friend in the passenger's seat. Try getting that from your CD
What A Dog Can't Do
Some options, alas, must come from the manufacturer. Dogs can be champion
window foggers, but the defogging function eludes them. Likewise, they can't
roll the windows down (at least, my dogs nor Murphy can), but they do a great
job of reminding YOU to roll them down.
In the end, I suppose a dog in the car is just a dog, primarily filling the
function of co-pilot and traveling companion. But whether it's my
(questionably) well-behaved pups fogging windows happily in the back seat or
Murphy snuffling up apple cores and warming the front seats, what would we do
Sally O'Neal lives, writes, and takes on the outdoors with her two Irish
wolfhounds in southeastern Washington State. She writes weekly for sportsmansguide.com.