Eight Bells on the Last Dog’s Watch

It was a short errand, but I put on my gear, anyway. Might as well pretend I know what I’m doing.

We have a motorcycle ride scheduled for Monday, up along some of my favorite King and Snohomish county roads. I laid out the route on Friday morning. It’s a good one.

One of my accustomed errands is to prep the bikes. With Pretty Wife’s little black Triumph (like a little black dress, it fit most any occasion) parked in by the van and truck, I motocrossed it around the house, through the back yard and up past the garage. It has a great frame, the Street Triple, and a lower center of gravity than most “adventure bikes.”

Perfect afternoon, yesterday. Broken clouds, mid-40s, dry roads. I threw on my leathers, with a little help from Pretty Wife for that pesky left ankle that never quite fits properly into the boot.

“Ah, just pull the Velcro over–”

“No, you’re going to wear it properly.”

<sigh> “Yes, dear.”

Gratuitous bike shot goes

Might as well listen to her. It’s been a pretty dumb week so far, including filing a police report detailing the first time I went for my afternoon mind-settling walk without my faithful walking companion and ended up losing a fight to a perfect stranger. Residential neighborhoods ain’t what they used to be, but I’d be on a bike this time.

Bikes are my comfort zone.

Oil and coolant were fine; I’d lube the chain afterward (warm is best), and the tires were up. Two doors down, I stopped, checked left and right, and turned left straight into the pavement. There wasn’t even time to yell “Oh, crap!” At 12 mph off the bottom of first gear, the Trumpet leapt out from under me like a giant had pulled it on a string, and there came that nasty crunch and grind sound.

I dragged my leg out, jumped up and herked the bike off the ground… about an inch. Oops. Forgot about the slipped disks…

Took my hardhat off, shucked my gloves, shut off the bike key, and took a few breaths. This’ll be hard to explain

Neighbor Steve made his way toward me with Lulu, one of his blue Great Danes, on lead. When they got closer, she leapt up in joy and pulled him over on his butt. Oh, crap. Steve is a tough old bird, but he’s about 75 and his back and legs are worse than mine, at least for now and now is all we’ve got.

Picked up the bike and Steve’s mail. He got up. We stood there, thinking about things.

“You should check those tires. Dry day.”

Yeah. I put my hat and gloves back on — a gentleman always dresses for the occasion — motored slowly back up the rise to our house and limped up the walk.

“That was quick!” said Pretty Wife, smiling over the half-built kitchen bar. “Everything OK?”

“Uh… no.”

Pretty Wife paled up. We went to look at her bike together. The engine case was scratched afresh, covering an old scratch from a previous owner with a new one, twice the size.  The bar and lever ends showed grind marks. And the undercarriage and tires were coated with … eeeww.

“Dog poop!”

Oh, crap.

My ankle got its picture taken at the VA, where they also CAT scanned my head due to my black eye from Monday’s shenanigans. Only a tiny bit of damage to left ocular orbit. The shank, however, has clouded over with so much arthritis and bone scarring that they couldn’t tell whether it was broken or not. I can’t, either. Hurts a bit. The orthopaedists will poke at it again next week. In the meantime, I get the boot. There’ll still be a ride on Monday, but I won’t lead it.

I got another reminder of my fuzzbuddy. Monday’s reminder was not to go walking without him — he mediated my world with an aura of peace and joy and “Wow, that’s a big dog.” In more than a thousand walks with Tucker, I never suffered an argument; much less a scuffle.

I got another reminder of why you wear gear, even for the short stuff. After 35 years of riding on the street (if you do the math, you’ll figure out that I started moto-commuting at 14 — and I have the WSP ticket to prove it), I sallied forth to buy cake supplies and didn’t make it half a block. Keep your boots on, son…

And I got an odoriferous reminder that we’re still surrounded by dogs, here. Our old one, and a few others full of wags and snuffles and sweet, grassy life. Small price to pay — except for that part about scratching my wife’s bike. I have to love her for asking about me first.

Today is  our L’Chaim, to the Dark Side party. It’s where I celebrate turning 50, alongside a number of friends turning a number of numbers. It’s where I get to stumble around on three points of contact — yep, crutches again — and remind myself that my dog managed to stumble around on three legs for a year and a half, walking over a mile a day just so he could be next to me, having adventures.

It’s where I get to say what I hope Tucker lives every day for the rest of time, wherever he runs now, with four legs and the wyvern wings he well and truly earned, ears perked, tail up and wagging:

Hey, bitches! It’s my BIRTHDAY!






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