I don’t think there’s a law preventing you from having your canine friend on your lap in the front seat of a car…..there is? Oh well, times change.
Anyway, in the days when dogs on laps were allowed and pet safety belts really were a joke, our Jack Russell would always put his front paws on the arm rest of the car door, his back legs on my lap (that I would hold on to lest he should be caught out by a sharp bend) and his snout would stick out of the open window as the wind rushed past. Of course if the window wasn’t open, he would still try to do it resulting in snotty dog smudges on the passenger window or front windscreen.
But he loved it, the whole wind in the face thing, tongue flapping uncontrollably so the slimy dog drool was snatched by the backdraft (so I ended up with globuled strings across my face and hair) sniffing and snorting at anything carried by the wind that might be worth chasing.
Sometimes I would get fed up with his claws gouging out bits of my legs as he tried to keep his balance, or the odd occasion he leant a bit too far out of the window and nearly fell out. On those occasions I would make him sit in the footwell which he hated and would keep grappling his way back onto my lap!
I don’t have a dog anymore, but I do have sons – two to be precise. And with children comes school, with school comes the school run, with the school run comes a car journey (and this is the malt that lay in the house that Jack built!).
Each morning the boys pile in (school car share comes with the territory) and after squabbling who sits where, within seconds the windows are down, whatever the weather!
Driving past hedgerows is a time of great excitement and angst: excitement to see who can grab the first stick; how long the stick survives being thrust back into the hedgerow from whence it came; how much noise is made by a branch with leaves on as the wind whistles through its battered lifeless limbs or how long a blade of grass survives before it is shredded.
The angst is all on my side: how long before someone is stung by stinging nettles that tend to poke out at awkward angles in readiness to strike; how long before someone’s fingers are sliced open by a man-eating bramble that hides behind the plump foxglove or worse, how long before someone tries to grab a stick that is actually attached to bigger branch that comes crashing out of the hedge and destroys the wing of my car.
But none of my angst washes with the boys I’m ferrying to school, no matter how often I shout out:
“stingers to the left” or “mind the thistle” or “arms in before they’re amputated by oncoming tractor/lorry/car/etc”.
Then we reach the open road and the hedgerow is too far away, so along with outstretched arms to see how cold their hands get (they get colder a lot quicker if you lick them you know!) go the heads. Fortunately due to safety belts restraining their antics they can’t stick their heads out too far, but they certainly get a face-full of wind and for those boys with a fine head of hair (aka boys who refuse to have their hair cut), they end up looking like they were dragged through the bush along with their sticks!
But like my Jack Russell, they love it. Their eyes water, they get flies in their open mouths and in the winter they see who suffers ‘brain freeze’ first. They have wind styled hair competitions and argue as to who can or can’t feel their frozen fingers.
When it’s below freezing and I am blue with cold which makes driving quite difficult, I sometimes have to be the mean grown-up and make them shut the windows, they, like my old Jack Russell, grapple with my demands and somehow lose the ability to understand how to close the window. I’ve tried making them sit in the footwell but it’s not big enough to accommodate more than one boy.
My eldest son sits with his headphones firmly pressed into his ears or pressing icons on his phone and his dog days seem to be over.
So for all the dog drool and gouged legs, I think there’s something to be celebrated in dogs and boys and sticks!