I spent this past Saturday night burying a dog. Well, 3 am Sunday morning, but still. The dog was this charmingly dumb but very sweet little Pomeranian named Beezus. Around two weeks before that, one of my other dogs, a shaggy terrier named Dirty Girl, died when I was en route to go drive the GT500. In short, it's been a bad month for good dogs.
This isn't exactly news, but having two of your dogs die in such a short amount of time is pretty awful. They're survived by a third dog, a blind Australian Shepard/Chow mix named Virginia (whom I've written about before). One thing they all had in common, aside from a love of dropped food and occasional room-clearing farts, is a shared love of cars.
Dogs may be the only animal outside of man to actively and genuinely appreciate cars. For the vast majority of animals that encounter cars, they're just these loud, death-bringing juggernauts or, for the ones that occasionally ride inside them (I'm looking at you, cat pals), metal terror boxes that are, at best, endured. Dogs can actually appreciate a car trip. They actually have preferences and opinions about cars. I know because I've seen it.
Dirty Girl, the terrier, was found by my wife and I when we first started dating. I was driving around Koreatown in my 1967 Volvo P1800S (the key I've mentioned before) when we saw this filthy, limping dog. We opened the door to see if there was a collar or tags, and the filthy dog jumped in the back seat, and gave us a look like "What the hell took you so long? Drive!" We had her ever since.
That dog was fond of the P1800, as it was her ticket out of filthy asphalt and dumpster scraps to a world of floor pillows and not-quite-the-cheapest canned dog food. But all three dogs definitely had an agreed upon favorite car: a 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Convertible.
I liked that car as well— it was a Wolfsburg edition, which meant it was GTI-spec, with a 5-speed and the 90 HP engine. Light and nimble, it was a blast to drive. From a canine perspective, it had two very key traits: a ratty enough interior to make dog occupation acceptable, and, of course, no top. For a dog, the convertible part is absolutely key: as an olfactory-focused being, riding in a convertible, nose up in the rushing air, must be like the most intense sensory rush imaginable. I'd drive with them in the back seat, and look in the rear view to see three dog noses, nostrils flaring, as they drank in the rich smellscape of the city.
They loved that car. There's not many convertibles out there that really work well as dog cars, but the basket-like shape of the Rabbit/Cabrio, along with the otherwise stupid always-partially up rear side windows made an ideal shape for keeping dogs in and safe while exposing them to the maximum amount of outside. Safer than the back of a pickup, but with about as much exciting wind. Decent-sized bench seat to easily handle three dogs, a reasonable trunk for dog equipment, and not so nice that you'll be upset if someone pukes.
I remember leaving them in the open-topped car when running into a store for a quick errand, and how they looked when walking back to the car. They were all sitting in that back seat, bolt upright, with looks on their faces that sure as hell seemed like pride. I know we anthropomorphize dogs, but that's how it looked. Three dogs, very proud of their little ratty car.
After we sold the Rabbit the dogs ended up riding in the back of a Passat wagon. Adequate, but not remotely as much fun. Which just proves the point: dogs are gearheads, with lots of opinions about cars. Just like us.
So, Dirty Girl and Zuzu, I hope you're both somewhere with lots of dropped food and an '82 Rabbit convertible to drive you around whenever you want.