Nothing smells as good as our RV. It has just the right blend of hot dogs, sunshine, Joey's sleeping bad, and the M&Ms he dropped behind the seat last summer. For days this week, I helped Mom pack the RV's galley, supervising while she stowed away towels, cereal, silverware, and — most important of all — my dog food. I also helped Dad examine the engine, making serious-sounding thinking noises while he topped off fluids and tested the lights. I tried to help him with washing it, too. When the hose attacked the RV, I attacked the hose, and that was when Dad decided that I should go inside to help Joey pack.
It took an eternity for everyone to get ready. Why does it take them so long, I wondered, when I'm ready to go at any second, day or night? I'll never get it. But Dad's the driver, so I waited for him to tell me I could get in the RV before I let my tail fly with happiness. Joey said, "Buster's so excited, his tail's about to fly right off his butt!" And it was true.
I got in my spot between Mom and Dad on the floor, where I'm close enough to check on Joey, to see if he's bored during the drive. Sometimes we stop, and then it's my job to pop up and see what's going on. If we're at a tollbooth, or a gate, or especially a DRIVE THRU WINDOW, it's my job to show the person on the outside that my family is brilliant enough to have a dog traveling with them. A dog who likes double cheeseburgers. It brings the family respect and, hey, I'm happy to do my part. Especially since the time I got that doggie ice-cream cone at Dairy Queen.
This trip didn't involve many stops at windows, not until the very end when Dad rolled down his window to pass some papers back and forth with a woman in a little house. That was when I caught it — a rich flavor in the air. It was sharp and hot-smelling with hints of popcorn and wind and a great big mystery. The smell made me tingle all over, like the time Mom made barbecued shrimp, and before I knew it Joey was saying, "shh, boy,î and that was how I knew I was whining. I couldn't wait to see what that smell was all about.
We pulled into a campsite, and Mom and Dad got busy making dinner. I thought Joey might get distracted too, so I pawed at the door to remind him what was important — GOING OUT. Sometimes he needs me to help him with this stuff. He got it pretty quickly. "I'll take Buster down to the beach," he said, hooking me onto my leash. He opened the door, and I pulled him down the steps, into the world.
I love campsites, and usually marking them is one of my favorite things, but this time I felt like there was something else, something more, waiting for us. I pulled Joey along, following my nose. He said, "This way, boy. We have to follow the trail."
Sure, sure, the trail, whatever. But Joey was right. Not thirty feet down that trail I hit a double jackpot. First, I caught the smell of another dog who'd just been by that exact same spot. Another dog! He smelled like a male, like me, and about my age. I left my mark there, too, for his benefit. Then Joey started whooping and racing off, galloping across piles of sand. I ran after him, barking, and had my first experience of THE BEACH. This was where the smells were coming from! Thousands of smells filled this placeócrabs, clams, water, sunscreen, swimsuits, driftwood, barnacles.
Joey and I raced in and out of the waves, kicking up water as we tore down the beach. I was having the time of my life — only dinner could pull me away. That and a promise from Joey that we'd be back at first light the next morning.
The next day brought even more surprises. Not only did we all go back to the beach, but Mom brought a huge basket that turned out to be full of toys. She and Dad spread out towels on the sand while Joey and I played Frisbee for about a million hours. I leaped and darted and twirled like a Frisbee god, and was always very careful to bring it back to Joey. Until, that is, I caught the scent of that dog again. He'd just been there, I was sure of it. But where was he now?
Joey caught my attention again by pulling out a new toy that he called a "boogie board." It was like a huge Frisbee. Joey took it into the water and skidded into shore on top of it, riding a wave. That called for some barking, of course. We spent all the time until lunch sliding and barking and splashing in the waves. Joey really knows how to have a good time..
At lunch I got a piece of egg salad sandwich that fell in the sand and a big drink of water out of the bowl Mom showed me. Then Joey and I took a rest under the beach umbrella. I got bored after a while and dug a hole in the sand, but Mom made me stop when I kicked too much sand on the towel. So I trotted off a little bit, to smell some more things and there, coming toward me down the sand, was The Dog. It was him, I was sure of it. I ran up to say hello, and sure enough, he smelled the same! Our tails wagged like crazy. He was black and white, not brown like me, and his man called him "Zeke."
Before long, Zeke and I were racing along the sand. We sped in and out of the waves, running back and forth between Joey and Zeke's man. I barked, Zeke barked. Joey laughed and laughed. Then we all wound up in a big heap, half in, half out of the water. I've never had so much fun in my life.