Okay. So, the dogs. Chesty and Rocca. Male and female. We got the male first and the Veteran’s Administration sent Jack to school in Hutto,Texas to learn to train the dog to assist specifically with his disabilities. Because part of the dog’s job is to watch Jack’s back, Chesty is big. He weighs just over 110 pounds. That’s a lot of dog to take everywhere with you, so Chesty had to be trained to behave perfectly. No screwing around here or the whole deal wasn’t going to work. It took a lot of time and cussing and patience and fussing and energy to achieve this goal.
Our biggest mistake, I believe, was in naming the dog after a Marine. Chesty Puller. The Marine. At any rate, precisely like a Marine, the dog had to be re-trained every day. Like a Marine, Chesty was the handsomest thing on any block, especially in his red and blue working-dog cape. And, once again like all Marines, he forgot everything he’d ever known the very instant a pretty woman paid any attention to him. Still, eventually, Chesty was ready to begin his working life.
Then, because we have very little common sense between the two of us, and this is going to become increasingly clear to you as I continue with this story, we got a female pup to train as a backup for Chesty. Making herself comfortable in our home in the desert, our baby girl, Rocca, now weighs 148 pounds. Fully trained, she is calmer than Chesty and more protective, but not as attuned to Jack’s moods. She’s also the undisputed boss of our macho Marine-named boy. Except, of course, on those occasions when she has a need for that lovely appendage he carries between his legs. Then she’s the quintessential southern belle.
All right, so now you’ve got the picture a little more clearly. We’re bored. We’ve been in Arizona long enough for the minimalist beauty of the desert to have long ago worn off. We’re ready for our next adventure and, on this journey we’ll be traveling with two humongous canine companions.
The house is on the market, the recon flight is booked and we’re entertaining ourselves by reading everything we can get our hands on about The Republic of Panama and visiting all the chat rooms for ex-patriots living in that central American country. The place continues to sound good. We’re told that the Caribbean island section of the country, Bocas del Toro (translation: Mouths of the Bull) is thirty minutes from a hospital and a Price Smart. So civilization is within easy reach, but far enough away not to encroach too aggressively. We figure we’ll get a little panga boat instead of a car and take the local buses once we get to the mainland. When we go out for the day, we’ll be able to leave the dogs with the maid or the gardener. Everyone down there has one of each according to our research. It’s the way of life in Latin America and expected as a boon to the local economy. Panama is looking like an undiscovered tropical paradise. Clear blue water, little verdant jungle islands edged in white sand and most of the comforts of home too. Plus, they speak English.
Okay, okay, okay. I know. Way too good to be true. But you’ve gotta remember how bored we are, how desperate to find something with which to entertain ourselves besides looking deep within our souls to discover the truth that surpasses understanding. It’s time to move on and Bocas del Toro in The Republic of Panama looks good. We’ll go and check it out and, if it looks as good as everything we’re reading, we’ll head on down. If not, well, Jack assures me it’s a big world out there. Here’s how that conversation went:
“I don’t know Honey,” I say. “I mean, if it were just you and me, then I agree, we could go anywhere. Assuming we can find a buyer for the house. We could just leave the money from sale in the bank and travel the world and explore. But we have these two giant dogs.”
Try to see this with me, the exact condescending tilt of Jack’s big white-haired head, the slight cocking of the left eyebrow indicating irritation, the precise tone of voice as though speaking to a not-too-terribly-bright child.
“Why do you have to be negative?” He sighs. “There won’t be any problem with traveling with the dogs. Trust me.”
“But, maybe we should wait to sell the house until we know exactly where we’re going.”
Yes, I know. It was me who had the bright idea to move in the first place. I’m the one who mentioned greener pastures, where the summers didn’t feel like walking into a pizza oven each time I stepped outside. But we seem to be building momentum at an alarming rate. I can almost feel that boulder shifting its position ever so slightly above our heads.