I should not have worried. Swede William was a s.t.a.r. No, he was a S.T.A.R. And the trip was longer than the seven hours it should have been. I drove the 2.5 hours to Nashville, and headed east on route 40, like I always do. Kind, dear friends kept me company on the phone, talking about everything and nothing. They talked, I croaked. I had done some serious harm to my vocal chords.
And then Heather called from Paducah.
"How's the trip going?" she asked.
"Great," I croaked. "I'm almost to Knoxville already."
[pause] "... Knoxville?"
As soon as she said it, I knew.
"Oh NOOOOOO," I groaned. "Oh, Heather, I'm on the whole wrong road, aren't I? I'm on I-40 and I should be on I-24. I'm heading home to Maryland instead of down to Atlanta."
Thank goodness she had called. I had gone about 150 miles out of my way. I got off, and studied my atlas and found a perfectly nice route south to reconnect me with I-24. It was snowing. Bill called. I told him what had happened, but tried to put a good spin on it. "Great blog material. And the sun has come out. It's a beautiful drive."
Susan called. I explained my navigational error which would significantly delay my arrival. I would miss seeing her and Early, to my bitter disappointment. She made my heart sing. She and Early had bonded magically. Jenna, her Queen-Whippet-Who-Never-Let-Another-Lowly-Dog-Touch-Her-Person was curling up with her head draped over Early's middle and sharing the hotel bed happily. Early seemed to know that Susan was his person. "If my friend held him for a minute and I went somewhere, his eyes never left me. Right away! It was amazing. I adore him. I feel like he's been a part of my life forever. It's a perfect fit, Patience!"
Ah, now these were welcome happy tears.
Swede William had ridden the whole way, including the extra hours in lost land, without a squeak. He also hadn't closed his eyes. He had been lying down, either flat on his side, or sphinx-like, but every time I snuck a glance, his eyes were open. Strange doings, this business of being the only whippet in the whippet wagon. But he wagged and danced at the potty stops, and happily jumped back in the number one crate, right behind the driver's seat. And he was so polite. He never even mentioned the duh detour we had taken.
When we first arrived at the National I thought, "This was a big mistake." Everyone was missing Carolyn, and each kind expression from friends who understood, who knew about Giacomino, was just the spark to get a bonfire of screams burning in my throat. Couldn't you just see me walking my beige whippet through the Atlanta Hilton, with my eyes bugging out all mystified, and instead of saying hi how have you been, man your puppy is beautiful, opening my mouth and screaming AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA like the shower scene in Psycho??? I kept my mouth SHUT and nodded silent hellos. The booths - Carolyn and I had set up next to each other every year since 1997. It was coming a big whopper of a scream.... Not cool, Patience. Not cool! I went back outside and walked William around the grounds.
It all worked out. I managed not to scream, not once. And surrounded by dog people, dogs, friends, knowing that Early was doing so well, and comforted by Swede William who was just being SUCH a good boy, and staying in a room with the most generous kind people in the WORLD, the screams went away. For good.
I left Atlanta and pointed the Whippet Wagon with one little saintly beige whippet toward Toledo.
hug your hounds and your sisters