By William Thomas
Several months ago, Jeff Young and his black lab were waiting at their bus stop when the bus pulled up. Jeff needed a little more time to finish his smoke. Anxious to roughhouse with her mates, the lab bolted onto the bus and went to the dog park on her own, four stops away.
Now, months later, Jeff doesn’t always feel like making the trek to the park, but the dog sure does. Quite often, the smiling black lab will just board the bus and get off at the dog park all by herself. When she’s finished running around with her playmates, she takes the next available bus home.
Not the most responsible dog owner, Jeff Young is also not good at naming pets. Eclipse is the name of the bus-riding, sidewalk-savvy dog. For a freeloading dog who never pays to ride public transit, “Mooch” would have been an excellent name for this mutt. At the very least, “Free Dumb Rider.”
I’m not the only one who loves the story, but not the idea of a dog free to roam in the city. Said Jeff Switzer, spokesman for the pet-friendly King County Metro Transit: “Eclipse would be a lot safer if she could keep her owner on a leash.”
In the video, other passengers on the bus are fawning over the dog, petting her and talking to her, despite the fact she always jumps into the best seat available, next to the window. On the ride back home, Eclipse is usually exhausted and flops her big head onto the closest lap for a bit of a rest before the bus arrives at the stop right in front of her apartment.
Once there, Eclipse removes a key from her collar, opens the front door of the apartment building, collects the mail, uses the intercom to growl at an old lady on the top floor who’s afraid of dogs and then takes the elevator to her apartment where she drags her owner off the couch and jumps up for a nap. Okay, that part I made up, but the fact that Eclipse has never missed a stop going to and from the dog park is a pretty impressive record.
Not to eclipse .— sorry, not to one-up Eclipse— but years ago, I wrote about the English lady who was taking entirely too much time filling a prescription at the Chemist’s in Bath. Her border collie (smartest breed known to man) sat impatiently outside the pharmacy until boredom got the best of him and he got up and went home.
He correctly boarded the first bus and ingratiated himself to one of the passengers, making the bus driver believe the dog belonged to that person. Off he got at the right stop and then he made the correct transfer to a second bus, and was sitting on the woman’s porch when she finally did get home. The local newspaper interviewed both bus drivers who confirmed the story and the precise trip the border collie had mastered. I tell you honestly and with a great deal of respect — I played hockey with guys who couldn’t make that trip!
At first, the Seattle passengers on the bus did not believe Eclipse was traveling alone. They kept looking around for the owner. Even when Eclipse jumped up beside Miles Montgomery, host of KISW Radio, as he told the story on air, his listeners thought it was a joke.
Should you ever find yourself riding a bus with a strange dog, here are seven sure signs that the dog is indeed traveling alone …
• Once you get talking to her, she pulls out her wallet and shows you a photo of her owner.
• She gives up her seat to a little old lady, but not before she gets a biscuit.
• When the ticket-taker comes down the aisle, she passes him your ticket and he kicks you off the bus.
• You offer her half your sandwich and she gives you a tennis ball soaked in drool.
• As she gets closer to her stop, she keeps looking at her watch and wagging her tail.
• Approaching her stop and unable to reach the “Stop Bell,” she runs to the front of the bus and bites the driver in the bum.
• Late arriving at her destination, she shows her displeasure by taking a leak on the front, right tire of the bus.
For a breed of animal that started out as a wolf in the wild and ended up snoring at the end of our beds, the next logical step for Eclipse is to try and drive the bus, which would be totally insane. Okay, she can sit in the bus driver’s lap, but must keep her paws off the wheel. Okay, she can steer the bus, but not work the pedals. Okay, she can work the brake, but not the accelerator. And no, she can never drive the bus at night, especially if she’s had a few beers. That’s illegal. The dog rules … damn near everything.
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