By William Thomas
I hate to say I told you so, but … exactly four months ago, I wrote about Eclipse, the black lab in Seattle who had been taking trips on the public transit bus all by herself. Not willing to wait for her lazy owner, Eclipse was boarding a bus in front of the apartment building where they live, going to the dog park where she played herself out and then she returned home on the bus, snoozing with her head in a stranger’s lap.
In that column I said: “For a breed of animal that started out as a wolf in the wild and ended up snoring at the ends of our beds, the next logical stop for Eclipse is to try and drive the bus which would be totally insane.”
Last week, in the rural community of Abington, 77-year-old Tom Hamilton climbed down from his John Deere Gator to tend to a couple of lambs in a field at his Kirkton Farm, southeast of Glasgow, Scotland. That left his faithful sidekick, a four-year-old border collie named Don, in the passenger seat, with the tractor parked precariously on a steep hill above a major highway.
“I had not pulled the handbrake on the tractor,” admitted Tom, “and when I turned round I got a fright as the vehicle was careering down the hill, through the gate and onto M74.”
Please note how Tom takes full responsibility for the accident, which sends a clear message to all you men out there who are awful quick to point a finger at the dog at the first whiff of a really bad smell in the room. Man up!
Also Tom is being way too protective of Don because the dog did, in fact, lean onto the controls of the tractor, which caused it to shoot down the embankment, crashing through the fence and across a busy motorway during the morning rush hour. Unable to reach the pedals, Don and the Gator came to a stop when they crashed into the central guard rail after other drivers on the morning commute managed to swerve around them.
Although nobody was injured and the crash scene was cleaned up in about 30 minutes by Traffic Scotland, a photo of a sheepish-looking Don reveals how very embarrassed he was over the whole fiasco. Head bowed, shoulders drooping, eyes to the ground, Don looks downright humiliated. As a border collie — smartest breed know to man — Don knows full well that he should have turned off the ignition key long before he took out the fence.
In their urgent message to commuters and the media – “Delays on M74 after dog drives onto carriage way” – Traffic Scotland officials kept adding the words “nope, not joking.” After finally able to report “No drivers were hurt. No delays in the area,” Traffic Scotland relaxed enough to send out one final message. “This is the weirdest thing we have ever reported.”
This message was met with M74 drivers replying that “Yes, it has been a ruff ride to work” and wondering if the police investigating the accident “have any leads?”
Although Don wandered off looking for Tom after the crash, police did not charge him with leaving the scene of an accident. How could they? By arresting Don for fleeing the crash site, they would thereby acknowledge that he was in fact the driver of the runaway vehicle. That being established, along with ownership, they would then have to charge the dog with either joyriding or grand theft auto. Operating a motorized vehicle without a valid driver’s license would then be added to all the other charges and pretty soon, you’ve got a dog who’s never been in trouble with the law looking at a sentence of nine human years in prison before he turned five years of age.
If I was an inspector with that police force, I’d put round-the-clock surveillance on Tom’s family car because if I’m any judge of dogs, Don will try to drive again. And next time he’ll steal a vehicle with an automatic transmission so he can concentrate more on steering and not worry about shifting gears.
Dogs – they may look cuddly and oh-so-lovable, but they’re bent on taking over our world one vehicle at a time. I estimate that we’re just three generations away from watching a bus full of drunken dog park canines being driven by an Australian shepherd in a blue uniform and a peaked cap. And that’s when K-9 bomb-sniffing dogs at the airport will have to be retrained for traffic duty.
As much as I love dogs, Eclipse should be charged with failure to pay for her public bus rides and Don needs to be charged with careless driving or driving without a valid pair of Snoopy goggles or whatever. Police need to get tougher on these dogs before their cruisers start to go missing, mysteriously.
Anyway, all’s well that ends well and as the slogan goes: “Nothing runs like a Don on a Deere.”
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