A Lesson I Learned from My First Roommate, a German Shepherd Named Flash

The year was 1969, the year of flower power, peace, and love. It was also the year that I left home at 16 years old. I didn't leave alone. I took my faithful companion, Flash, along. Flash was a very large German Shepherd who had been rescued after suffering terrible abuse as a puppy. He was kind, stalwart, and loyal. He was also very good at being a German Shepherd. He knew what was expected of him and followed the rules.

I, on the other hand, was a country bumpkin, still wet behind the ears, so to speak. We had some fine adventures, but they almost never happened because we were almost killed in our sleep one night. We all know that sleeping in a room with an open flame or a gas appliance can be dangerous, but I would also like to add another dangerous situation to that list.

Flash and I lived in my 1952 GMC pickup truck. Are you starting to understand the country bumpkin reference? We occasionally crashed at a crash pad, but most of the time we preferred our own company and lived like a couple of vagabonds, sleeping wherever we parked. The original seat of the pickup truck had been removed and two large and comfy bucket seats from a Buick had been installed. Flash usually slept in the passenger seat and I slept behind the wheel.

For entertainment, other than my harmonica, we had the AM radio in the dash. We lived off what I could manage to scuffle up, which usually wasn't much, but we managed. I dropped in to High School once in a while, mostly out of curiosity and to check in on my more conventional peers. Most of our days were spent riding the roads, hunting birds, or working part time at the junk yard to make enough money to feed ourselves.

The cooking facilities in a 1952 GMC are non-existent, so I ate out of cans and Flash ate out of dog food bags. It was the fall of the year and nights were chilly. When we first started rooming together in the truck, Flash tried to sleep on top of me, but I would have none of it and forced him to stay on his own side of the cab. As the nights got colder I began to re-think that policy. We slept with the windows up and I burrowed deeper into the old, woolen, army blanket I used for warmth.

One night, I parked in the woods off an old road that no one used. We were near an old mill site and the sound of the water over the dam made a nice backdrop to lull us to sleep. Before we slept we had our dinner. I had run out of dog food and planned on getting more in the morning. I didn't think it would be a big problem, I'd just share my baked beans with Flash.

Perhaps this would be a good time to discuss the physical attributes of a German Shepherd. While they are wonderfully sturdy dogs on the outside, German Shepherds are as delicate as a Swiss watch on the inside. As anyone who has lived with a German Shepherd knows, they have delicate stomachs and must be on a carefully monitored diet, especially if you will be sleeping in a confined space with one. But this was the time I lived dangerously and I did almost anything that came to mind without a lot of forethought.

We had our meal and snuggled down to sleep, the sound of the falling water like a lullaby in the background. During the night, I had a dream that I was at the local landfill (we called them dumps back them). The stench was horrendous and it was such a realistic dream that I could hear the rumbling of trucks and actually smelled the landfill, in fact, it made me physically sick and awakened me from the dream.

I woke coughing and gasping for air. The cab of the truck was filled with noxious gas. Oh! The humanity! Flash, poor soul, was moaning in his sleep and his stomach was making terrible rumbling sounds. I quickly wound the windows down and I hung my head out the driver's side window while Flash hung his head out the passenger's side window. I don't know how long we remained like that, but I eventually recovered and we spent the rest of the night sleeping with the windows open.

What I learned from my experience was that German Shepherds, like aerosol cans, should come with a warning label that says, "Warning, contents under pressure. Use in a well ventilated area."

1 comment:

  1. As a person who now lives with a German Shepherd, I can assure you that every word of that is true! Oh, how I laughed at this!