“Let’s go,” I said in that overly excited voice that seems to be the universal activator for dog energy. He bounded his 14-ish-year-old body toward Honey the Elantra and waited while I cleared the back seat. Then, he leaped in like he owns the place.

Caruso, AKA Super Dog, AKA The Guy Who Owns the Place

Okay, I should face it – he owns the place.

Caruso (named for the tenor because his first owner was a wannabe opera singer) is a Chesapeake Bay Retriever/English Spaniel mix with a russet coat and big floppy ears. He is the latest in a long line of the sweetest dogs on earth. My dad just seems to find these pooches, and they steal a bit of his personality. It’s a beautiful thing.

Yesterday, Caruso accompanied me on my tour of the county as I hung posters for our upcoming Brett Ryan Stewart concert. Super Dog (that’s what I call him) couldn’t care less about the concert, but a chance to get a ride – now that’s his bliss. He’d prefer a pick-up truck bed, but a Korean sedan will do.

As we tooled up past Palmyra and over to Lake Monticello and across to Scottsville, he just lay in the back, panting that insanely bad dog breath despite my cranked air conditioning. He and I were both a bit put off by the 80 something degree weather and the massive humidity – too early in May, we concurred. While I asked business owners to hang a poster, he sat in the running car basking in the cool air.

Did I mention he owns the place?

Sometimes the presence of human beings really wears me down. I get weary of conversation and the weight of another’s preciousness in my space. That’s just my reality on this earth, not the fault of other people. But animals, especially big, lumbering dogs and precocious cats, they never grate on me. I think the key is that they can’t talk.

Plus, they give me an excuse for when someone asks if I was talking to myself: “No, I was talking to the dog,” I say with a gesture over the seat.

As Caruso and I wandered the rural roads, I talked with him about my book, about the other projects I had going on. . . and he listened. I could see it – his ears were forward. I need to talk through things (or write through them) to understand, and people grow tired of this, I know. But Caruso, as long as I talk in that excited voice, well, he’ll listen all day.

Right now, he’s licking the rug beneath my desk . . . I said he was a good companion, not the smartest one.

What do animals add to your life? Your writing?