The problem, of course, is that there’s a lot of dogs. There’s also only one mother-in-law. It’s that combination that had me scrambling, over this last week.

OK, perhaps I should back up and explain fully for the benefit of those who hadn’t been following this saga.

My 81- year- old mother in law had a stroke a month ago, which left her unable to care for herself. As often happens, her children were forced to deal with the house and all that was in it. This always unpleasant task was multiplied by the pets left behind. One of which… her dog… was a rather faithful companion… a beagle mix called George. George really is a great dog, and was an ideal companion for Mom.

Her birds (two of these) would have been no problem. My wife and I keep birds, so what’s two more? The dog was another story. We already have a dog, and three cats, neither of which will get along with another dog. Sad, because given the choice, we’d have kept him in the family. We rather like George. But because of our situation, he ended up spending a month being cared for by the vet where Mom had been taking him for the last few years, whilst we spent our spare time looking websites all over the country.

We finally found one in May’s Landing, NJ, called “Penny Angel’s Beagle Rescue“. During our initial conversation with the folks running that operation, we learned that Penny Angles places 300 dogs per year in foster homes. Based on this we made arrangements to drop off George at a PetSmart outside Atlantic City, NJ, where Penny Algels were doing a pet placement thing. PetSmart is to be commended for this, arranging for adoptions is something they do quite a bit of across the country. Apparently Penny Angles is one adoption partner of many.

The problem I had was one of time; I couldn’t pick the dog up form the vet here in Rochester, NY, until 08:30 on Saturday… and I had to be at May’s Landing by no later than 15:30. Mapquest says the trip is do-able in 6 and a half hours. Which left me about a half an hour of playtime. (Oh, joy!) Good thing that Bit’sBox is road ready.

400 miles to find a dog a home may seem like a bit much, but I had already offered to drive this animal anywhere within 600 miles of Rochester. First, as I say, he’s a good dog, but my mother in law was rather attached to him. On both those accounts, I couldn’t simply take him to the “humane society” where he stood about a 90% chance of being gassed in the second week there. even without her feelings being involved in the matter, I would have hated to create a second tragedy in response to the first.

So, we drove on Saturday.

I-90 to Syracuse and then 81 south to Scranton PA, and 476 to 76, through Philly to 676 the Ben Franklin Bridge, the Altantic City Expressway, and there we were, 6 hours later.

A few things things of note, that I jammed into my Palm as we made our trip.

  • George, it seems, likes to ride.
  • 476 is a raceway. There’s no other way to put it. When I got on at Scranton, I punched up 5 over the limit on the cruise computer, trying to make a little time, and soon found everyone, and I mean everyone on the highway was whipping by me at at least 80. Amazingly, Bit’sBox did very well indeed in this environment, holding it’s own at the upper edges of highway sanity. When, in this manner, I got to around a half-hour ahead of my schedule, I was seriously considering backing off on speed, but the traffic around me was having none of it. So, I rode the rest of the way into Philly at 80, getting there 38 minutes ahead of the clock.
  • It’s been 20 years since I was on I-76 in Philly proper. Now, I remember WHY. If I have my way, it’ll be another 20 before I try that nonsense again. I’ve had serious driving time in a lot of major markets… Boston, LA, Albany, Pittsburg, Cleveland. In the case of LA, bad habits were easy to adopt. I came back after two weeks of driving in LA and was pulling stuff that would make local cabbies blush. Well, let me tell you….Philly on 76 was like driving in LA, with half the available lanes. In the 12 some-odd miles between I-476 and the I-676 interchange (Which sets you up for the Ben Franklin Bridge) I counted no less than 12 accidents… all bumper bangers, nothing major. But it made me look at my now salt-covered paint in a new light.
  • Jersey is interesting. From the Camden side of the bridge to Altantic City is somewhere around 45 miles. The drive reminds me of driving in New England or perhaps New Brunswick, because of the types of land and trees… lots of scrub pine. Lots of deer, too, right out by the road, giving me cause to wonder if that heartburn I’ve been dealing with isn’t something a bit more serious as I went by at nearly a full clip.
  • New Jersey is a fairly easy place to get lost. In my case this cost me around half the time I’d made up coming in. Good thing Penney Angels keeps a cell phone handy to guide me in.
  • Gasoline in Philly: $2.25. Gasoline outside Camden, NJ, along the ACE; $1.78. Which lends itself rather well to the energy argument I made on BitsBlog the other day… one blend of gasoline, Gang. It’s time.
  • Shopping malls are about the same everywhere, including this one in Mays Landing. It wouldn’t have taken much to convince me I was someplace else, once I got to the place I was to meet Penny Angels.
  • Is it madness, or is it just me? How is it that PetSmart allows dogs on the sales floor? Dog sqabbles are bound to ensue. This was quickly brought home to be by a rather large looking German Sheppard. Darn thing, if it stood up on it’s hind legs would have easily been as tall as I am… and I’m 6’2″. George was too tired and freaked out to notice him as we walked into the store, thankfully.
  • Saying good bye to George was harder than I expected, given that I didn’t see him all that often while Mom had him. Dogs as a rule don’t like long goodbyes… makes them nervous. So, I thought that giving him a final good-bye would have made the job for the rescue crew harder. He’d know something was up. So I simply signed the papers and walked back to the truck. Oops, He knew, anyway… he started barking, and I kept walking… his bark still ringing in my ears, as I left. I hope he does well in his new home. I’m sorry I can’t be a part of it.
  • Going back through Philly to try and catch some rail action for my older boy who came along to help and keep me company, (and awake) we found some interesting sites. Amtrak runs a goodly sized operation there at the 30th street station. However, we recognized almost at once that it was not the best of neighborhoods, when, upon bailing off the expresway onto the surfce streets around 30th street, I was faced with what looked like it may have been a Ford Taurus wagon, stripped of parts, on four cement blocks, and burned out.  We were then shown by example, that the “residenentially challanged” have exchanged their shopping carts for bicycles with baskets mounted. The guy’s likely still standing on that corner screaming for us to come back so he can wash our windows, or something. We’re going to have to study the maps better next time we come here, I think.
  • The hills around Scranton can get nasty when it’s windy out. 476 is a bad enough road; it doesn’t need the help of the wind pushing me around.
  • One of the things I’d hoped to do with this whole situation was create an object lesson for my older boy; That being that life is not expendable, and that we have a responsibility both to our families, and the lives they take responsibility for. Spending a Saturday driving, and the ~$120 of fuel costs were, in my view, a small matter in the face of that responsibility.