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The Curious Adventures of Cejas the Dog

by Maggie Van Ostrand

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Some may think it’s going too far to want to marry a dog, but since humans have pawed me often enough and marriages to them haven’t worked out, I may as well go straight to the source and get pawed by someone who doesn’t expect anything more than good old-fashioned petting. That’d be my dog, Cejas. I love my dog as much as Leon Panetta loves his mother’s gnocchi.

Cejas is a fascinating little fellow, though somewhat spoiled since Carmel Beach regulars often tell him he's the cutest dog they’ve seen all morning. When he was first rescued from the mean streets, he walked; now he struts. His favorite places are Carmel Beach, the dog spa at The Crossroads, and Mission Trail, where he can serenely commune with nature. 

Cejas is of uncertain ancestry and people who meet him love to guess what his lineage might be. Clint Black and Lisa Hartman said he looks like Chewbacca. They might be right, since George Lucas created Chewbacca after he saw his own dog sitting on the passenger seat of the car: a "gentle, hairy, non-English-speaking co-pilot." And Cejas also loves to sit on the passenger seat and is gentle, hairy, and a co-pilot; he does, however, speak English, and frequently quotes Groucho Marx, who said, “Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read." 

Cejas has a great sense of humor, is well mannered and, best of all, he is as great a communicator as Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, especially on long, cross-country trips.

Traveling east from California to everyplace else, we drove through a hard-hitting hailstorm outside of Nashville, with huge icy missiles crashing onto the roof of the car with such force, they pocked the paint. Cejas seemed amused when I suggested that either Tiger Woods was teeing off, Serena Williams was lobbing a few, or a heavenly Minnesota Fats was saying "Hail ball in the side pocket!" 

Cejas never whined, "Are we there yet?" nor did he object when I screamed obscenities at the GPS for directing us into a tunnel wall in Asheville, North Carolina.

At heart, he’s an explorer, taking every opportunity for adventure that presents itself. When we saw a sign in Kentucky saying it was only 20 miles to Lincoln's birthplace,  I asked Cejas, “Do you want to go?" He propelled both ears forward into drive, speed-wagged his tail in circles faster than the prop on Eastwood’s helicopter, and shot his tongue out the side of his mouth. He also passed along everything he knew about Lincoln's dog. Cejas has been full of such trivia ever since he gave up immature tail chasing and learned how to read. (He prefers spending his allowance at River House Books to using a Kindle.)

Lincoln, Cejas informed me, gave his dog the unimaginative name of "Fido" and, like that wasn't bad enough, he named his horse "Bob." But I digress. Fido was a floppy-eared, rough-coated, big tan dog who used to wait outside Billy the Barber’s shop chasing his tail for amusement while Lincoln got a haircut. Fascinating. Even the ranger guarding the log cabin, didn’t know that.

Like his idol, Groucho, Cejas has a dry sense of humor. In Memphis, parked across from Graceland next to Presley's jet, the "Lisa Marie," he went into an uncanny impersonation of the famous Elvis sneer. (It did not detract from the effect when he finally admitted his lip had been caught on a tooth.)

Cejas is like the Coast Guard: always ready. We got into a "no pets" motel in Albuquerque only because he agreed to walk on his hind legs and wear a trench coat. In Amarillo, he passed as a seeing-eye dog when I donned a pair of sunglasses, and fitted him with a fake harness made out of an umbrella rib.

In El Paso, we sashayed up to the front desk of a hotel and glommed on to a prominently placed sign: "No dogs allowed." Too tired to find another place, I said to the clerk, "This is not just a "dog" dog. He is a retired movie dog." A wiry young manager appeared, wearing horn-rimmed glasses and a bow tie, which he nervously snapped against his Adam's apple. He sniffed, "I understand you have a movie dog? What might I have seen him in?" I said he had been a stunt dog in "Benji," and an extra in "101 Dalmatians." "Really?" said the manager, "I think I remember seeing him!!" We ended up in a ground-floor suite with a sliding-glass door leading directly onto a large grassy area. Superbly mannered, Cejas left no reminders on the grass that he had ever been there (in exchange for which we were charged only for a single).

Cejas tried to share driving duties with me but the DMV refused to issue him a learner's permit. Everybody knows how much red tape there is at any bureaucracy, so you can imagine what it's like for a dog. (The only good thing about applying for a canine license in California is that there’s no line.)

A big benefit to having Cejas as a mate is that I can introduce him to my girlfriends without fear they'll seduce him, since most of them probably wouldn't want to date such a short and hairy guy whose favorite hobby is rolling around on Carmel seaweed.


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