"Do you think that dog would eat a parrot?"
I don't often find myself at a loss for words. But... eat a parrot? Zippy the dog? I was at a loss for words.
Maybe it was the woman who was asking the question. She looked like a refugee from a 1960s commune. Long hair streaked grey by middle-age protested her concerted efforts to keep it neatly in place. Her eyes said talk to me; her job said move along. And her overall weirdness clearly needed to be wrapped in tie-dye, not a National Forest Service uniform. Authority clung uncertainly to her counterculture frame.
Maybe it was the setting. Had we been sitting near each other at tables outside an herbal tea and organic brownie, co-operatively run café sited with feng shui precision in the centre of a power vortex in Sedona, both she and the question wouldn't have fazed me in the slightest. But with her sitting inside an entry booth at the entrance to the Grand Canyon, well, the only setting that would have been weirder might have been the smoking lounge at Teatro Real awaiting Act II of Tosca. I mean, have they introduced wild parrots into the Grand Canyon?
Maybe it was the dog in question. Zippy? Eat a parrot? When Zippy wades into the tranquil waters of Sulfuric Lake, the resident mallards don't panic. Hell, they don't even swim off. They circle around him making barking noises, mocking him, knowing at some duck-understanding level they're completely safe from whatever sporting breed genes seem to be missing from his DNA... the ones that are supposed to urge him to fetch the duck. Zippy would most definitely eat a parrot, as long as it was cooked, cut up for him and plopped into his food bowl.
"I only ask because I have a pet parrot and I'm thinking about getting a dog," she finally added, perhaps sensing my complete lack of an adequate answer.
"Uh, no. I don't imagine he'd eat a parrot," I finally stammered. "But admittedly he's not exactly what I'd consider a poster dog for all Labs. He's, well, let's just say he's instinct-challenged."
"Have a nice day."
You never know how weird things are going to get when you're traveling with a weird dog. John Steinbeck wrote about traveling around this country in 1960 with his standard poodle, Charley, in the aptly-titled Travels With Charley: In Search of America . I'm not searching for America, just trying to escape the heat of Phoenix, and I'm not likely to be as disappointed as Steinbeck was because my expectations are much lower than his were in that optimistic age.