Christchurch, New Zealand
Three dogs in New Zealand are being taught to drive in an effort to show how intelligent they are. The dogs were all rescued from a New Zealand animal shelter and have gone through a methodical eight-week training program that has enabled them to cautiously navigate a purpose built course in a Mini Cooper.
This morning Greenville Police Chief Terri Wilfong is pondering the logic of teaching a dog to drive. Millard and Marsha Poinsett of Crescent Avenue sent Tillman, their two year-old Boykin Spaniel to New Zealand last December for driving lessons. Upon his return to the Upstate, Tillman was greeted with his very own Range Rover LR2.
“It’s the perfect car for Tillman and he looked so good behind the wheel. We even chose a stain and water resistant fabric for the driver’s seat, you know, in case of an accident. We hung the Rover’s smart key on his collar and in no time Tillman was running car pool and picking up the dry cleaning. All it took was a simple command such as ‘Tillman, dry cleaner fetch!’ he was even driving himself to the doggie salon. Why just last week Tillman drove us to the Peace Center to see Les Mis’ and of course all our friends were out front. Well–talk about arriving in style, me and Millard in the back seat and Tillman behind the wheel,” Mrs. Poinsett stated breathlessly, “Millard had gone to Rush Wilson Clothiers and bought the cutest little bowtie for Tillman. That dog was just adorable and well–we were the talk of the town.”
According to Chief Wilfong, Tillman and some of his four-legged pals went on an all-night fender-bender and may have caused $20,000 in damage, perhaps more.
“We haven’t tallied it up yet, but it’s substantial. We’ve got broken windows and stolen chew toys at the Saluda River Pet Store, graffiti and traumatized felines at the Reedy River Cat Clinic, broken locks and missing dogs at the Upstate Humane Society, a pile of doggie defecation at the zoo’s hyena exhibit not to mention numerous scratched fenders in the Augusta Road neighborhood. Apparently they started at the Pet Smart where they fueled up on Beggin’ Strips before embarking on their four hour crime spree.”
Mrs. Poinsett is quite upset and noticeably disappointed in her dog. “When Tillman was a good boy, life was just so special. Just a few days ago Tillman drove us to a cocktail party where our hosts showed off the canned-beer fetching skills of their Golden Retriever, Bo. Well Millard and I just smiled and applauded; Goldens really are such sweet dogs but they certainly don’t have the parallel parking skills of a Boykin and the Poinsett’s certainly don’t drink beer out of a can.”
For now Tillman is in the custody of the Poinsett’s because the jail doesn’t have breed specific holding cells, a deficiency that the ACLU has been notified about. “He really is a good boy but recently we were looking at his account at Pet Smart and he had rung up a hefty amount. Tillman’s little paws can’t hold the Amex so we just set up accounts for him but then we had to curtail some of his privileges when he started including his friends. Well he’s still such a young dog I guess I should’ve expected it. He would ride through the neighborhood and pick up some of his friends, the Wilson’s chocolate lab or the Kent’s dog Rex and off they would go to the Dog Park or downtown to the river to chase the ducks. When Tillman started seeing that bitch Chloe, well that should’ve been our signal that his judgment had become, well, questionable. In hindsight I guess we should’ve seen this coming and scheduled an intervention with Tillman’s therapist but, well we’ve just been so busy; you do understand that it’s opera season. We meant to though, we really did.”
Chief Wilfong is puzzled as to how Tillman avoided the sharp eyes of her officers for so long. According to the Chief, Tillman was probably a better driver when he had human passengers with him. “Don’t these folks know that dogs are color blind so the whole red light, green light thing would have been lost on Tillman. I’ll bet the Poinsett’s were leading that dog with Tillman stop! Tillman left!”
The Poinsett’s are looking at a number of legal issues, not to mention the amount of damages they’re personally liable for. Chief Wilfong looks overwhelmed with the legal implications of this. “Tillman certainly wasn’t covered by their auto insurance and that was a very nice car–was. Hopefully their neighbors won’t press charges. Once we get this mess sorted out I’ll have to record some sort of public service announcement about the dangers of having a dog behind the wheel. Can you imagine having a teenage boy and his dog in the same car? I’ll bet the insurance agents are probably giddy with the prospect. This Augusta Road crowd can be a little, well, envious and I pray we don’t see more dogs behind the wheel. I hope this incident has soured everyone on the idea that a dog can be a responsible driver.”
A call to the Augusta Road travel agency would say otherwise. “We’ve been flooded with calls regarding flight times to Christchurch, New Zealand. Tillman’s little midnight expedition has done wonders for our business. By tomorrow afternoon we’ll be featuring an all-inclusive trip to New Zealand which will include driver’s training for your dog.”
Our roads may never be the same.