The furry hierarchy of who rides in the truck

In all our years as dairy farmers, we've never invested in a stock trailer. We've always hired haulers to transport larger animals when necessary and carried the occasional calf to a new home in our pickup. So when our nanny goat, Cynthia, needed to go to the vet one day, she was unceremoniously pushed into the truck's extended cab, where I had laid a cushion and spread an old bath towel.

At the sound of the engine, our dogs appeared on the run, breathless with expectation. A ride in the truck is among their keenest pleasures, even if it doesn't mean a quick trip to the recycling center with its delicious odors, but an idle hour or two accompanying us on errands around town.

There are usually perks involved. Our dogs begin salivating at first sight of the low building across from the library. This is the bank, where the tellers at the drive-through service window never fail to add dog biscuits to the canister with our cash or receipts.

A stop at the feed store is even better. From the truck, they can see exactly what we're doing through the glass door, from our first hellos and order placements right up to that casual reach into the barrel of free samples (big chewable chunks of treats) at the register. Their response would warm Pavlov's heart.

But now we were leaving without them. Often, as I drive off, the half-despairing yet frantically hopeful expressions on their muzzles cause me to stop, open the door, and let them fly to their places in the back - but not this time. Worse still, as both dogs seemed to grasp simultaneously, we had another passenger.

Their shock was palpable in their rigid stances: What's she doing in there? For her part, Cynthia stared calmly back through her little rear window as if the natural order of things had finally arrived.

If our nanny could have taunted "nanner-nanner," she would have. Once we were out of sight, though, she knelt on the cushion, lowered her head, and rode without once looking up to see where we were taking her.

She seemed to know it was not to the church, where once a year she acts as poster-goat for a Heifer Project International fundraising fair, something she enjoys enormously. She always jumps into the truck that picks her up for that occasion. This ride, she sensed, was no pleasure trip. Her calm, collected look had been pure show for the dogs.

You'd better believe they were on hand for our return. Cynthia, feeling better, stepped from the cab without assistance, as if she'd done it every day of her life and might just do it again tomorrow. It was all too much for our black Lab. Susie, who let out a rolling, evocative rumble from her chest that signified neither friendship nor threat - just a clear protest against the injustice of it all. Oscar, our border collie mix, pranced nervously around the goat as she stepped daintily over to her shelter and pen. He seemed poised between herding her - and leaping into the truck at the slightest invitation.

This morning, when I drove off for the paper and some groceries, I didn't let anyone come along. It was raining and muddy, and the dogs would have made a mess of the cab.

Cynthia, munching her carrots, looked perfectly content to stay right where she was. Though they cast me doleful looks as I rounded the turn from the drive, neither dog looked as completely crestfallen or as profoundly shocked as they had the day before.

After all, she didn't get to go, either.

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