Thank God for the dog

Everyone loves a good boy

Photo Marianne Liendo-Dufort

A few years ago, I found myself  tree planting out in Northern British Columbia. It was me—a dirtbag with a bleached buzz cut—my beautiful husky, German shepherd and Bernese mountain dog mutt and my sturdy ten-year-old Subaru Outback. I looked like the most stereotypical queer kid you could imagine. 

At that point of my cross-country journey, I was on Highway 16 nearing Innisfree, Alta. I had been driving by endless golden fields of wheat, passed by bison ranches and seen my fair share of farms. Most were decorated with Canadian flags, with the occasional American flag sprinkled in. 

I had been driving for about eight hours that day and my gas tank was getting low. I knew I needed to stop and refill at the next exit. About half a mile later, I saw this tiny, lonely gas station. I was happy, it meant I could use an actual bathroom and grab a snack. 

This Petro-Canada on Highway 16 near Innisfree is, for a lack of a better word, really cute. Just a bit off the highway, it’s surrounded by tall grasses and native flowers. I figured it would be a perfect place to let Miko, my dog, stretch his legs and do his business. 

After I was finished filling up my  car, I parked on the side and let the dog out. I was standing alone, with no one in sight except for a single employee through the dirty window of the building. 

This is when the most Western-looking truck I had ever seen pulled up next to my car. 

A lovely pair of truck nuts dangled below the bumper, eclipsed only by multiple stickers adorning the vehicle’s rear. I could decipher that the driver was both a veteran and a proud gun owner.

A six-foot-tall man opened the door, lit up a cigarette and stepped out of his truck. The actual gasing area was far enough from where we were parked. I later guessed this is where the employees would smoke during their breaks, as indicated by the numerous cigarette butts and empty soda cans. 

The man took his first inhale while looking at me like I had a third eye. I looked back at him. He wore a bright red “Make America Great Again” cap. 

While I’d like to think I give everyone a fair chance when it comes to first impressions, traveling solo as a woman forces you to be more wary of others. Unlike this man, I do not own guns. All I had was a rusty hammer in my trunk and a 90-pound dog—who was busy smelling flowers as he did his business. 

All the possible scenarios were running through my mind faster than ever. This was in the midst of the Trump era, inevitably leading me to conjure the bigoted ideas spewed by the then-American president. I did not know what the next moment held in store for me. The moment kept stretching; he was staring at me and me at him. 

He took one last long inhale before pulling his cigarette out of his mouth, followed by an even longer exhale. 

“Nice dog you got there,” he said before heading inside the gas station. 

I chuckled, relieved, and called Miko back. We still had a long road ahead of us, but thank God for that dog—and his big dog privilege.

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 2, published September 19, 2023.