Written by Peter Zheutlin | Book review by Laura Sutherland ~
Peter Zheutlin’s The Dog Went Over the Mountain, Travels With Albie: An American Journey combines all three in a delightful and disarming book.
The title is a take on the song, “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” (to see what he could see). And what sights did they see!
Zheutlin based his 9,000+ mile trip with his faithful friend and rescue dog, Albie, on John Steinbeck’s book, Travels With Charley in Search of America, in which Steinbeck writes, “A dog is a bond between strangers.”
On the cusp of Zheutlin’s 65th birthday — and Albie’s ninth — the duo struck out to see America.
Zheutlin wanted to take in America’s grandeur and breadth while he was still young and able, and he wanted to take his best friend along for “a constant source of perspective and no small amount of joy.”
The two travelers followed Steinbeck’s route, but in reverse. They began in New England, driving through the south to California and hit the Northwest before circling back home via the Midwest.
Zheutlin recounts their stops along the way, each one giving way to fascinating meetings with memorable people.
Even with the indescribable joy and beauty of travel, Zheutlin’s and Albie’s travels also bring dreariness and homesickness.
But all meaningful journeys forever change the traveler. Zheutlin discovers that no matter your politics or background, we all love this country we call home. Whether in a tiny town along Route 66 or in a major city like San Francisco, people are people.
Albie takes it all in stride. As long as his BFF is by his side, Albie remains uncomplaining. He proves to be as faithful and stalwart a companion one could ever hope to have.
Zheutlin describes a moment, during their return journey through Yellowstone, when he pulls off the road at an overlook so they can take in the splendor of Gibbon Falls. While Albie had heretofore not overtly shared Peter’s awe at all they experienced, this one particular moment in their trip is defining for both.
“Albie stared down at the Falls,” Zheutlin writes. “I felt we had achieved a kind of perfection together. We had driven thousands of miles for this, and it was worth every one. I love him so — it seemed we were joined together in some transcendental way that would outlast our physical presence together.”
The Dog Went Over the Mountain is the perfect summer read. It brought me to tears on more than one occasion and absolutely in a feel-good way. Maybe even read it aloud to your own four-legged friend. Who knows, it might inspire you to take a road trip!