I bellied up to the bar at Whimp’s in beautiful downtown Burbank, South Dakota.
“Hey Ken, we named our kid after your dog.”
The guy sitting next to Ken slowly slithered toward the corner.
“Congrats,” Ken said. “I heard you guys had a boy. So you named him Jude?”
I was lying. Jude is actually my son’s middle name borrowed from the Beatles classic "Hey Jude," although we would have been just as proud to give the credit to remarkable Jude the Wonder Dog. Jude’s odyssey will tell you why.
In 1972, Ken and Sammy loaded their Volkswagen van and spent the winter trekking throughout Mexico and Guatemala. Travelling with a dog was no problem, especially with a dog as smart as Jude. Jude was no problem, that is until the day Ken and Sammy decided to see the four-hour movie version of George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh. They were in Mexico City at the time and for safety reasons they found a parking lot that had a trustworthy attendant who would guard Jude for a nominal fee. Mexico is a delightful country but with a different culture than we are used to. Instead of the usual guard dog, this was a case of a human guarding the dog. In addition, the attendant was to keep Jude fed and watered and if necessary let him out for a potty break. However, it was vital that Jude be leashed because he was raised as a farm dog who loved to roam.
Then the inevitable happened. When his guard went to move the van to make more room in the parking lot, Jude took the opportunity to jump out of the van. Getting him back in the van was unsuccessful to say the least. When Jude got tired of toying with his guard, he decided to explore Chapultepec Park. This is Mexico City’s large version of New York’s Central Park.
Ken and Sammy exited the movie theater and returned to an empty van and a very upset attendant. He explained that no amount of coercion could get Jude to re-enter the VW van. To no avail, Spanish-speaking Ken and Sammy spent the rest of the day traversing the park. Many people had seen Jude, the unleashed white shepherd, frolicking in the park. But the reply was always the same, "He went that –a-way."
Darkness descended upon the huge metropolis. Eventually recognizing the hopelessness of the situation, Ken and Sammy continued their journey, although this time it was with aching hearts. They eventually returned to the hacienda in San Miguel Allende where their journey began to spend the remainder of the winter.
One morning a telegram arrived at their door. It read, “Met a friend in Oaxaca-stop-tomorrow Comitan-stop-see you soon-stop- love, Jude.”
Jude now was an official Wonder Dog as Ken and Sammy wondered how did a dog send a telegram? Here is the story in Jude’s words.
“You guys left me at the park! I saw another VW van like ours so I pestered the long-haired guys until they gave me a ride. We went to Oaxaca (500 miles from Mexico City) where I got to run and play at the town square. Then I smelled our old friend Jim van Tassel! I knocked him down and licked him all over.”
Jim said, “Jude, is that you?”
“I guess he recognized me by that big cut that I’ve had forever on my ear. We’ve been running all over for the past three weeks and now here I am!”
Jim was aware that Ken and Sammy would eventually return to San Miguel Allende. He drove past the hacienda where they were staying and saw their van parked outside. He let Jude out before turning the corner just out of sight. Jude ran up to the door and began barking like crazy.
Ken and Sammy came rushing outside.
“Jude, where have you been?” they screamed.
Eventually Jim van Tassel sauntered up the driveway and reiterated the amazing tale of Jude the Wonder Dog.