Tim Pennings: Travels with Elvis

I listen to audio books from Herrick District Library when driving. Biographies are my favourite. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Leonardo da Vinci inspire and help keep one’s life in perspective. Presently I’m reading John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charlie.” Whoever has not read his “East of Eden” should put it on their bucket list. Nothing better.

Listening to Steinbeck’s adventures touring the country with his pet dog spurs me to tell adventures I had with my Welsh corgi, Elvis. When climbing the Laketown Beach steps between a friend and me, my friend observed, “He thinks he’s human, doesn’t he?” Indeed, it never occurred to Elvis that he wasn’t.

It was at Laketown Beach that Elvis answered the question, “Do Dogs Know Calculus?” the title of my research paper co-authored with him. Essentially, Elvis, starting on shore, retrieved a stick thrown into Lake Michigan by first running and then swimming to fetch it as quickly as possible. The paper provided fame for both of us and gained his picture of him on the cover of numerous journals and several front pages of The Holland Sentinel. I met one of his biographers of him (Keith Devlin, NPR’s Science Guy) at a national math convention. Introducing myself after his talk about him, I exclaimed, “Tim Pennings! I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on!” He then explained to the curious crowd (and me!) That he had sought a picture of Elvis and me for his book of him, but only found ones of us at the beach — me sans shirt.

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