I have many unanswered questions.I'm still trying to learn the meaning of life, what will happen to me after I die, and why the Kardashian sisters are famous (I do have a guess: they're famous for being famous).
But today I focused on a query assigned to me by Laurel, my wife. "WIll our dog, Serena, comfortably fit into the Nissan Leaf electric car that we're poised to buy?
We'd made a stab at answering this question during our first test drive, learning that the $250 cargo floor organizer included by the manufacturer on the car earmarked for us produces a dog-friendly flat area behind the rear seats -- which otherwise is marked by a cavernous hole.
But after taking another test drive yesterday, my wife came home concerned that the entire cargo area has less vertical room than our Prius when the rear seats are folded. So the question became, "Could our Lab/Shepherd mix stand up in the rear compartment?"
Surprisingly, a Google search of Nissan Leaf large dog fit turned up zero information about how other people had addressed this hugely important issue. It isn't exactly a car-buying deal breaker for us, but we want to be sure that the family pet isn't condemned to awkward crouching when she rides in the Leaf.
Scientific testing clearly was called for.
"I'll take Serena with me to the Corvallis Nissan dealership today," I told Laurel. "I'll measure the height of the cargo space in the rear compartment, comparing it to our Prius, and also put Serena into a Leaf to see how she fits."
Laurel wasn't sure whether the dealership would be wild about having a dog take a "test sit/stand." My attitude, though, was that car salesman probably have experienced weird customer behavior that far surpasses a simple request to see how our dog fits in a Leaf.
After all, we weren't bringing in a bunch of pigs to see how many could be crammed in the cargo compartment. Or a baby elephant.
As I suspected, when I got to the dealership one of the salesmen was happy to unlock "our" car, then stand aside and watch the experiment unfold. I folded the rear seats down, then took Serena's dog pad out of our Mini Cooper and put it in the Leaf to minimize the chance of leaving dog hair all over the car.
The first things I learned were (1) Serena was happy to settle down in the car, (2) So happy, I had no chance of taking a photo with my iPhone while she was still standing up after I'd lifted her into the rear compartment.
So now I knew what was already known: a 65 pound dog can lie down in the back of a Leaf with her head comfortably below the ceiling. But what if the dog stood up? Further experimentation was required.
Which brought me to realization (3): I knew how to make Serena sit by (no surprise) saying "sit," but I had no idea how to make her stand while I stood back, iPhone in hand, ready to take a photo of a standing dog.
"Stand, Serena, stand!" had zero effect. Pulling her up by the collar worked better. However by the time I dashed around to a door and snapped a photo, all I caught was a dog butt at the (appropriately) rear end of the cargo area.
This helped to confirm, though, what I'd already learned from a tape measure. Our dog is about 27 inches tall at the shoulder. The height of the Leaf cargo compartment is about 27 3/4 inches. So if Serena stood up, her body would come close to the ceiling, while she'd have to lower her head a bit.
(The height of the cargo compartment in our 2007 Prius, by contrast, is about 28 3/4 inches, an inch taller -- seemingly because the rear seats aren't as thick, because the rear seat head room in the two cars is exactly the same).
I was still determined to get a photo of Serena standing up close to the front seats. By this time the salesman probably had concluded that he'd already gotten all of the entertainment value from watching me try to maneuver our dog around in the car while clutching my iPhone, so he diplomatically said, "Maybe you'll have better luck if I'm not standing close by."
(Instead of, This is boring the crap out of me, which likely would have been closer to the truth.)
The photo above is a great shot of a dog resisting her owner's urging to stand up in a Nissan Leaf. Serena has her fussy face on as she settles back into a lying position after I got her to briefly semi-stand and rushed to click the camera app on my iPhone.
My next move was to back off from the car, stand by an open rear door, and wait for Serena to stand up on her own. This produced realization (4): our dog is willing to lie on her dog pad in a Nissan Leaf for a considerably longer time than I'm willing to stand next to a car in a dealership's parking lot, iPhone in hand, while customers and employees wonder what the heck is going on.
Eventually I gave up and snapped another photo of our dog stretched out horizontally, which told me nothing new about Serena's ability to comfortably stand up in the car, but at least made me feel that I'd hadn't completely wasted my time in the parking lot.
Moving to the rear compartment, I made a last stab at issuing "Serena, stand!" commands in my best Dog Whisperer voice. As you can see, by this stage in the experiment the family pet had decided to completely ignore me, as evidenced by her haughty German Shepherd'ish you want me to do what, sucker? look.
(Serena's personality is a blend of her Shepherd and Lab sides, independent/aloof while also good natured/gentle.)
In the end I got some good information, though no conclusive photograph evidence of our dog comfortably standing up in the back of a Nissan Leaf. I'm convinced that Serena would fit just fine in the car.
And while driving home to Salem I pondered the fact that when humans get into a car they crouch down before sitting down on a seat. So why are we even worrying about whether our dog can stand up in the car? What if we had a Great Dane? Would we have to buy a van for the dog to travel in, so it could stand up?
However, we probably do need to figure out how to put up a dog barrier in the Leaf that would prevent her from sailing over the front seats in the event of an accident, whether Serena is lying down or standing up.