Because my husband worried when I used to make car trips alone to visit my elderly parents in Virginia, I concocted a dummy to ride shotgun with me. He had a Styrofoam head and a rubbery George Bush mask I bought at the Halloween store. (I had a choice of George Bush or Dick Cheney. I chose George. He was younger.)

But when we moved from our home several years ago, George disappeared. And that was how I acquired Dave the dog. Dave, purchased at a mall toy store and named on the spur of the moment by a friend’s husband, is a life-sized, alert-looking boxer who sits at the ready in my car.

When I first got Dave, I was driving in an unfamiliar neighborhood looking for a house number in the dark. Seeing a couple out for a walk, I pulled up to ask them for help. The man looked in the window, paused and asked, “Is your dog sick?” Not having been questioned before, I said in all seriousness, “No, he’s dead.” We chatted and his companion said, “I think I’ll get a dog, too.”

On a very hot, humid day, a woman stormed into the cleaners where I was parked and demanded: “Who is this person who has left a dog in a closed car in this hot weather?” We both got a laugh when I explained that Dave didn’t need to pant to stay cool.

On another warm day, I went to a friend’s funeral. The attendant who put the processional flag on my car asked if I’d like for him to walk my dog while I was inside. Dave made me smile on a sad day.

Recently my daughter and I were waiting at a traffic signal. The woman in the car to our left put down her car window and said, “Our dog is barking at your dog!” Dave hadn’t noticed. We all laughed.

One of my friends bought two identical stuffed dogs after meeting my Dave. One is for her home in Buffalo and one for her winter home in Florida. Because she doesn’t drive anymore, her Buffalo Dave does watchdog duty sitting in her window. An admirer even bought her dog a fancy leather collar with his name on it.

The two of us bought a “Dave” for our mutual friend as a housewarming gift. We reserved a table for four at a small restaurant we like, arriving a little early. Dave was sitting there in his chair when our friend arrived. He had a card around his neck, reading, “I want to ride in your car.”

Dave was also a hit at the dealership where I get my car serviced. It was after dark when the woman attendant went to get my car. She came back with a strange look on her face – she said she had almost fainted when she turned around and saw Dave sitting there. Then her work colleague got in, shrieked and quickly got out. Curious, one of the male attendants wanted to get in the car to see what was up. I thought he looked a little shaken, too.

Sometimes I bring Dave inside. Our guests get a laugh out of him at our balcony door, looking in from outside. They all want to hug him.

So I recommend you put a “Dave” on your shopping list. You don’t have to walk or feed him. Just drive him around in your car and be prepared for some funny reactions!