I was headed back home from Boulder, Colorado when a friend called me for a favor. “Can you bring me and my dog to the vet?” he moaned. This was awkward as dislike his horny hound. It latches on to legs with serious ferocity and won’t let go until he’s good and ready. Still, I agreed as that’s what friends do. What a kooky animal. I begged him to keep his creepy dog off my leg. He called me, “delusional.” He was lucky enough that I have a 2012 Ford Focus SEL hatchback in my possession as his mutt would be very comfy in the flat-floored, back. There’s plenty of space and the ride is fairly compliant. That pooch was in for a nice ride.Well – that’s what I thought… at first. I like the Focus. I like the exterior design, high quality materials and excellent handling prowess. It gives you a lot for the money. I can’t wait until Ford drops an EcoBoost turbo in for some much needed excitement.This was my third day with the Focus and it was finally starting to give me a few negatives on what was a mostly positive evaluation. I was having arguments with the “Powershift” six-speed automated transmission (think dual-clutch auto without the high performance).Powershift was clunky, slow to shift and the car occasionally rolled back from a stop – like a manual. It would sometimes hiccup when I backed into my steep driveway too. It called me names when I flogged the engine and made fun of my weight-gain when I tried to manually shift.The 160 horsepower, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine makes 146 lbs-feet of torque and is well suited to the Focus IF and only IF it’s paired to the five-speed manual. Keep that combination and the Focus is magic. Unfortunately, you can’t get the manual in higher end Focuses.AND – can someone tell me why Ford won’t add a six-speed manual when even the 2012 Hyundai Accent now comes with one standard?The stereo system was unkind to me too. I’m not the brightest guy (just ask my family) but I damn well know how to find stations on a stereo. This system is tricky and counterintuitive with buttons vs. knobs. I wish Ford would just keep it simple.All that aside – the overall quality of the car still shines through.It took but a minute to lift the dog into the back and secure the hatch. I think the rear of the Focus is almost as attractive as the front. The rear glass is at a steep rake which takes away the wagon-like look many hatchbacks have and makes the Focus look aggressive.While we discussed the higher end-like feel of the interior components (seriously, some of the interior materials are BMW-like) I noticed an odd smell. I could not make it out and it didn’t smell dog-produced, so I forgot about it.As we entered Glendale, Colorado to drop off dog and master, I noted a glitch in the ride – – – the dog was NOT in the back seat.Panicking, we doubled back. It was at that time we discovered that the side window was either left open or the pooch’s paw landed on the window’s button. Either way, we were in trouble.I dropped my friend off at his place to begin looking for the dog while I opened the back up to investigate the odd smell. What I found was a shredded bag of pork rinds. The bag smelled like dog slobber and I used it as evidence as to the dog’s location.Hopping back in the Ford Focus, I made a B-line for the corner by my friend’s place. Sure enough, there was the mutt scarfing down its last, fried pig skin. My friend bought a bag, left it in his backpack – forgot about it and the dog found it. I’m guessing a few danced out the window and Fido went after them.We’ll never know.Fortunately the dog was safe and he showed his gratitude by grabbing my leg and humping it like a jackhammer. Oh the humility. Still, I can’t blame the pooch for being so frisky. He just polished off a bag of porky chips and got a booty-call (leg-call?) all in the span of morning.A few week later – my friend informs me that his dog is hopelessly addicted to pork rinds. He’s thinking about marketing dog-friendly pork rinds. Wow – and I thought I was the delusional one.As for the Ford Focus – I must admit that I am disappointed in the six-speed automatic transmission. The cheaper entertainment equipment on the base models works well. Hopefully I’ll have a manual to change my outlook in a few months – but I’m not holding my breath.The 2012 Ford Focus looks excellent. You will definitely notice the higher quality interior over many small cars and the handling is excellent. Would I recommend the Focus SEL at over $20-large? Nope – not really. I do like the $16,500 base model four-door and $18,200 hatchback ONLY if they have the manual.Stick with the lower models and have some fun while saving your money for pork rinds… they may come in handy.