When Mom and I run, we generally agree that runs are not the time for stopping and lollygagging. But we have an ongoing disagreement about walks. Mom thinks that a walk about consistent movement. If she had her way, we would walk out the door, and then just keep walking in straight lines until we arrived back at the door again. That’s not what a walk is for! A walk is for curiosity, and sniffing all of the things that are happening in the neighborhood, and sometimes leaving bulletins of your own, and barking at the neighbors. If I didn’t remind her of that, Mom would miss all the good stuff.
When Mom and I go for a walk she walks along all relaxed and in her own little world staring at the sidewalk a few feet in front of her. Me on the other hand, I have to be *ON!* I keep my head up and down at the same time so that I can smell the future coming toward me from down the street, but also smell the past and who came through this spot before I got here. If I never stopped then I would miss all the excitement like when someone drops fast food wrappers, or when a squirrel runs by on the wires in the sky. If I smell something important, I have to be tense and make myself an anchor, or else Mom will pull me away before I even find out what I’m missing. But if I’m prepared for something interesting to happen and can root myself to the spot before Mom notices, then she’s the one that goes “boing” and spins around when she reaches the end of the leash.
If you follow my non-running stuff, then you know that Mom is taking me on a road trip for my birthday. But if the trip is MY present, then I want us to travel my way. “Mom, I don’t want to just go through all the states like on a run. It’s not a race to get back home again. I want to see the nice things, not just the freeway rest stops.” (I don’t know how it is for humans, but the rest stops on the freeway are just the worst dog bathrooms.)
“Okay, Oscar. We’ll take the back roads and the scenic routes.”
“Yeah, but Mom. You also can’t just drive past everything like you do on our walks. I want to stop and sniff stuff too.”
“Okay. I promise. We won’t ever drive for more than 3 hours without getting out and exploring.”
“Nuh uh. That’s a human way of thinking about things. What if something interesting happens after just an hour and it’s not time to stop yet? We’ll miss it! I never want to go longer than 3 DOG hours without stopping.”
“I know what a dog year is, but what’s a dog hour?” asked Mom.
“I don’t know. It’s something that I just made up, so it can be as long as I want.” I explained. “That means that we’re not going to be on a schedule. We’re just going to stop whenever something good happens.”
“Okay. Deal. Instead of the interstate, we’ll drive through the forests. And when we have to go to the bathroom we’ll stop at trailheads and go to the bathroom behind trees. And when we’re done we’ll explore for a dog hour or two before getting back in the car.”
“And I want to spend just as much of this trip on foot as we do in the car,” I told her.
“Okay, I promise. We’ll try to go on a run AND a hike every day.”
“Unless we don’t feel like it.”
“Unless we don’t feel like it,” Mom agreed.
Then I thought about something that I hadn’t thought about before, but would be very important for my work as a life coach on this trip. “Mom… are you going to get nervous taking this vacation like a dog rather than a human? Are you going to be okay without rules and schedules?”
“Oscar, I don’t honestly know.”
You know how some dogs get a little screwy if they don’t have a job to do? Mom’s the same kind of dog, and ever since she decided that she was going to stop working she’s been acting a little screwy. “…Cuz I don’t want you to just trade your laptop for a steering wheel. You always ignore me when you’re on your laptop.”
“Well luckily I’ll be traveling with the best life coach in the world, won’t I?” Mom said. “And anyway, it won’t be too tough a transition for me because I’m going to have a job to do transcribing your field notes from your observations as a life coach.”
We don’t start the trip until Tuesday, but Mom says that the trip sort of starts this weekend because we have lots of preparation to do like laundry, packing, figuring out how to make internet happen in the desert, and taxes. Mom said that she’ll do all the other stuff if I do the taxes for us…
… which sounds like a fair division of labor to me!
-Oscar the Copilot