Oh boy. I sure am tired. After all of our hard hiking yesterday, Mom decided that we were close enough to push on to our next stop before bed time. So after hiking more than 15 tough miles, we got in the car and kept driving. We got to a place called Monument Valley just in time for sunset, which practically happens in the middle of the night in the desert because you’re so close to the sun. We stopped to watch the sunset, and then Mom kept us up late doing chores.
Mom said that this was a special place and she wanted to watch the sunrise there too. So even though we’d gone to bed late and serious runners need their rest, she got us up real early so that we could be on the road before first light. The problem was that we were sitting on the Utah-Arizona border, and apparently the sun rises at a different time depending on which state you’re in. None of our clocks could agree on whether we were in Utah or Arizona so we got out an hour early. Luckily, Mom spent our extra time getting lost in the dark and so it all worked out. What was strange was that whenever we crossed the border (and we did many times when we were lost), the sun and moon and sky were the same in both places.
Monument Valley is a place where there are big rocks that look like buildings surrounded by a lot of flat desert. The people who lived there used think that the big rocks were the gods, which kind of makes sense. There was something about them that reminded me of Mom when she stands over me looking stern and tells me to sit even if I don’t want to. If a god were made out of the earth rather than sky, I bet that’s what he or she would look like. Mom got out a camp chair and made me sit in the dirt at the side of the road while we watched the sunrise. I didn’t like it because the plants hand prickles, there was lots of beer litter everywhere, and it was real cold. But like I always say, if a place looks crappy then all you have to do is look up and you’ll see something beautiful. When I looked up I could still see the moon behind one of the gods on one side, and on the other I could see the sunbeams coming through the clouds. Finally, Mom said we could get back in the car-house and go run.
Once we had parked at the trailhead Mom pointed to two of the gods and said, “Look, Oscar, they’re mittens! You see the thumbs?”
“Dogs don’t have thumbs,” I grumbled. I was cranky because I was still tired.
“Well mittens do have thumbs. Stop being an old fuddy-duddy,” said Mom.
“Who worships a mitten?” I asked.
“Never, ever make fun of other people’s beliefs,” Mom said sternly, looking like a mitten. “Let’s go.”
The run was about 4 miles around the base of one of the mittens. Even thought the god was made of rock, the ground was mostly sand like in the cartoon desert, so it was slow running. There is something kind of spooky about being next to something that big. It looks like something that should be really far away, even when you’re running right next to it. Maybe it was because I was spooked, and maybe I was just cranky because Mom made me stay on leash, but I was annoyed whenever we saw people on our run around the mitten-god and I barked at them.
I was still barking at the crummy people when I saw something really strange. It was a dog that was off leash, but I could tell that he had no responsibility. Something about the idea of someone having all that freedom and no accountability to the rules really freaked me out. “HEY! Where are your people?!” I shouted at him. He just ignored me. “You need a bath, pal!” I shouted. He ignored us and went to the other people. “Don’t you speak English?!” I shouted after him.
“What’s up with him?” I asked Mom.
“You know how we’re just pretending to be homeless?” Mom said. “Well he actually is homeless.”
“You must be confused. People can be homeless, but dogs aren’t homeless. If they ever lose their homes, nice people pick them up and find them families.”
“We’re in a different nation right now, Oscar. They have different rules about the services that they provide. They don’t have the resources to put their homeless dogs in shelters because they need to take care of the people first. So the animals run free and have to take care of themselves.”
“But how does he open the dog food fortress?” I wondered. “He must be dying for a bed and some toys to rip up on it. Why don’t we take him home?” I suggested. “We have enough to share.”
“Oscar, that dog has never lived in a house or with a person. A dog that hasn’t grown up with all the privilege you have might be more uncomfortable living in a house than he is living off the land. He wouldn’t know all the rules and would get yelled at all the time. He would spend his time wishing for responsibility that he’s not ready for in the city, and everyone would be unhappy.” As we drove around that day, we saw lots of wild dogs and even a horse grazing at the gas station. I thought it might actually be a nice life living in nature without rules or schedules. We could buy a car-house of our own and just be stray drifters forever. But then I saw a dead dog lying by the side of the road. No one had taught him how to be safe, and no one came to hug him and kiss him and make him feel better while he died. That made me feel very sad and lonely, and I started to think about not just responsibility, but also all the security I get because I follow most of the rules.
We were supposed to do a second hike today, but after we drove 3 hours to the next place we couldn’t find any trails. The first one we tried was 8 miles down a dirt road that was too difficult for the car-house. The second one was on private property. At the third one we got out and tried to walk, but I flopped down under the nearest tree and refused to move. It was hot and I was thirsty and cranky. Then Mom checked the map. We had driven so far looking for a trail that we had overshot our next stop – the Grand Canyon. We needed to be on the south side, and here we were north of it, with this giant hole in the ground blocking our way. So instead of hiking, we spent the afternoon in the air conditioned car-house driving the long way around the Grand Canyon. Mom was upset, but I spent the time napping and didn’t think it was so bad.
We did stop for a short walk at the Glen Canyon Dam. Mom and I had just listened to a book about some guys who maybe planned to blow up the dam, but got in a shootout instead and hid in the same canyons we’d been hiking and driving through, one of them for years. Except for the murder and terrorism part, it sounded like a great adventure to live like an outlaw, hiking and camping for the rest of our lives. Then I remembered the homeless dog and realized that it was probably a lot tougher than it sounded and I wouldn’t look as good in photos without the occasional bath. Living in our car-house was fun because I’ve seen a lot of new stuff and been with Mom all day, but I’m starting to miss naps and predictability, and a schedule and not being covered in itchy dust all the time. Mom wants to keep going, but she does miss washing her hands more than once or twice a day.
-Oscar the good citizen, usually