Today we left our campground that had two feet in the desert and two in the not-desert, and came down to where the air was thicker and smelled like green. I could also tell that we were getting closer to home because when we parked the car-house at the bottom of the trail, the other people in the parking lot were dude-bruhs and not hunters. Dude-bruhs are common where I live, but no so common in the desert. Even seeing other people at all was something that we hadn’t seen in the wilderness, so Mom got the leash ready. But there was still one hunter in this parking lot, and the second Mom opened the door to the car-house I streaked right past her hot on the heels of a critter. I left her standing by the car-house screaming, with the leash in her hand.
But we had been running wild and free for too long for Mom to take my responsibility away for long. While on leash I sniffed after every critter until Mom got so sick of having to wait for me that she set herself free. This place was like a critter warehouse! Every time I finished with one and thought about coming back to Mom I would catch the scent of another one and couldn’t go back yet. This was a great place to sprint too, with open grass meadows instead of sand, soft leafy bushes instead of pointy scrubs, and boulders growing out of the ground that were easy to run around rather than scramble over. Mom was apoplectic on the trail because she hardly saw me for the first couple of miles, but now that I’m a Wild West mountain dog, I need some elbow room. Anyhow, there was no way I was going to lose her with her screaming like that.
Eventually, Mom led me high enough that there were fewer critters to chase and I noticed that it was getting warm. “I’m hoooooooooooot!” I panted as Mom marched resolutely up the mountain, running for a few paces every time it flattened out.
“Oscar! Look what you’ve done!” Mom said with grief in her voice, like I’d drunk her goldfish or something. “I’m saving my water for you, just in case. When you throw your water on the ground, that’s like throwing away my water.” Mom can be so dramatic sometimes.
We climbed on and on until we’d run half of 9 miles and arrived at… nowhere. The trail kept going up and up the hill to the 2 peaks in front of us. Mom looked at the map… we were still probably a couple of miles from the end of the trail. “See!” I said. “I told you it was more than half up…” I grumbled.
I was spared from having to go all the way to the summit by the fact that more than half of the water was gone. Even though it was much cooler up here, we still had to get Mom all the way back down without her drinking too much water. So we “shifted into neutral” as Mom put it, and let the mountain carry us back down. I pranced gracefully in my spot right behind Mom. Rather than the grace of a shopping cart, she was back to running like a water buffalo trying to tap dance. “Ow, ow, ow, ow,” she grunted as she ran. Apparently it was hard on her hooves running in the V that the crack in the trail made. When I bumped her out of the way to chase another critter, she bellowed.
We hadn’t seen a single dude-bruh on the trail, and when we got back to the car-house and made lunch, Mom watched everyone go the opposite way. So after lunch she took away my responsibility again and followed the trail of dude-bruhs. At the bottom we found a river and turned away from all the dude-bruhs to find a little solitude. Mom threw a stick into the water for me. Usually I’m not a fetch dog, but sticks are terrific so I remembered that I knew how to swim and fetched the stick as many times as she would throw it. I could feel all the dust from almost 2 weeks in the desert washing out of my beautiful coat. That dust would only live on in my memory, and in our bedclothes. Once I had cooled off, Mom went back and found where all the dude-bruhs were hanging out. They were floating in bunch of little pools that smelled like eggs. We found an empty one, and Mom stuck her feet in up to the knees. I didn’t want to touch the stuff. “Um… are you sure you want to track that into the car-house?” I asked. “It’s kind of stinky.”
“You’re right,” she admitted. “I never did like hot springs all that much. They always seemed kind of like dirty dishwater to me. They’re kind of slimy.” So we left to find our next home for the night.
-Oscar the hot dog