Mom and I are the kind of family that’s a little suspicious of other people. But we live in a place where there are lots and lots of people everywhere we go, even the hard-to-reach places like the trails. Even in the woods there are rules so that people who want to be left alone don’t clash with other people who want to be alone. There are signs everywhere that say, NO PARKING, NO DOGS, NO BICYCLES, NO HORSES, DOGS MUST BE ON LEASH, STAY ON THE TRAIL, KEEP OUT, NO TRESPASSING, PICK UP AFTER YOUR DOG, NO GARBAGE/TAKE YOUR POO WITH YOU, GO AWAY. We have to follow so many rules that sometimes it feels like there isn’t anywhere we can be, or anything that we can do that isn’t going to bother somebody.
When she doesn’t want to see other people, Mom gets really grouchy when a group of bird watchers blocks the trail, or a class of people puppies doesn’t move over when we want to pass them, or when she wants to take a picture and someone walks by and detracts me, or when someone suspicious walks by and I have to pause our run to bark at them, or when she wants quiet and a bunch of people are singing flamenco on a mountain top at sunrise. When she’s really grouchy those other people can really ruin her run.
On the other hand, we are always trying not to upset other people who will start a fight, so Mom points my spotlight at the ground when we see someone in the dark; or we scrunch together and swing wide to pass someone on My Trail; or we park the car far away so that we don’t block anything that anyone needs; we wake up hours before sunrise to get to places before they’re crowded; we and we signal when we’re going to stop or slow down in case there’s a bike behind us that needs to predict our movements.
When Mom and I visited the rest of the country in our car-house, it took us awhile to get used to the idea that we weren’t outlaws just for being there. At first it was scary to leave the car-house somewhere, go into the wilderness without trail signs and let each other off leash to go experience the world at our own pace. Then it was exciting. Then I realized that the leash didn’t change much, Mom and I were a family and so it made sense that we would want to experience the different places we ran together rather than alone. We didn’t need the rules because we were going to behave the same with or without them.
This morning we wanted to get away from all the rules, so we drove an hour to where we knew that dogs were allowed off leash. The rules make it so that the free places are very crowded. Before I saw the world, I used to get upset if I saw another dog on our special nature runs. When a stranger dog barked at me I thought it was because I was a bad dog, and I should go home where it’s safe and I wouldn’t bother anyone. But now that I can handle responsibility, I know that I’m a good boy. If another dog barks at me, then I know that it’s his problem and he’s just being a jerk. Haters gonna hate, but I don’t have to hear it. So I go back to Mom and we continue our run.
This morning, about 3/4 of the way through our 9-mile mostly-off-leash run I saw a dog named Sadie from across the trail. I thought that she was a real pretty girl, and the Old Oscar would have shouted, “YOU HAVE COOTIES! AND YOU SMELL LIKE A BAG OF FRITOS!” to try to get her attention. But teasing always makes new dogs mad at me, and so I don’t make many new friends. I wanted to smell Sadie’s butt real bad, and not have her nip at me when I did, so instead of running up like a bowling ball I trotted up to her real slow and friendly-like. When I got close to her, I said, “Hi. My name is Oscar. I’m a responsible dog who has seen the world and knows how to treat a lady with respect. May I please stick my nose gently in your butt area?”
You guys, she said yes!!!
I was so excited that I had tingles all the way down my spine that put my hackles up. I played it real cool and only wagged my tail a little bit. Then I said, “It was a pleasure meeting you, but my Mom’s calling and I gotta go.” Ladies love it when you tell them that you let your Mom boss you around…
-Oscar the Ladies’ Man