We finally reached Montana! Today we are hanging out in a city called Missoula because Mom says that we have a lot of city chores to do. Cities are hard because they have things like traffic, and rules, and lines to wait in, and other people to deal with. But they’re nice too because they have things like paved roads, and parking lots, and ice cream restaurants and the kind of air that lets Mom’s electronics reach the outside world, which she finds relaxing.
Trails in a city aren’t usually as wild as the trails in the middle of the wilderness, but sometimes that can be nice too. The drive to the trail this morning was so short that Mom didn’t even have time to finish the coffee in her cup. She called leaving behind hot coffee “uncivilized,” but I think she was joking. There was also a parking lot at the trail, which we agreed is much better than having to stop at a pile of white dirt and hike a mile or two to the trailhead. Best of all, this trail was crawling with Friends, both the furry and fleshy kinds. Unlike Mom, I’m a real social guy, so I always appreciate the opportunity to meet new Friends to tell me how great I am.
Another great thing about this trail was that even though it was in the city and very crowded, I could still let Mom off leash. It makes me grouchy when I have to wear a leash that’s always telling me where I need to go and what I need to do. So when I’m on leash I sometimes lose patience with sharing the trail, just like Mom does, only unlike Mom (who gets quiet and judgy when she is territorial), I bark at Frienemies that bother me. I’m starting to think that I had it backward about the leash: maybe the leash is really what responsibility feels like, and the responsibility makes you serious and a lot less fun to be around. That made me think about something. “Mom,” I said. “I think that I understand why you were so grouchy all the time when you were working. It was because you had to be on a leash all the time and you could never go off trails and chase chipmunks and stuff.”
“I suppose that you’re right, Oscar.”
“Do you think that that’s why everyone at home is always so aggressive and unfriendly? Because they have too much responsibility and have to walk around with their faces in their phones, and can’t get away from each other, so they have leash aggression?”
“That’s a good point, Oscar. Leash aggression comes when you feel trapped and can’t get away from something dangerous. When I see someone making a scene in the street, I don’t want to get involved and just walk away as quickly as I can. It’s only when I can’t get away from someone like on an airplane or at work that I growl and bark at strangers.”
“Mom, I like it here. No one is leash aggressive. Even when I run up to someone like a bowling ball, barking that I don’t like the fur on their face, they always smile and say how adorable I am. When you tie me up outside the Starbucks at home and I have to screech and scream to make you come back out again, people always look at me like I’m ruining their morning. But here when I had my macho meltdown outside the ice cream store, all the ladies at the table next to me thought it was the most adorable thing in the world.”
“It’s true. People do seem happier out here, and they have more time. I can tell just by the way they drive. I don’t think that we could live in Montana, or any of these states next to the Canadian border though. There’s too much snow in the winter. And you know me and snow…”
“Mom! The things you come up with! Snow is a SUMMER thing. I have lived through four winters and never once has it snowed in the winter. It only comes out on a warm day in the mountains. I’ve seen snow like half a dozen times, so I’m an expert. Obviously, the mountains grow snow in the summer so that they can stay cool and don’t get a sunburn. Haven’t you been paying attention? Any idiot could figure that out.”
“Whatever you say, Oscar…”
Even though Missoula is surrounded by mountains, the trail that we were on only climbed a little hill, and so we were running for most of the time between when I stopped to meet a Friend and when Mom stopped to record how handsome I am. We ran past a pair of ladies, and I smiled at them to let them know that we were all having fun together. After they told Mom what a handsome devil I am, they said that we must be very fit to be running up this mountain. Were we fitter? I don’t feel fitter, I just feel like the mountains are getting smaller. Another thing about city trails is that the people tend to stay close to the parking lots, so it doesn’t take very long for Mom and me to find a place where we can run by ourselves, even here in the city.
Since we were alone, I picked up our conversation. “So why do we live in a place where everyone is leash aggressive, when there are so many nice places in the world?”
“Well, that leash pays a lot more money than I can earn in other places.”
“What do we get with that money? Can we buy more time with it?”
“No, that leash also costs us a lot of our family time.”
“So… do we get a better house with it?”
“Definitely not. We could get five to ten times the space –and two bathrooms– for the same amount of money if we lived pretty much anywhere else.”
“We have two bathrooms already.”
“I wasn’t counting the dog bathroom. We could have 2 people bathrooms.”
“Why would we need 2 people bathrooms? You can only use one at a time…”
“You’re right, we don’t even need all the things that our money could buy somewhere else.”
“So… why the leash then?”
“I guess because it creates better opportunities?” Mom said, sounding less convinced.
“Opportunities for what? To climb more mountains?”
“No, you need to stay within cell range in case someone needs you on the weekends. The opportunities are for more responsibility, I guess.”
“But why would you want a BIGGER leash, when all it does is keep you away from your family, away from the mountains, and in a house that’s so little that there’s no room to wrestle? How much money would you pay to have more time to be in the mountains with your dashingly handsome, intelligent, fit and snuggly dog?”
“I would pay quite a lot for that…” Mom said. “…But the less money I make now, the longer I have to work before I can stop working altogether and have adventures full time.”
“What’s the hurry? Is it a race? Do you win something if you get to that finish line first? I thought you weren’t going to do any more races.” I stopped and thought for a moment. “Speed isn’t right for all adventures. Do you think that our expeditions on this trip would be better if we ran them faster?”
“Well, we could see more, I suppose.”
“That’s bad human math logic,” I pointed out. “We don’t turn around because we’ve run out of time or energy for adventure. Most days we stop because The Covered Wagon can’t get to the trail, or because we lost the trail under the white dirt. If you were faster then it would just be over sooner… And then what? More time in The Covered Wagon? More time sending pictures? Wouldn’t you rather spend that time in a place that inspires you to take more pictures than a place that has a better signal to send those pictures?”
“True… So what do you suggest?”
“Isn’t the answer obvious?” I asked.
“Well if you don’t see it, I’m not going to tell you…” I said. Secretly, I didn’t know the answer, but sometimes Mom comes up with something good when she thinks that there’s an answer for her to figure out. Let’s see what she comes up with…
-Oscar the Coach