Yesterday I had a meeting with a bunch of collies, but Saturday meetings are different from the meetings that we have during the work week. First of all, you don’t have to meet at the office and you can go somewhere more interesting than a conference room. When Mom let me out of the car yesterday, I saw a man and a dog waiting for me at the spot where the road ended and the woods began. When I got closer I could see that it was one of my collies, but I didn’t know the dog. I ran up barking, “Hi, R—! Hi, Friend. I’m Oscar and this human is my Mom, and this other person is the R— who is one of my Second Favorite People.” I went to the R— and pushed my butt against him possessively so that he would scratch it like he likes to do at work. “Who are you?” I asked the dog.
“I’m Remy, and this human’s name isn’t R—, it’s Dad. Does your lady like handsome dogs?” Then Remy jumped up in Mom’s face and barked, “Boo!” She smiled, so he spun around and jumped in her face again, and barked, “Boo!” again. Remy kept trying to surprise Mom over and over until I barked at him and he ran into the woods so I could chase him.
Some dogs don’t know how to play tag and are only fun for bullying, but Remy knew how to have a good time. Whenever a new dog got out of a car, Remy and I surrounded them and showed off our manliness by chasing them. If the dog was lame and sat down looking scared rather than running away, the only way to chase them was to run in circles around them and bark, which is less fun than chasing but more fun with a buddy like Remy to do it with.
Eventually, a pack that looked familiar got out of a car and walked toward us. It was my other collies, Smiling M— and S—. S— is a really fun dude because he looks at me and smiles when I watch him eat yogurt. Walking Smiling M— was my friend Gabby, the Fastest Dog in the World. Now that we were all here, we started our meeting and walked into the woods together, with Remy showing us the trail, and all of us showing S— what California looks like outside the office.
S— is from Somewhere Else and had never seen Redwoods or Oakland or the guts of California before, so I showed him how we have trails that crawl along the walls of ravines, with soft dirt making a wall on one side of the trail, and a steep slope on the other. The ravines are so steep that only athletic dogs can run down to drink from the river at the bottom, and sometimes not even then. I showed him how the sun shines through the redwoods and makes the moss and the soft, springy dirt shine, and lights up the ferns that look like something out of a fairy tale. And then Smiling M— pointed and we all looked up and could see yesterday’s rain smoking in wisps off of a tree branch in the bright sun.
“Why is that?” asked S—, who had never seen a tree smoking when it wasn’t on fire.
“It’s the mountains making the fog,” I explained to him. “In the summer, when you drive home you can see all of the mountains making huge blankets of fog, and it clumps up and rolls down the mountainsides like a waterfall.”
“You can even see your breath,” R— added. “Look, Oscar has a smoking butt hole.”
Mom, who’s used to people complimenting my butt, examined me as I chased Remy down the trail. “Well, I think his whole body is smoking a little bit…” she said. “But if your favorite part is his butt hole…”
“Well, it’s not doing it anymore. I think maybe he farted.” R— is a man, so he knows about man things like farting. He is also a doctor, so he knows about body things like farting too, so Mom stopped being a know-it-all and shut her mouth.
When we had climbed to the top of the ravine, we walked through the valley under the hills until the redwoods opened up in an big, grassy area. Then Smiling M— set Gabby the Fastest Dog in the World free, and Gabby and Remy chased balls, and sticks, and frisbees, while I chased Gabby and Remy. S— showed a talent for throwing balls and frisbees, so I showed him all about sticks just in case he didn’t have sticks where he came from. I showed him how they’re good for pulling on and throwing and chewing up .
Then, we made another exciting discovery. Z—, who likes to eat beef jerky with me, walked out of the trees with two chihuahuas and a lady who I’d never met before, but knew my name and already loved me. The chihuahuas weren’t good chasing dogs, but since they live so close to the ground, they found something really disgusting for us to roll in, which we all did until one of the chihuahuas peed on it, which meant that we were done sharing.
Even though S— was the one that was new to this place, he was wearing the right hiking stuff. Smiling M— had tried to protect his socks by not wearing any at all, and was hiking in flip flops. By now his paws were as dirty as mine and Remy and Gabby’s. Z— was wearing the same elegant shoes as he wears to work, and even though he was wearing socks, he showed how little he knew about hiking by thinking it was bad to get his shoes wet and dirty. Once Z—‘s shoes were wet enough and dirty enough that they looked like proper hiking shoes, he said that he needed to go and buy new shoes so that he would have something to wear to work on Monday.
By then Gabby and Remy had run and run, and I had chased and chased so much that we were all more relaxed. I had promoted myself from team leader to manager, and now I stayed at headquarters near the humans and barked instructions while the others chased the ball. Gabby would still chase the ball, but she left it where she caught it so that Smiling M— would go pick it up while she rested. Remy was calm enough now to give a presentation of all of the fancy tricks he knew.
Now that everyone was tired, the time was right to teach S— how to get lost, which you can only do when you’re tired and cranky. So we left the grassy meadow and walked back into the trees. “You see,” I explained, “You could look at a map and find out where you’re going, but around here we just look at trail names and guess our way around.”
“This one’s called Sunset Loop. I bet it goes in a circle,” said R—.
“Good idea. It probably goes somewhere pretty with a view of the Bay,” said Smiling M—, who knew that the sun sets in the west, and the Bay was west of here. We all agreed that that sounded pretty, so we walked on the Sunset Loop.
Because he’s a smart man, S— had figured out that we couldn’t see the Bay if the mountain was blocking the view, so the only way we would see anything would be to find the top of the mountain. “Wait a second. We were going up before, but now we’re going back down,” he said.
“We could follow that trail, it goes up,” said Mom.
“But that’s not the Sunset Loop,” pointed out R—.
“Oh,” the humans all agreed that that was true and stopped walking.
S—, who doesn’t know how hiking works yet, consulted the Witch in His Phone. “That way would be another three or four mile loop…” he said.
“Do you guys want to try it?” asked R—. “How’s your knee?” he asked Mom, because he’s a considerate team player.
“Oh, I’m fine. We should let M— and his inappropriate footwear decide,” said Mom, who didn’t want to seem like she wasn’t pulling her weight with the team.
“Oh I’m fine,” said M—, who didn’t want to let anyone down. And then they all stood still for a long time because it’s rude to make a decision if you’re not the boss. Then we all stood around waiting for a manager to come along and make a decision for us.
Finally, Mom said, “I’m hungry. Are you guys hungry?”
In case S— didn’t know, I explained to him that it’s a law that everyone has to be fed lunch if they work in a start-up because of labor laws. If we didn’t stop hiking and eat pizza soon, it would be against the law. So we all hiked back to the cars, adjourned the meeting, and went in search of pizza.
Oscar the Host