I have been on Family Medical Leave from my mayor duties on My Trail for a very long time, but now that Mom can run for a minute or two at a time, I’m cleared to go back on patrol. Now that I live in a New Stuck House in a New Town, I also got a transfer to a New Trail for me to serve and protect.
My New Trail is a little bit like the old one because there are parts with pavement, and parts with just dirt, and lots of views of the water. But the New Trail needs an expert dog with lots of specialized training to patrol all of its parts. Luckily I’m the perfect dog for the job because I’ve done specialized training on beaches, and in neighborhoods, and on trails, and in mountains, and around fast food restaurants. So this morning I cleared my calendar so that I could patrol My New Trail from end to end and meet all of my new constituents.
My New Trail starts in the neighborhood where the ocean lives. I paid extra attention to signs of what kind of neighborhood it was as I patrolled my new turf and surf. The ocean must not be a good neighbor, because it had worn the paint off of any house that wasn’t paying attention, and wherever there was metal it had tagged it up with bubbles of rust. To protect themselves, the houses had built a wall and a fence between the road and the ocean, but the ocean banged against the wall just under the road, roaring that it wanted to be set free. To warn people of the danger, the houses had left signs all along the fence warning people that the waves may occasionally reach over the wall and attack.
At the end of the battleground between the houses and the ocean, the sidewalk tried one final attack and poked itself straight out into the ocean. After that, the ocean and the neighborhoods called a truce, and the wall, and the pavement, and the houses all disappeared. Without anyone trying to steal its turf, the surf calmed down and retreated to the back of a wide sandy beach covered with tree bones and people using long sticks to pull the ocean back on land. On the other side of My New Trail was a golf course, with flat-topped trees, and grey-green grass, and the kind of rolling open hills that humans make when they try to copy nature.
Then, the golf course and beach ended all at once when they crashed into a big mountain. The mountain climbed up out of the ocean and stomped right over the beach and golf course, blocking their way. The mountain was really only a hill, but it seemed like a mountain because it interrupted everything around it so rudely. If I wanted to get to the other half of my jurisdiction, I had to get over that mountain somehow. There were two ways to do it: I could either go up the easy way on the path that slithered to the top in switchbacks, or I could run straight up the hundred stairs to the top. Because I’m a tough dog and any job worth doing is worth doing right, Mom and I charged right up the stairs to the top of the mountain. From the top I looked around and couldn’t see anything human because the mountain blocked my view of all the cracks where the town was jammed in between the hills. Instead, I saw was the ocean to one side, the hills to the other, and all around me wild flowers and the ancient blocks of concrete that pre-historic humans used to sit on and watch for invaders from Japan.
Mom and I climbed over rugged trails so steep that our noses practically scraped the ground in front of us as we hiked, and then we shuffled our way downhill until we landed in a hotel parking lot along another beach. This beach too was quickly interrupted by another giant hill barging onto the land, but there was a path that slithered up its back in ruffles. The further we climbed up this hill, the more of my constituents came out to meet me. They proudly walked their humans, or pushed their people puppies in puppy buggies, or gave their people puppies responsibility so that they could spin and sprint and squeal. Normally I would have barked at the people puppies for being so disorderly on My Trail, but this was my first time meeting my townspeople and I wanted to win their respect before I introduced them to Oscar the Enforcer. Instead, I helped the people puppies practice their foreign languages and taught them to repeat after me: “Bow-wow!” Then I let the grown-up humans tell me what a handsome boy I am.
The most famous part of My New Town: the beach with the our most famous landmark. People from The City come to my town to see its beaches and surf in its ocean, and they all come back talking about our beautiful historical landmark that is unlike any they have ever seen before. Everybody has seen a beach, and mountains, and hills that climb right up out of the ocean; but no one has ever seen an wooden Taco Bell before.
Mom took my picture in front of the Famous Historical Landmark, and then we turned around to run the 3.5 miles back to the start. Mom and I haven’t run more than seven miles in a very long time, and I was worried that Mom’s peg leg would be back before we were finished. The rule is that once her peg leg is back, we have to walk the rest of the way. Every other minute, she did that stiff, loping shuffle that is her run now. She ran away from the Wooden Taco Bell, and she ran up and down the zigzags. She ran down the bike trail, past the gardens where people who died in wars and terrorist attacks left flowers for the people who miss them. She shuffled past the people pulling the weeds out of the side of the mountain and throwing them in buckets, and then she shuffled past the people pulling trash out of the beach and putting it in buckets. She shuffled past the golf course, and the sidewalk that goes straight into the ocean, and she was still running when we got to the abandoned houses vandalized by the caged ocean.
“Mom! You’re better!” I said, as I flopped onto my couch in the back of the car and let the cool air conditioning blow over my drooping tongue.
“Yes. I think that I am. I think I’m more hurt now by months and months of sitting still than I am by the bum in my knee and the screw they put in there to fix it.”
I could see what she meant. Ever since Mom got the bum sewed in her knee I needed fewer and fewer adventures, and more naps in between. “So what do we do now?” I asked.
“I suppose we need to get back in shape,” Mom explained. “I guess that means that vacation is over.”
Oscar the Patroldog