After work on Friday, Mom, Dr. Remy’s Dad, another collie and I left work together. “Oh great! A night out with my Friends! I can’t wait!” I said. “Where are we going? Are we gonna have bro time?”
Then we walked to a car I didn’t know, and Mom opened the door. “Go on, Oscar. Get in,” Mom said.
“That’s a little weird, but okay…” I said, hopping onto the couch in the back. And then, “Wait, Mom… aren’t you coming?”
She kissed me on the forehead, which really was a very strange thing to do before getting into the car for a night out with the boys, and then said, “Okay, you be good. I’ll be back.” That was even curiouser, because that’s what she says when she leaves me alone to guard our car while she runs an errand.
“But aren’t you coming?” I asked. She didn’t say anything. Instead, she shut the door in my face and started walking away. Then Dr. Remy’s Dad and my other collie got in the recycle bin chair and the driving chair, and we drove away without Mom. “Wait, you guys. We forgot Mom,” I said. “She’s one of the guys just like me. We can’t leave without her.” But we did.
I spent the weekend with Remy and his family, playing in the yard and snuggling with Remy’s Granny. Remy’s Granny and I fell in love at first cuddle and she said over and over, “Oscar loves me!” So I kept wagging “Remy’s Granny loves me,” which is how you say I love you at Remy’s house, I think.
“What kind of dog is he?” Remy’s Granny asked.
“Mom says I’m made of love and rocks,” I told her.
“Cattle dog pit bull mix,” Dr Remy’s Dad answered, because he didn’t know the rule about not answering questions about breeds, in case the person is a landlord or afraid of dogs.
“Why do people say so many bad things about pit bulls?” Remy’s Granny asked.
“Why do people say so many bad things about old ladies?” I wondered, snuggling in closer so that she could put her arm all the way around me and bury her scratchy fingers in my chest hair.
Dr. Remy’s Dad took me to work on Monday so that I wouldn’t have to use one of my vacation days to wait for Mom. After a long time, Mom walked into the Monday meeting. She was very late.
I walked through all the legs to where she was standing in the back. “Mom, where the heck were you?!” I whispered. “Remy and I followed each other around all weekend pretend-ignoring each other, and I made best friends with his granny. She’s rad, you would like her.”
“I was in Michigan,” Mom explained. “I had to take a plane to get there, and you would have loved Michigan, but I don’t think you would have liked the plane much.”
“Wow! Michigan, really?! What’s Michigan? Is it fun and exotic?” Mom has always said that Michigan would be the perfect place for a romantic vacation.
“It was very fun and exotic! I ran a marathon with a new friend that I met through your running group.”
“But you haven’t been training for a marathong!” I said, alarmed.
“Well I didn’t tell her that, because I didn’t want to worry her.”
“But why did you have to go all the way to Michigan to find a Friend to run with? I mean, I know you’re unpleasant, but surely you could have tricked someone closer into letting you ruin their marathong.”
“You know all that running that we’ve done tied together on a leash so that you know where to go, when to turn, and if things are dangerous? My Friend can’t see, so she also needs a running buddy to make sure she doesn’t trip or bang into something.”
“You were a Seeing Eye human? Oh, Mom, you’re not trained for that either! Puppies train for that from the time they’re babies; it’s not something that you can just pick up in a weekend. And not everyone’s suited for it. You have to be calm in crowds, and… well…” I didn’t want to hurt Mom’s feelings, but she stinks at crowds more than most of the other things she stinks at. So I changed the subject. “Wasn’t she so disappointed when she thought that she was getting a trained Seeing Eye human and she got you instead?”
“Well, I guess I tricked her, because she didn’t ask, and I didn’t tell her I’d never done it before.” Mom was talking fast, like even thinking about Michigan was an exciting thing. “And I really wanted to go!”
“Why? Surely there are plenty of great reasons to visit Michigan other than to ruin someone’s first marathong.”
“Because my fastest days are behind me, Oscar. I’ve run enough marathons that I know I can finish even without much training, so they’re just not exciting anymore. They feel more like a chore. I’ll never experience the excitement of my first marathon or my fastest marathon again, but it still makes me sad to stop. So when there was an opening to experience a marathon for the first time again, I asked My Friend if I could share it with her. It seemed like a win-win.”
“Yep, we both did. I got to be an experience vampire, and she finished a marathon!”
I understood why a runner would want a buddy if they couldn’t smell their way around a marathong course, but I didn’t understand why there weren’t a ton of other people fighting over who got to visit Michigan. “Mom, I still don’t get it: of all the humans in the whole wide running group, why did she decide to run with a stranger? I mean, I KNOW she didn’t know anything about you, because if she had read anything I’ve written, she would know that you’re a terrible navigator and kind of annoying.”
“So here’s the part I don’t get either,” Mom said. “Two people told my Friend that they’d run with her, and then they flaked out. Can you believe that? She’d done all the training, and they had a chance to be part of such a special thing, and they just decided they’d rather do something else!”
“What? She wasn’t going to be able to run just because someone didn’t want to keep a promise? What’s wrong with people?!” I said.
“I know, right?! I couldn’t stop thinking about it for a week, and all I could think about was that this was the first time that all that selfish training I’ve done could be of any use to anybody…” Then she added, “Plus, I’d always wanted to go to Michigan.”
“But didn’t you splat her into a pole or trip her or something?”
“No! My Friend is really good at running with other people and paying attention. We used a teeny, tiny leash. It was so easy because I’m trained to run on leash with you. When we needed to turn toward me, I sorta pulled the leash a little, and when we needed to move toward her, I just held my arm out so it touched her arm. We didn’t even have to interrupt our conversation much for me to tell her about turns and stuff. We only slammed into the back of one guy, and she only tripped once. I shouted a bad word, but no one even fell down.”
“So what did you talk about for all that time?” I asked. “Did you talk about blind things, like dogs, and sticks, and piano tuning?”
“We talked a little bit about blind stuff, but we also talked about work, and school, and friends, and home improvement, and running, and porta-potties, and families…”
“She must have been so bored listening to you talk about all that stuff,” I scolded. “When you make new friends, you can’t just talk about yourself the whole time, you have to talk about something your New Friend can relate to.”
“Don’t be silly, Oscar. We could both relate to all those things. Well… maybe not home renovations and marriage. I’m not good at those things like she is.”
“So wait, blind people are just normal people who can’t see?” That was surprising, but then I thought about Remy’s Granny. “You know, I didn’t think that old ladies could be cool, either. But Remy’s Granny is a hoot. She’s cool just like I’m cool. Sometimes new Friends amaze me because they feel like people I should have had in my life the whole time even though I just met them.”
“What are you talking about? You love old ladies. You love Margo, and the Dean of your puppy school, and my mom… They’re all old ladies.”
“They’re not old ladies! They’re Friends, Mom.”
“Have you ever noticed that when you don’t know someone, all you see are the differences. But once you get to know them, you find out that there are a lot more things that are the same than are different?” Mom asked. “And then the differences become invisible and they just become an individual?” When I thought about it, Mom was right; I did have a lot of friends who were old ladies. I’d just never really noticed that they were old ladies because each one was a different kind of old lady from the other. Maybe that’s what friendship is; seeing the person for who they are, not the words that describe them. Every time I make Friends with someone who scares me at first – like guys with beards, and old ladies, and Harvard graduates, and people puppies – the list of people to scratch my butt just gets longer, and the list of people to be scared of gets shorter.
I thought this Michigan human must be desperate for Friends if she was willing to run a whole marathong tied to Mom, but it sounded like Mom’s Friend had as much fun showing Mom Michigan as Mom had seeing it. “It must have been very exciting running with someone brave enough to run into the unknown every day,” I said. “Were you really proud to be running with her?”
“I was! I was so proud to run with her, but I think that everyone who finishes a marathon is inspiring. Do you know what we talked about to motivate us when we were tired and our legs hurt near the end?”
“Inspiring visually impaired people like Helen Keller, Ray Charles, and Nancy Kerrigan’s mom?”
“Nope. I described the other runners around us who were also struggling, and how heroic they were. There were walking people who started running again, or people who had horrible cramps and had to stop and stretch, but kept walking. Everyone was suffering, but we were all still moving. Everybody has something making their life difficult. Sometimes it’s something really obvious like that they can’t see or their legs don’t work, but other people have difficulties that you can’t see that are just as tough. Even a bad attitude can make life a challenge sometimes. So I’m inspired by anyone who keeps going when things are tough.”
I definitely understood how hard it can be to have a bad attitude because I had helped Mom with that a gajillion times. I guess that everyone has some things that are difficult for them, and some things where they are stronger. Like how Mom can open the food fortress and take me places where I can’t go alone, but she can’t start a conversation with other humans without my help.
“So did you cry when you finished?” I asked.
“Well I was going to, but when we crossed the finish line it was like I was standing with a celebrity. Everybody who had seen us on the course wanted to congratulate My Friend and get to know her better. So there was no time to cry,” Mom said. Then she thought for a second, “You know what the coolest thing is?”
The answer was NO, because Mom hadn’t taken me to Michigan. “Tell me.”
“Even though people tell her she’s special every day, all My Friend wants is to be treated like everybody else. She has to remind people every day that she can do things all by herself, thank you very much. A lot of the people are always trying to get other people to do things for them. It’s pretty badass to be a regular person sometimes, don’t you think?”
“Sure do,” said the handsome dog who started a blog so that people would see all the sames that dogs have with people, until the differences become invisible.
Oscar the Old Lady Whisperer