Oscar the Spectator
Jan 3, 2020
This morning I did my regular before-work run on My Trail. My Trail runs for 4 miles along the ocean, up and down the hills and beaches between the the Wooden Taco Bell and the pier where the men smell of stinky fish guts. As I ran the same old run I do at least once a week, I couldn’t stop thinking about all of my Friends who are just starting to walk and run. “Mom, you know all those runners who have been stuck inside? How come they’re not excited about the adventures they have in front of them now that they’ve revolved to set themselves free? A dog gets excited when they’re sprung from the pound, but these new runners seem kind of sad.”
“There are a lot of reasons why someone might make the decision to change, but a lot of times it’s because they don’t like the person they’ve become. It’s a sad feeling to spend your life being someone that you don’t like.”
“But what’s not to like?! It’s brave to make a decision that you’re going to go on more than 2000 miles of adventures. In the olden days people were heroes when they revolved to travel thousands of miles and explore the world! But the explorers on Facebook seem to think there’s something wrong with them.”
“Sometimes people forget how brave it is to decide to change. They haven’t seen all the excitement in their future yet, so all they can see is the unhappiness in their past that made them wish for change.”
“But they’re going to go so many places, see so many things, meet so many people! It’s going to be awesome! It’s not like life is more exciting for a greyhound than a St. Bernard.”
“Sometimes big adventures feel out of reach when running around the block feels like a marathon. The best way that you can be their Friend is to be patient and remind them how excited you are to join them on all their adventures.”
“Oh good! Walking with people on their journeys is my favorite thing to do!”
I thought about tiny adventures as we ran along the edge of the world. People use the ocean to measure the flatness of things because they think that the ocean has no features and every spot for millions of miles is exactly the same. If you’re not from the coast, you may not know that the sea isn’t really flat. It’s fierce and violent and savage. It goes up and down, and squirms and wiggles constantly. Sometimes sea level gets so spastic that it slams against the land and flings itself onto the sidewalk where we run. I hate running along, minding my own business and finding myself unexpectedly “below sea level,” but if you’re not from the coast you might not know so much action and surprise can come from the ocean. “Why don’t people think their adventures are interesting just because they’re small?” I asked.
“Because they think that other people won’t understand. They think that someone who runs 10K a day is going to judge them.”
“That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard! Are mountain stories better than sea stories just because the mountains are bigger?” I looked out at the lights that were coming from the boats on the water. “What about Magellan, and Earnest Shackleton, and The Perfect Storm, and Captain Phillips? What about pirates?! I bet there are people in the desert and mountains who read stories about pirates and wish that they could live a life with so much excitement!”
As the sun started to light up behind the hills, and the ocean went from sound and smell to a view, I thought about how cool it is to live at the very, very edge where all that land ends. “You know what my favorite part of My Trail is?” I said to Mom.
“What? That I give you an extra helping of breakfast afterward?”
“I forgot about that. That’s pretty great too. But I was thinking about how it’s a great place to practice.”
“Practice for what?”
“If I didn’t practice running on this trail so often, I wouldn’t know how to climb to the tops of mountains or run through canyons. Just think of all the things I never would have seen!”
“It’s true, we have seen some pretty cool stuff that not many people see because the only way to get there is on foot.”
“I see stuff from a distance through the windows of the Covered Wagon, but it just isn’t the same as using my legs to run through it. How do I tell people about how running brings the world to the tips of your toes and how excited I am to hear about their adventures?”
“I don’t think you have to tell them. They’ll figure it out for themselves,” Mom said.
“But when they do, let’s make sure to hit the LIKE button so that they know we’re proud of them,” I reminded her.
Oscar the Responsible Pooch
Jan 4, 2020
This morning I ran Mom up the mountain at the gate between My Hometown and nature. I was hoping for a peaceful and relaxing run through the clouds, but when Mom looked at her phone in the morning, she saw something that made anger zap out of her head in spiky lightning bolts of stress. So it was going to be THAT kind of run.
Mom lets me run free if we go to the Cloud Mountain before work, but when we run there on the weekends she likes me to keep her on leash. After a few miles of uphill running, I was getting parched, so when I found a mud puddle blocking most of the trail, I stopped short for a refreshing drink. As soon as I slammed on the brakes, Mom cawed like an angry crow and tipped socks-first into the puddle. It turns out she’d been balancing on the thin bit of dry dirt next to the puddle, and when the leash yanked on her waste she lost her balance and stomped into the water. Wet socks make Mom very grumpy.
“Well why don’t you take the leash off?” I suggested. “You’ve hiked through wilder-ness much more rugged than this, you don’t need my supervision. I trust you.”
“The leash isn’t because I don’t trust you, bud. It’s for the other people who think you’re going to eat them,” Mom explained.
“That’s ridiculous. I don’t eat people. I eat people-food, just like they do. And dog food sometimes. And very rarely poop.”
“I know. And I know that you behave better when you’re off leash, but some people don’t know a lot about dogs and they feel threatened when they see a dog that’s empowered to make his own decisions.”
“Doesn’t everybody do their best work when they have responsibility and can make their own decisions?” I asked. “You’re always happy and focused when you do your own thing at work, and everyone says what a good girl you are. But when a boss tells you how to take every step, you mess up a lot. And when you mess up, everyone gets mad, and you get aggressive. Have you ever noticed that?” Mom is the least fun to be around when the person she’s angry with is herself. Neither of us get to much sleep when her leash is too short either, because she needs to wake me up for 2am conferences on all the reasons why the person holding the work-leash is a nincompoop.
“I think you’re right about that, Oscar. But the problem is that people are least likely to change their minds about the things that they’re most ignorant about.”
“Isn’t embarrassing for them to be so ignorant?” I asked. “If they just got to know me, they would know that I’m a pretty swell and supportive guy, and I’m very gifted at snuggles. Then they would feel real silly for being scared of me.”
“I’m sorry to tell you this, but the people who are afraid of dogs are never going try snuggling with you, no matter how patient and friendly you are. You just can’t change someone’s mind if they won’t give you a chance.”
“So what do we do about ignorant people?” I asked. It gave me a very uncomfortable feeling in my tummy to know that there are people who are wrong and that I can’t change their minds. “Do we report them to The Authorities so that a judge will tell them that they’re wrong?”
“You can’t usually take someone to court just for disagreeing with you,” Mom said. “Sometimes all that you can do is follow a rule that you think is stupid.”
That didn’t make the yucky feeling in my tummy go away. “But isn’t that injustice?” I asked. “Don’t we have a moral obligation to fight it?”
“Nah. Have you ever heard the expression ‘I’d rather be happy than be right?'”
“That’s a dumb expression. Being right makes me happy! I’ve had thousands of miles of experience with responsibility off leash, and people don’t think I can handle a trail in my own back yard?”
“Look at it this way, I love running with you, so I don’t mind being tied together,” Mom pointed out. “We’re still having a good run, even though my socks are wet. If we got in a fight with a dog-aggressive human, it would ruin our run, wouldn’t it? A confident dog doesn’t need to prove his responsibility. A responsible dog knows that it’s his job to prevent a fight, and sometimes that means doing things he doesn’t agree with to keep the ignorant from getting aggressive.”
I still thought that was pretty dumb, but I had already wasted half of my run being irritated, and I didn’t want the dummies to ruin any more of my morning. So as Mom and I turned around to run out of the cloud and drop back toward the ocean, I left my icky feelings up in the cloud. Mom and I are so in synch that we can run for miles without feeling the leash anyway. When it’s right, the leash doesn’t matter anyhow.
Oscar the Mayor
Jan 15, 2020
I love my runs alone with Mom in the morning, but the truth is that we’re never really alone because The Witch that Lives in Mom’s Phone always comes along with us. Sometimes The Witch is well behaved and only interrupts us to tell us about what time it is, or how far we’ve run. The rest of the time she sings Mom songs or tells her stories, which Mom finds relaxing. But sometimes that Witch is a real doo-doo head and says things that make Mom instantly growly and turn her into the kind of person who yanks on the leash a lot. Even worse, sometimes The Witch says something so horrible that Mom has to stop running altogether to poke a fight into her.
This morning was a nice morning. We had time to run along the coast from the pier to the Wooden Taco Bell, which is almost 7 miles when you go all the way there and back. On the way out it was dark, which meant that I wasn’t distracted by seeing things and got to enjoy the morning smells of ocean, and pee from my neighbors, and bacon from the breakfast place, and pot smoke from the cars in the surfer lot. The sun started to come up after we turned around at the Wooden Taco Bell, and Mom got to enjoy the sky the color of a Smoke Shop sign, then a Porn Shop sign, and then finally as the clouds lit up the color of a Sexy Underwear Shop sign. They were all shades of grey that Mom enjoys seeing behind the mountains and reflected in the ocean. But all of a sudden, right when the whole sky was about to pop with all the beautiful colors of the seedy part of town at once, Mom stopped and looked at The Witch.
Sunrise is supposed to be the time that no one knows that we’re awake, so we can sneak into nature without The City folk knowing about it. They can’t find us if she doesn’t respond to their Witch bulletins, but now the jig was up. “Mom, what are you doing?!” I said, alarmed.
“Someone needs something as soon as possible. I can spend a minute sending it from my phone right now, or I can spend the whole morning being stressed that I’m going to forget about it, and then forget about it and being stressed that there was something I was supposed to do that I forgot what it was.”
“But what about work-life balance and all that jazz?” I asked. That was a big deal to Mom awhile back.
“Sure, if someone had a question that was going to start a conversation. Or if it was something that could wait a few hours. But sometimes there are things that take more effort to ignore than to just do them and move on.”
“But don’t you have to prove a point about respect?” I asked.
“Why would I get in a fight when I could be the hero who makes someone’s life easier?” Mom asked. Sometimes Mom’s questions are great comebacks to things that Past Mom has said.
What was surprising was that Mom did move on. After spending less than a minute walking with The Witch (we were going uphill anyway), she returned to nature with me and we enjoyed watching the sky’s color turn from Sexy Underwear Shop to Hair Salon, and then finally to 1990s Fitness Center.
Ever since I tried to teach a lion how to play tag last week, Mom hadn’t let me off leash. Which meant that whenever I passed good dogs minding their own business on My Trail, I had to bark at them. Whenever I did, the leash yanked me away, and Mom and I spent a moment playing tug of war, both of us being held back from what we wanted to do. But the less time I pulled on the leash and the sooner I turned back and ran with Mom, the sooner things went back to being easy so that we could focus on the smell of the mud puddles and seagull poop. I’ll have to remember to point that out to Mom next time she’s pulling on the leash when I want to bark at a good dog. I’ll remind her that if she doesn’t fight it and helps me just chase my Frienemy then she’ll be a hero and can get back to what she enjoys sooner.
Oscar the Laser Pointer
Jan 17, 2020
We only live a few miles from the Dog Beach, but we don’t go there much anymore since one time it was closed because they were looking for a woman who’d been buried by a sandslide, and then a few months later we found a man and his dog who had fallen off of a cliff. I asked Mom if we didn’t go because it’s haunted.”It’s not haunted, but it still makes me nervous,” Mom said. “If it’s not haunted, then why do so many people and dogs die there?”
“I guess it’s because people forget that nature can be dangerous. They feel like when they’re in a city and there are lots of people around, that the danger can’t touch them and they forget to be careful.” Mom never forgets to be careful in the city because The City gives her something called angst-iety. She taught me that being afraid of things makes you feel safe.
This morning, though, we decided to be brave and go to the Dog Beach in the dark, which isn’t a scary thing because it’s not haunted. We climbed down the cliff on the sand stairs until we reached the very end of the world. Mom ran in the no-man’s-sand where the land and ocean fight for territory because it feels more like sidewalk under her paws. I don’t like getting wet, so I ran through the dry sand outside where the spotlight reached. There was no risk of losing Mom since she was the only light at the end of the world, and when I needed her I charged at her like a speeding train thinking, “Mom! Mom! Mom!” She couldn’t see me in the dark, so I had to get real close before she knew that we were playing chicken. I was almost touching her when I bucked up like a wild bronco to turn around and run away and give her a chance to chase me. “Let me tell you all about all the things out there in the dark,” I grinned, slowing down to Mom-pace so that she would think that she was about to catch me. “I found sea monster tentacles, and jellyfish poop, and over there I discovered a submarine, or maybe it’s a dumpster. Anyway, it’s half buried in the sand so I bet I’m the first to see it in millions and millions of years. They’ll probably want to put it in a museum somewhere, especially because of the graffiti. Where is everybody anyway?”
“I think they’re probably running along the Embarcadero, or on treadmills, or walking around their neighborhoods so they won’t be late to work,” Mom said
“What’s the I’mbarkadero?”
“It’s where the homeless people sleep on benches and the rented scooters try to run us over. You know, that place where we run by the office.”
“Oh. Why don’t they come over to this side of The City to do their runs?” I asked. “It’s nice over here, and there’s no sidewalk so you can go right up to the water… if you’re into that kind of thing.”
“I think that people think that nature is just for the weekend,” Mom said. “It’s hard to see something pretty when there’s somewhere you’ve got to be.”
“Is time different during the week?” I asked. Dogs can’t tell time, so I need Mom to tell me when I’ve got a meeting or something.
“When you need to finish something by a certain time, time does feel shorter so you keep your head down and think about time. The more you think about how little of it you have, the faster it passes. I think that people think that controlling their runs helps them control their time.”
“Who wants to look at a treadmill’s chest anyway when they could look at a dog’s butt? But what’s the point of running if it’s not fun?”
“Well I think that people forget about the fun part when they are in a hurry just like they forget about the beauty part. All they can think about is that they need to run before they do the next thing, and they forget why they’re doing it.”
“Wow, you guys really mess up the simplest things,” I told Mom. “I sure hope you’re enjoying this beautiful morning along the beach.”
“Well, it’s dark. So I can’t really see anything. And I’ve got headphones in, so I can’t really hear the waves. But, I suppose I’m enjoying it.”
Must I do everything myself?!
To make sure that Mom noticed what a good job she was doing at finding nature on work days, I made sure she ran down the beach until she had enough light to see by. Only when things on the beach turned from shapes to textures did I let her turn around and run back toward the sand stairs. Without me for her eyes to follow, she might not have noticed how the wet sand reflected the dog standing on it, or the sky behind him. Maybe she would have missed the cool cathedral shapes that the sand made on the cliffs if she hadn’t turned her eyes away from the horizon to look for me. And she would never have seen that big cloud the shape of southern Africa upside-down and cut in half if she hadn’t been looking for places to take my picture.
Oscar the Barkadero
Jan 22, 2020
My run today was a patrol down the I’mbarkadero where the stray humans sleep and people try to run me over with scooters. There’s a race every morning on the I’mbarkadero, and hundreds of runners show up to run the same course in their best race t-shirts, fancy Garmin watches, and matchy-matchy shoes and tights. The race organization stinks, though, because no one agrees on what time the race starts, or where the start and finish lines are, so everyone cheats by showing up at a different time, and cutting the course. They start in the middle; they turn around too soon; it’s a mess!
There is a lot to monitor when I patrol the I’mbarkadero, and it’s hard to keep track of it all. So like any successful busy-ness dog, I prioritize going after the worst offenders: skateboards and dogs-that-are-not-me. The streets were quiet with everyone abiding The Laws of Oscar until between miles 4 and 5 I approached a labradoodle running with his man in the same direction as me. He was being a very good boy. “OH NO YOU DI’N’T!” I barked. I can’t abide good boys, and I especially hate punkerdoodles, so I mean mugged him until he was close enough for me to lunge at him, but not so close that the leash would reach him and I would have to back up my threats. Then I charged him and barked authoritatively, “WHO GOES THERE?!” Just as I was reaching peak intimidation, the leash snapped me out of my sprint. That’s what we call “appropriate force” in the business.
The punkerdoodle ignored me with an arrogant and dismissive expression on his face as he stared straight ahead at his man’s butt. “HEY! YOU LOOK AT ME WHEN I’M BARKING AT YOU!” I shouted.
Mom tugged on the leash and pulled me over to a side path so that I had to crane my neck more and more to give him the evil eye. “Come on, Oscar, show him how you run,” Mom said. Then she sped up to a speed that might have looked pretty cool if our team captain weren’t crooked and wobbly like Mom. “Go! Go! Go!” she encouraged me before her breath ran out.
The side path wasn’t very long, only about as long as 5 or 6 parking spaces, so even though we were running like a gentle breeze, it was just enough time for us to pull up alongside and then edge out the punkerdoodle before we merged back onto the main path just ahead of him. We blasted away like a subtle draft, and left him to stare at our butts as we ran in front of him.
If Mom were a REAL racer, we would have sped away from the punkerdoodle with a snappy “Piew!” sound and a puff of smoke. Then all he would have seen was my tight little butt disappearing to the horizon. But with Mom on the other end of the leash, it was more like two big trucks passing each other on the freeway, and my tight little butt didn’t so much disappear into the distance as tantalize him from a parking-space-length ahead. We were gaining about a half-Oscar a minute in our low speed chase, but I still felt the punkerdoodle on my tail, thinking critical things about me. He was thinking things like, “This handsome beast isn’t so fast. He thinks he’s all that, but I’m not impressed.” But I am that fast! I thought back at him. I’m just being held back by my running partner! “This path ain’t big enough for the two of us,” he was probably thinking. Hey, that’s MY mominous line! I’m The Mayor! I snarled silently. “Sure, there’s no jiggle to his wiggle, but that collar is so last season,” he might say. Leather is classic, you unrefined boob! I wanted to tell him, just so he knew that I was way ahead of him.
“What’s going on back there?!” Mom said in exaggeration the 4,327th time I turned my head to check on the punkerdoodle.
“I need to make sure that hen doesn’t need more barking,” I explained. “It’s all your fault, you know. I wanted to sprint away, but you’re the one holding me back.”
“He’s already behind you. The biggest thing slowing us down is you turning around to check behind you every 2 seconds. I’m the one that’s trying to move forward, and you’re the one who’s putting up resistance. It’s time to move on!”
“But Mom! He needs to KNOW!”
“Um… that I’m better? That he’s wrong? That I have a better hair cut, and sexier muscles, and more friends, and I’m really going places?”
“He’s wrong about what?! Oscar, I don’t think that dog is even paying attention to you. He’s just having a nice run with his man, and you’re no more than a detail in the background.”
“Right! Exactly! How dare he live his life on MyBarkadero?”
“You’re not hearing me,” Mom yanked again. “As long as you’re paying attention to him, you’re not paying attention to what YOU want to do, which is run away. Every time you turn around and look at him, it distracts you from what you came here to do and slows you down. You’re not slowing him down at all, so what does he care? Every time you turn around, you’re giving away the power over your run to someone who doesn’t even care about you. Is that really what you’re going for?”
“Mom, you don’t know how power works. We’re in front, see? That’s called winning, which is what I’m doing.”
“Not for long if you keep slowing down to look back like that. And not only are we going slower than we would otherwise, we’re working harder because we’re pulling against each other.”
“Well I can’t run away when I’ve got to step at him, and I can’t get up in his grill if you’re pulling me in the other direction. How can I win if everyone’s out to get me?!”
“The only one holding you back is you, Oscar,” Mom growled. “And you’re holding *me* back to, and I’m starting to get really annoyed!”
It took a really long time, and I tripped a few times in front of some pretty ladies and tough looking dudes, but after about half a mile of hard work and sacrifice the punkerdoodle stopped at a crosswalk, and I dropped him. I ran a victory mile back to the jim, thinking about how fun my fast run would have been if some slobber-nosed mongrel hadn’t come along and ruined it for me.
Oscar the Shipwreck
Jan 28, 2020
Do you have a nemesis? Mine is the shepherd mix puppy that has my opposite commute during my 3-block hike to the office every morning. I hate the way he walks next to his lady, all fluppy*, so I just have to bark ferocious things at him when I walk by. Mom has a nemesis too, but her nemesis is inside the office. It usually only takes me half a block to calm down after I’ve told off my fluppy nemesis, but Mom never gives her nemesis a piece of her mind. Instead, Mom’s war follows us home, where it rots inside her head until she has to wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me all the things she doesn’t say to her nemesis. Lately My Trail has become a situation room, and our runs have become war councils.
When we were running this morning, Mom pulled her head briefly out of her butt and looked at the ocean. “Look at those waves, Oscar,” she said. “All they’ve done over and over for billions of years is slam themselves into the land with all their might. Then they retreat for a couple of seconds and gather themselves up to attack again. And for what?”
“I thought that they were reaching for something. You know, like when you accidentally knock your toy under the couch,” I said. “Sometimes you’ve got to pull back a second before you can reach just a little farther.”
“Oh. I was thinking it was about territory,” Mom said thoughtfully. “That the ocean fights against the land and relentlessly grinds down the coast. But all that erosion is nothing when you think about its impact on an entire continent.”
I tried looking at the waves with Mom’s eyes. They roared ferociously and charged up the sand for a few seconds, but after a distance that was barely longer than the Covered Wagon is from snout to tailpipe the wave had burned up its energy, and slunk back down the beach, sagging into the sand. But then I looked behind the waves for the spot where the ocean stopped and Japan took over. No matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t see Japan behind all that water. “What’s bigger,” I asked, “the ocean or the land?”
“There’s more than twice as much water as there is land,” Mom said.
I looked at the ocean again. It seemed so desperate to get onto the land. I couldn’t imagine why it would work so hard if it was top dog. Then it hit me! “The land must surround the water! Is it trying to escape?” I asked. “Is that why the water is trying so hard?”
“No, all the water in the world is connected. It’s the land that is isolated. The thing about water is that fills in all the spaces so that everything is level. That way anything can swim or flow wherever it’s meant to without resistance. But land stays in place and everything adapts to it or moves around it. Land is all about highs and lows. Gradients and shadows. When land meets water, the land breaks the water’s flow.”
“I like land the best,” I said, sure I was giving Mom the right answer. “Without land we wouldn’t have mountains, or canyons, or forests. Who would want everything to be all flat and the same everywhere?”
“There are mountains and canyons and forests under water too. You just can’t see them because they’re below the surface, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.” I looked out at the flat ocean, and imagined what the inside-out Earth must look like, where everything reached down instead of up. There could be colossal, breathtaking, powerful things under there, and if I was floating on top of the ocean I would have no idea if I was sitting over a Mt. Everest, or a Grand Canyon, or a vast Wal*mart parking lot.
After we’d run a mile along the front lines of the war between the water and the land, the land launched a surprise attack and rose 100 feet above the ocean to where the waves would never reach. The water below exploded agains the cliffs in poofs, but from way up here all that rage looked like a delicate frill at the very edge of an blank ocean. “So is the ocean winning, or the land?” I asked.
“It’s not really about winning,” Mom said. “They’re playing a different game. The ocean has depth and its power moves, so it doesn’t need to show off its mountains. The land doesn’t move, so its power comes from great heights.”
“Wait. Are we still talking about the beach?” I asked. I could tell that Mom was thinking that the war between the land and the ocean was like her war, but I wasn’t sure what side she was on.
“I’m the ocean, obviously,” Mom said. “I contain mountains, I but my depth means that I don’t need to show everything on the surface. And water is powerful. Given enough time it can dig canyons and grind down mountains.”
“So does that mean that we’re going to dig a canyon into your nemesis?” I asked, worried. Mom’s nemesis has always been nice to me, and I didn’t want Mom to cut her in half.
“I don’t want to dig a canyon into anybody, I just want to flow. But she keeps getting in my way. From on top of her mountain all the drama at the shore looks frivolous. She doesn’t see force of the currents behind it.”
“You lost me,” I said. “Can I please be excused to go sniff for bunnies under bushes for awhile?”
After we’d run two and a half miles, we turned around and ran back the way we’d come. The ocean looked like it was in the same place, despite the hundreds of waves that had hit between when I saw a place for the first time and when I came back. In fact, I’d lived here for almost a year and the ocean hadn’t really moved at all in that time, despite all of its effort.
“So what’s an ocean to do?” I asked. “Are you going to keep crashing against your nemesis for eternity?”
“No, buddy. I don’t have the energy for that,” Mom said. “We’ve got to find a place where I can flow.”
“But I get to keep working there, right?!” I said. Then I felt like the ocean, because Mom’s answer dashed my heart against the rocks.
*”fluppy” is the word for the type of floppy that a puppy is when he hasn’t quite grown into his paws
Oscar the Visionary
Jan 30, 2020
Do you wear glasses? Has anyone ever poked you in the eye with a laser to help you see better?
This morning I took Mom to the trail we don’t go to very often. When it’s daytime that trail is thrilling because you can watch the hills in My Hometown jump out of the ocean to catch the clouds before they fly away to exotic places like Tulsa and Toronto. But in the dark this trail is just a 3-mile line of dirt through a hallway of Mom-sized bushes. This morning the dark was filled with a rain that was too small to fall, so it floated in the air and stuck to the bushes and dirt, sparkling in my spotlight like the scales of a fish left out in the sun.
We had run the whole 3 miles to the top of the ridge and were riding the hill back down to the car when suddenly something unnatural popped out of the mist. “Look, Mom! A new gate!” I said. “It wasn’t here on the way up. How do you think it got there?”
“Oh dog doo,” Mom said. “We must have taken a wrong turn.”
“Yippee! A mysterious adventure!” I panted as we about-faced and started running back up the hill.
As we ran, I looked through the bushes and noticed that the mountain fell down cliffishly into empty fog beside the trail. “Mom, we’re supposed to be running on the spine of the mountain. How did you not notice we were running along its armpit?”
“It’s disorienting when you can only see what’s right in front of you. I wonder if this is what it’s like to be nearsighted,” Mom said.
“What’s earsighted?” I asked. “Is that like the people who see by clicking, like dolphins?”
“It’s when you can’t see anything but what’s right in front of you,” Mom explained.
“Eew! Gross!” I said, because that’s what you’re supposed to say in situations like this. It’s cute when a dog has an underbite… or is a little too pudgy… or plays so hard he forgets that he lost one of his legs somewhere… But when there’s something off about a someone’s human body, they’re supposed to hide it so that everyone can pretend they don’t notice. “Those people ought to be ashamed!” I added, for emphasis.
“What’s the matter with you?” Mom said. “All they need are some glasses or contact lenses and then they can see just fine. I think that glasses are sexy. And a lot of people have surgery, and then their eyes are fixed forever.”
I hang out with humans all the time, and I could have sworn that the rule was that you had to pretend like everyone was the same, and that anything that makes them different is private so people won’t think you’re weak and useless. “Oh yeah?” I said. “If it’s no big deal how far you can see, then how come people are always embarrassed about how far they can run?” “Because people think that how far they run is something they control, and if there is someone running farther than them that they are weak.”
“What?! But you don’t control how far you run any more than how far you see! I mean, sure, you can squeeze and squint and see a little farther, but usually if you can’t see something then it’s because there’s something in the way, or you haven’t climbed high enough on the mountain yet, or your eyes just aren’t as strong as someone else’s. How can someone be embarrassed that they’re busy, or they’re beginners? It’s like being embarrassed that you can’t see the ocean on a foggy day!”
We found our way back to the right trail, and as we ran back down the spine of the mountain I thought about all the races I’d done. In every one of them, there was someone in front of me, and there was someone behind me. And there was someone in front of and behind each of those people. In fact, there were lots of people running, and no two were doing it exactly the same. There was something that was confusing me, though. “Mom, how do they score seeing competitions?” I asked. “Are there special divisions for people who use performance enhancing lenses? Do they let the people who’ve had the surgery do the competitions?””They don’t have seeing competitions, bud. Vision is just what powers focus, and focus is a tool that everyone uses it differently. There’s no comparison. There’s no way to even know if my red is your purple.”
“If your what is my what?”
“Sorry, that’s right. What I mean is that there’s no right or wrong way to see. There are as many ways to see things as there are people to see them.””So then if we appreciate how everyone’s eyeballs are calibrated differently, then why don’t we celebrate how everyone’s runs are calibrated differently too?”
Next time you’re out in the street, look for all the people with glasses.. and invisible glasses. If there are that many people who need a vet to help them calibrate just their eyeballs, then there are probably just as many people who have funny feet like yours, or who sometimes have trouble getting out of bed in the morning just like you, or who struggle to control themselves around treats like you do. If it’s okay with you that all those people need a little help to bring things into focus, then it’s probably okay for your settings to deviate a little bit too. I’m just sayin’…
Oscar the Performance Enhancing Dog
Feb 4, 2020
Sometimes injuries don’t go away, even when they’re past their expiration date. One day you jump off a tall rock funny, or you get your paw stuck in a gopher hole, and it gives you a really stylish limp that makes all the ladies go “awww.” But then its expiration date happens when the ladies lose interest, and your injury stops hurting. You’re supposed to go back to normal, but the ghost of a limp is still there making your weightless jumps land heavy like a sack of potatoes, and making the bunnies run faster than usual when you chase them. Mom said that now that I’m almost six, we can’t just ignore my expired injuries, which is why she took me to the chirocracker.
A chirocracker lives at the vet’s office, but he’s nice because he doesn’t stick anything up your butt. Instead, he gave me the strangest massage anyone has ever given me. I was into it, though, because all attention is good attention, right? Then he explained to Mom that for the next few days I would have to supervise her closely on the leash to make sure that she didn’t sprint too fast chasing a bunny, or hurt her back jumping off of something really tall. I told him that there was nothing to worry about, that Mom doesn’t run fast or jump off of things anymore, and that she screams when we chase bunnies, but I guess he didn’t believe me because Mom made me stay on the leash for our whole run this morning.
That’s why I was still tied to Mom when we came around Creature Corner, where I have met a lion, a wolf-dog, and too many bunny rabbits to count. This morning there was a new creature flumping across the path. It was a horseshoe-crab-shaped ball of fur that moved like a land sting ray. “STRIPEY STINK-CAT!” I barked, and started to give chase before I remembered that I was anchored to Mom. “Attendez-moi!” I shouted after him. To Mom I barked, “Alons-y!”
“A long what?” Mom said.
“It’s French,” I told her sophisticatedly in a very French tone. “Stripey stink-cats speak French. I saw a documentary about it.”
“Do you mean Loony Toons?” Mom said. Then she stopped still. “Holy le Pew! That’s the biggest skunk I’ve ever seen!”
“I know! And he’s getting away!” I squealed as he flumped up the slope next to the trail.
Mom waited until he was almost out of sight before she started running again, very slowly. Maybe she was just being sporting and wanted to give him a head start, since he moved even slower than she does. “Allez, allez, allez!” I gasped against my collar as I dragged Mom uphill. I learned allez from watching the Tour, and it’s how you say I think I can, I think I can, when you’re climbing a hill in France.
“Oscar, slow down,” Mom whined. “Remember the last time you met a skunk? You got 2 baths and then I made you stay home from work!”
“Yeah, but don’t worry, this time we’ll get him!” I assured her. “Last time I chickened out, but I won’t let you make the same mistake now that we’ve got him outnumbered!”
The chirocracker must not be a very good one, though, because Mom never did catch the stripey stink-cat. Even with my help.