I’m not a dog that’s easily surprised. When the Covered Wagon pulls off the Wagon Trail somewhere in nature, I know I’m in for an adventure. When the Wagon stops in a town, that means that a Friend is coming to see me. I haven’t seen nearly enough Friends lately, so when I dismounted the Wagon in a neighborhood, I could hardly wait for Mom to grab the leash behind me before I launched down the sidewalk looking for the nearest Oscar fan.
Suddenly, a bandit popped out from behind a bush. The bandit was tall, and lean, and even though her head was hidden beneath a hat, her eyes were behind big sunglasses, and her face was under a mask, I wasn’t fooled for a second. “Oscar!” The Bandit growled.
“Willy!” I screeched, ditching Mom and rumbling toward her at full speed for a high-impact hug. “You’ll never believe all the things that have happened since I saw you last!” I panted over my shoulder as she scratched my butt.
The last time I saw Willy, we had done a race together. (Remember races?!) Nobody was wearing a mask back then, and everybody was touching things that were going into other people’s mouths, and no one was scared of strangers. That was four months ago. “But guess what!” I told her. “Nature is still out there, just the same as always. They’re even letting you visit it again without sneaking in. Wanna see?”
But before I could show Willy about nature again, I had to feed her. “Did you know that some restaurants always let people eat outside,” I told her as we waited for my eggs and bacon in the dog-dining room. “Yeah, us dogs have been eating outside restaurants for years. The humans only just figured out about outdoor dining, though. Now that it’s mainstream, I suppose us dogs will have to move on to the next cool thing.”
“True that,” interrupted a German shepherd, who stopped by our table on the way to the bathroom. “They even have public bathrooms,” he added, jumping into the nature box that made the walls of the outside restaurant to pee on the flowers.
Once we had finished our breakfasts, we all got into Willy’s wagon, and the humans put their masks back on while I sat between them mouth breathing onto their faces. “You’re gonna love hiking,” I told Willy. “It’s a little bit like running, except that it’s slower to give you more time to appreciate how handsome I am.” As we drove up the wagon trail into the nature, I ran from the windows on one side of the car to the other, “You can stop there! Or… wait, there’s a good place!” I squeaked at a higher and higher note each time until I was afraid the humans’ weak ears wouldn’t be able to hear me anymore.
When we dismounted the wagon, I ran ahead up the trail. “See? You go this way,” I grinned. Then I remembered that I was being a guide, so I turned around and sprinted back to make sure that Willy hadn’t messed up hiking yet. “You’re a natural!” I encouraged her, doing a pirouette and running back up the trail so she wouldn’t get lost like Mom does all the time. When I came back a moment later to check again, I banged Willy out of my way to get to Mom behind her. “Isn’t she doing great, Mom?!”
We hiked through the mini-mountains, and when Mom made me stop for a photo, I turned my back to her to show Willy the right way to appreciate how the mountains rolled away smudgily into the distance. “Have you ever seen flowers?” I asked when we came out of the trees onto a long field that covered the hill like a blanket. “See, these ones are called toilet brushes,” I explained, rolling in them so she would notice. “And these are called floofs,” I told her as I zipped past them. “And these ones are called 1970’s linoleum!”
“You are so handsome!” Willy told me, when she saw how nice the flowers looked with me sitting on them.
“You’ve really got a talent for this hiking thing,” I told her. “There are people who hike for years without ever noticing how handsome I am.”
We reached the top of the hill, but before we turned around, Willy noticed a very interesting looking rock. “Do you want to go take some pictures on the rock?” Mom asked, stomping wildly off the trail.
“This is the worst part of hiking,” I told Willy. “Follow my lead, and I’ll help you get it over with quickly. What did you do with the hat? I know… I know… but she won’t let us leave until she gets a picture of it. Don’t worry, I’ll wear it this time, and next time it will be your turn.” Then I jumped up on the rock, just like I knew that Mom wanted me to.
“You’re such a good dog,” Willy told me, even though I already knew. “How did you learn how to jump on rocks like that?”
“If you only knew how many rocks I’ve had to jump on…” I told her. “Now quick, gimme your face so I can kiss it. Mom loves pictures of smooches. Don’t worry, it’ll probably end up on Instagram, but I still mean it…”
Oscar the Smooch