The cold wasn’t a temperature but a kind of pain when Mom got out of our comfy nest and opened the Wagon doors to make her poop juice. Still, I didn’t need that lame jacket she put on me before we set out on our adventure. With my ripped physique hidden under a jacket, who would want to pat my bulging muscles and run their fingers through my fur? So I waited till Mom’s back was turned and rolled in the white dirt and sand until my many chest burst the collar open and the coat hung around my waist like a belt. As soon as Mom saw me she scolded me and covered me back up, but I just waited till she’d turned around again before rutting and squirming back out of my straightjacket. Again and again Mom bundled me up and I rolled until I’d burst free again.
As we set out, I stared down the lane of a long canyon. The noses of an orderly line of brick-colored bluffs reached inward toward each other like the teeth of a zipper. Here and there, hotdog-shaped towers guarded the entrance to side canyons that pushed into who-knows-where. What I’ve learned from exploring many canyons in this country is that they do funny things with distances. Even though this canyon looked like a crack that broke the whole world in half, the distances got shorter and everything got smaller the longer I walked. It was like I was on a movie set that only looks real if you stand in the right spot, and when you walk around you discover that everything is a size that doesn’t match. I reached the nose of each cliff faster than I would have thought, and what had looked as tall as a skyscraper from far away looked only as tall as a high rise from its toes. Between the bluffs, rather than finding another canyon like the one I was standing in, each one hid an enormously tiny cul-de-sac shaped like the inside of an tennis ball that had been chewed in half.
The trail took us up one side of the canyon and back down the other so that the cliffs always stayed on the same side of me. When the trail looped across the playing field of the stadium-shaped end of the canyon, I spotted a little cabin with a stovepipe chimney.
“Oh good!” Mom said, finishing the water in her bottle. “A bathroom!”
But as we walked closer and more of the cabin came out from behind the bushes, I noticed that something was wrong with the bathroom. It was missing one of its walls, and on the part of the door where the drawings of the man and woman waiting to pee belonged, a horseshoe hung in the sign’s place.
“Oh no! It’s a bathroom for horses!” I said. “Where will you go, Mom?”
Mom looked up the trail from where we’d come, and then down the trail where we were going. “I’ll go right here where it’s sunny and warm,” she said.
And she did.
Mom’s outdoor potty posture makes it hard for her to look around while she’s marking, and the hat she wears gives her eyes the rest of the privacy she needs. That’s why she didn’t see the people coming.
“Look! Mom! Friends!” I shouted over the tinkling sound. “Here they come!”
“Dog doo, dog doo, dog doo!” Mom said, standing up fast and grabbing at her pants.
“They’re here!” I barked to Mom. Then to the New Friends I barked, “You’re here! You’re here! You’re here! Come quick, let me introduce you to Mom…”
“Oscar, come here!” Mom said, fiddling with her pants to make them look innocent. But she was still facing away and fiddling with her belt, so I thought it would be okay to ignore her a little longer.
I introduced myself, and then pushed into each person’s shins for a few moments to give them a friendly hug while Mom talked to them about the trail. While she was talking about the cold and what parts of the canyon the sun was and wasn’t, I could smell that the only thing on her mind was figuring out whether the New Friends had seen her butt.
It’s a scientific fact that a bare Mom-butt can make a Friend appear where there were none before. So if you’re lost in the wilder-ness and you need help, pull down your pants and someone will come along right away. Guaranteed.
Now that Mom’s butt was covered again, we hardly saw any more people on the way back out of the canyon than we did on the way in. We were almost back to the car before I met my next set of Friends.
A people puppy ran away from his family and asked Mom, “Can I pet your dog?”
“Boy oh boy! A puppy!” I said. “Mom, can I pet him, please?” I didn’t wait for Mom to answer and greeted the people puppy with a grin and a wag, and then turned around to lean my butt against him hard for a big bro-y hug. The people puppy was surprisingly wimpy, because when I pressed into him, he went all flimsy and almost fell over under my enthusiasm.
The boy looked at Mom to see if this was how petting was supposed to work. He seemed ready to run away at the first sign from Mom that he was in trouble, so I pushed just a little harder to encourage him. His eyes opened even wider.
“That’s how he hugs,” Mom explained. “He wants you to scratch his butt.”
The people puppy pat-pat-patted my butt and then ran back to his mom and the two dogs who were escorting her.
Now that we were buds, I proudly escorted the people puppy and his family back to the car kennel with my head held high. “Move aside, move aside. Very important expedition coming through,” I announced as I showed my chin to the other hikers, furry and fleshy alike.
When we reached the car kennel, Mom dragged me away from my position at the head of the parade to get into the Wagon. I took one last look over my shoulder as we walked away, and when I did I heard the people puppy say, “I love that dog.”
He meant me!
Oscar the Puppysitter