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Just because we’re home that doesn’t mean that the adventures have to stop. Or, that’s what Mom said anyway when she woke me up early and we piled in the car to go to a trail we rarely visit. When we got there, I couldn’t tear my nose from the ground. There was cow poo absolutely everywhere. Mom was impatient and tried to pull on the leash, but I asked her to heel. “But there are cows here!!!” I told her, urgently.

This hill is really steep. Not as steep as some of the things that we climbed on my birthday adventure, but too steep for Mom to run the whole time. For the first time in a long time I put my running coach collar back on. “Tell you what,” I told Mom. “When you’re tired and want to walk, I want you to count down from 50 before you stop running. If it’s really steep, count down from 30. If you’re walking too much, I’ll impose a penalty by stopping to sniff cow poo, and because it’s too steep for you to pull me off of it, you’ll be pinned to the spot until I’m done.”

“Deal,” Mom didn’t say. Instead she whined and pulled on the leash like Bodie watching a squirrel every time I pinned her down for her laziness penalty.

That’s how we made our way up the mountain, with Mom running as much as she could and me sniffing as much cow poo as I could. It was still dark at this point, so I was relying on my nose to tell me what was going on. Suddenly I could smell some very, very fresh cow poo. I looked up and there were 2 big eyes shining back in my spotlight. That big black blob was a cow!!! Then, a few yards away, a bunny ran by. Oh, difficult choices! I searched deep in my heart and remembered that I am part cattle dog, so I let the bunny go and barked at the cow until I thought my heart would explode from joy.

When we got to the final scramble up to the summit, the sun was just starting to rise behind the cows on the hilltop and it was a beautiful morning. But Mom really had her hackles up because about a dozen hikers were blocking the trail. They were yowling and squawking at each other, and one was talking in the teakettle voice that I find as exciting as a dog whistle. Usually people use that voice only for dogs, but this lady was using it to talk to other people. The tea kettle lady made Mom bristle even more.

“Even when we run on a trail at 5:30am on a Thursday we can’t get away from crowds…” Mom grumbled.

“Oh stop being such a grouch,” I said. “This is lovely. It’s sunrise, it’s not too cold, and these people are singing flamenco!” (I know about flamenco from when Mom didn’t listen to audiobooks for 6 weeks.)

“Um, I think they’re just speaking Cantonese, Oscar.”

“Are you sure it’s not flamenco? Okay,” I said, taking off my running coach collar and putting on the one I use for life coaching. “I have another challenge for you.”

“Ooh! I love challenges! They make it fun for me to work on the problem behaviors that I find difficult!” Mom didn’t say.

“You have to smile and greet every person that we meet on the way down the hill. You don’t have to sniff their butt or anything, just open yourself up to eye contact and wish them a good morning.” So she did. She even had to greet the people that she thought were using our trail wrong. Some people smiled and waved back, others kept their eyes on the ground, and we even stopped to have a conversation with two nice ladies who cheered for us. I did the same challenge with all the cows, with even more enthusiasm but less friendliness in return.

By the time we got to the bottom we were both feeling much better about things: Mom because she had connected with other people rather than being annoyed by them and judging them. Me, because I’d done what I was born to do — run around and bark at cows!

-Oscar the Cow-dog


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