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Leapin’ lizards today was an adventure, and not the kind we were looking for. After all the

work we did to make the car into a house, we will be sleeping tonight in a fancy hotel in Napa called the Motel Six Stars (the Ritz only has five stars…). It’s not because we’re not tough and resourceful campers, but because we needed air conditioning and a shower for safety. You may not believe me now that we are only in this luxury hotel for safety, but you will after you hear the story…

Mom wanted to do our first run at Lake Beryessa, which is not very far from our stay-at-home house, but Mom thinks it is very beautiful there so we planned to stop along the way. I know Lake Beryessa is a dangerous because Mom played a book in the car about a murderer named Zodiac who killed a bunch of people there, then he acted all mysterious and puzzling like a TV murderer. But you know he was a real murderer because he killed unattractive people too. And they never caught him. “Mom, do you think that it’s such a good idea for us to be running where a murderer is on the loose?!” I asked. “I wouldn’t worry about it, Oscar. That was like 50 years ago, so he’s probably too old to hike a trail that Alltrails rates as HARD. Anyway, the guy they think did it died a few years ago. I think we’ll be safe.”

… “I think we’ll be safe,” she said. ::eye roll emoji::

We woke up very early in the morning and arrived at the trail when there was still dew on all the grass. “Mom, they forgot to mow the trail!” I said. “That just means that we can let you off leash because no one uses this trail much. Let’s go mow it ourselves with our feet!” Mom said. “Okay, cool. I’m going to go chase this deer then,” I said.

There was no risk of losing Mom because of the “squelch, squelch, squelch” noise that her shoes made from all the water in the grass, so I ran ahead. If I couldn’t hear her shoes anymore I stopped and ate salad until she came back into view. “OSCAR! NO!” she screamed when she came around the corner and saw me eating some superfoods. “But Mom, salads are good for you. Athletes like me need the fiber and phytonutrients to be healthy.” “That’s foxtail,” she said. “It has these fibers that have little microscopic hooks on them. They burrow into your skin and never come out until you go to the vet and you have to have scary, expensive surgery.” I thought that cliffs and stripes stink-cats were dangerous, but I didn’t know that you could get hurt from a dumb little plant.

As we hiked, I kept thinking I could hear a tiny little voice saying, “Hang on boys, here he comes.” Followed by even more little voices screaming “Bomb’s awaaaaay!” When we stopped for water half way to the top I said, “Mom, I have itches.”

Mom took a closer look. “Holy dung, Oscar. You’re covered in ticks! I can see them from here!” “Ow! What are ticks?” I asked as she picked at me with her pinchers. “They’re awful little bugs that hide in your fur and suck your blood for days until they blow up like nasty balloons. Sometimes you don’t even notice they’re there and then they give you horrible diseases. I think that we should go back…” “But back that way is where all the ticks came from,” I pointed out. “Now that I’ve got 1,000 ticks on me, it’s not like another 1,000 is going to make a difference. Let’s keep exploring.” “I don’t know, Oscar. I had a friend that got lyme disease. She went a little daffy and was covered in scabs. No one could figure out what was wrong with her for years. Even her doctor and her psychiatrist thought she was crazy.” “Don’t worry, Mom. Look, they’re just specks. They can’t hurt me. Anyway, I take medicine that makes me like poison to fleas and I’m too handsome for something so nasty…” Then Mom screamed. She often screams when we’re running because she trips or rolls her ankle, but those screams sound more like roars. This sounded like a cartoon. “What is it?” I asked, running back to her. She was standing very, very still, and stepped in my way to block me from the trail once I was behind her again. “What… the duck… kind of snake… is that?!” she asked, slowly and quietly, but like her voice was about to explode. Not an inch from where I’d just run by was a coiled-up snake the size of a big pile of cow poop. We don’t know much about snakes, but this one was as big around as a banana, and rather than those dopey eyes that you see on some boring snakes, this one seemed to be scowling at us menacingly. There was something about its big, flat head that looked like something you might see on TV. It’s not the dopey snakes that get the TV contracts… it’s the murderer snakes. “See?!” I said. “I told you that Beryessa is full of murderers!” But Mom was already pushing me back down the hill saying, “Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. I’m not doing this. I’m not ducking doing this…”

When we got back to the car-house, Mom set about picking all the ticks off of me. There were so many of them! She says that sometimes I exaggerate a little bit, but she is sure that she pulled off between 50 and 100 of them. She even stuck her fingers in the private places where only vets usually touch, and everywhere she put her fingers she come away with more ticks. I’m surprised I’m not bald from all the fur she pulled away with them.

Eventually she looked around and realized that we were still standing in grass. Every time she pulled all the ticks off of one leg, other ticks were climbing up the other 3. So she took me to stand in the middle of the street while she kept picking. And still she kept finding more and more and more ticks. We looked down at the ground, and there were all the dozens of ticks that she had pulled off and thrown on the ground marching back toward me. So we started marching down the street after every 10 or so that the ones we’d already pulled off couldn’t hop back on. Mom didn’t want to let me in the car-house, but we had to escape this place somehow.

Before we could drive away to safety, Mom had to check my belly for ticks. Despite all the attention she was giving me, I didn’t like the look in her eye so I didn’t want to roll on my back to let her give me belly scratches. That maniac wrestled me so furiously that we ripped down our curtains. Finally I had to submit and lay still.

When she got out of the car-house, I got confused and started to jump back outside with her. “NO!” she screamed, so I pulled my front paws back inside. They hadn’t been touching the ground a full second, and already there were 4 ticks on me again. When Mom was finally satisfied that she had done the best she could do, she pulled the door shut, and in that moment a tick fell from her hat. There were also ticks in Mom’s hair, and her clothes, and her socks.

We drove a short way to the lake where she threw a stick for me over and over and I had to swim out real far to get it. I thought that was terrific, and could feel all the ticks flying off of me when I shook off the water. But the know-it-all

Witch that Lives in Mom’s Phone said that ticks can live submerged in water for days, and we would have to take even more drastic steps.

The Witch claimed that the only thing that gets rid of ticks and their eggs is a special shampoo and a very long and vigorous bath. I think she made that part up just to make me suffer, and also to keep Mom out of nature and in places where The Witch has lots of bars and wifi. But Mom is real gullible and believes everything that The Witch tells her.

The Witch was probably grouchy because she was having problems of her own. See, The Witch needs to be fed many times a day in order for her to tell us where we are at all times, and answer our questions about ticks. But today The Witch’s feeding tube wasn’t working for some reason. In fact, none of the stuff that we were plugging in to the car-house was working, including the box that kept my cheese safe, the kettle that makes Mom’s coffee, or the portable charger we could carry with us if The Witch needed life support.

So we went where all desperate road travelers go when they’re in trouble and need help: Walmart. We had to drive an hour to get there, and when we arrived, the car-house started screaming. Mom finally tore her eyes away from The Witch, and found that there was a warning light on the car-house’s dashboard. Oh bother and tarnation! Now everyone was having an emergency.

Now Mom had to decide whether to save her brave and handsome dog, The Witch that Lives in Her Phone, our cheese and eggs, the car-house, or herself. She bought the shampoo first, but decided to keep the ticks along for the adventure until the car-house was fixed. We found a fixer-man, who said that he would need to take the car-house for a long time so he could check it out, so Mom and I and the ticks and The Witch were turned out on the street for a few hours.

While we were waiting, Mom asked for The Witch’s help again and searched for a groomer nearby. She found one, but The Witch had pulled another dirty trick because this place was A VET’S OFFICE!!! I had never been there before, but I could smell the fear and hear the misery coming fro the back room and I was not fooled. Luckily, the vet said that just like the car-house, they couldn’t fix me without first taking me for a diagnostic. Since I already have a vet, Mom said that that wasn’t necessary. They told us that a tick couldn’t spread disease until it had been sucking on a handsome dog’s blood for a day or two, so we were still safe. And since I am a responsible dog who takes my medication on time, I am poisonous to all things filthy and disgusting. Their advice was that Mom should just continue picking the ticks off of me, and that they would probably all be dead soon anyway.

“And what about humans,” Mom asked, pulling another wriggling tick from her own fur as she said it.

Mom picked ticks off of me outside the vet’s office for a very long time, until Mom started to worry about where we would find a shower. We learned on our last trip that staying in car-house parks and campgrounds when you’re in a city is kind of scary because some of the people that live there are so bad at responsibility that they aren’t allowed to live anywhere else. Also, they often have rules about handsome dogs using the human showers, or pouring tick-shampoo suds onto the grass. And who knew if the car-house would even be healthy enough to continue on our trip, or if it would have to stay in the hospital overnight.

Eventually we went back to the car fixer man and waited and picked and scratched some more. When he was finally finished he came and got us to show us what was wrong. “Your car is fine,” he said. “You just blew a fuse by plugging in something too powerful.” He was talking about the box that keeps my cheese and eggs cold. “The brakes run off the same fuse, so that’s why your light came on. I replaced the fuse, and so you can drive it away right now!” Mom couldn’t believe her luck. “That’s wonderful! So how much does that cost?” “Two dollars and twenty-two cents,” the man said. I thought that must be a lot of money, and I think Mom did too because she said, “You’re kidding!” “Well…” said the fixer man, “Plus the $130 diagnostic fee…” I know that 1 is smaller than 2, so that sounded like maybe it wasn’t a lot of money after all. Good news all around! “And I’ll give you a spare fuse for free, in case it happens again,” said the car-fixer man. So not only was the car-house okay and we got a bargain on repairs, but we also got a free fuzz in case we need to fix it ourselves. Our luck was starting to turn!

Mom didn’t want either of us spending much time in the car-house until we could wash the ticks off, and it was too hot to sit in a parked car-house anyway. So that’s how we wound up at the Motel Six Stars. Mom says the Six Stars is exorbitantly priced, (even for a hotel of this quality) and that this has been the most expensive trail run she has ever run in her life. But we’ve had our showers and are sitting in air conditioning, the car-house is healthy and currently taking its own tick medication, and my cheese is safe in a refrigerator, and The Witch is happily sucking power from a wall outlet just like at home. So tomorrow we can try again.

Sometimes adventure needs to test you to make sure that you wouldn’t rather just spend the time relaxing at home. But I think that we definitely earned six star adventures from here on out…

-Oscar the Pooch, and some ticks that may or may not be dead already


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