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PhoDOGrapher



"Look what I got for you!" Mom pulled a doomahickey out of the suitcase and held it up proudly by the horn. "Isn't it great?"


The horn rode a saddle with some sort of plate dangling from the elastic waistbands tied to its corners. "What is it?" I sniffed.


"It's a harness for the GoPro." She threaded the bands around my head and shoulders until the saddle was on my back and the plate on my chest. I tried to shake the horn off my back, but its saddle was like a hug that wouldn't let go.


I looked at Mom with the biggest puppy eyes I could muster. "Why don't you wear the doomahickey? This seems like something Wile E. Coyote would do."


"Everything is more fun from a dog's perspective," Mom said, confident as a coyote that her plan would work out.


"Duh. That's why the cartoons are from the Coyote's perspective," I said. "But have you seen how they end?"



I forgot about the saddle the moment I saw how many cars were in the kennel. A full car kennel meant the trail would be full of Friends! I followed the scent of strangers without so much as a thought to putting Mom on leash.


Mom chased me holding out a fistful of kibble. "Wait up! Oscar! C'mere," she gasped.


The trail was far too steep for her two-legged style. Out of pity, I stopped to let her catch up. "I can see why they call this trail the Stairmaster," she panted, shoveling the kibble gratefully into my mouth.


"Mnomph. More like the Basketball," I chewed, "on account of the shape and the apricot-grey of it. Scarf, mnumch, ulp. Go ahead and put on the leash. I know you get nervous on your own around this many people."


"You don't need a leash on this trail," Mom said, obviously proud of her discovery. "Anyway, we're climbing a cliff face. Where can you possibly go that I won't find you? Go on."


I looked from the canyon wall a few steps away to the empty space on the other side. It was true; the only way to go was up, so up I went. I sprinted to catch the two silhouettes in the distance, leaving Mom in the dust.



"Meep meep!" I used the traditional desert greeting as I ran between them and then turned to see their reaction.


"He's so cuuuuuuute!" one of them squealed. "Oh my gaaaawwwwd! He's got a Gopro!" Hearts bubbled out of their heads and popped in their eyes.


"Have at it, ladies," I wagged, pushing my butt into their shins in a doggy hug. "Oscar the adventure photographer at your service."


By the time Mom joined us, she was too pleased that her plan was working to be jealous. She watched with a smug smile until the ladies stood up and I came back to join her. "This is going to be hilarious when we make a compilation of all the people going crazy over your harness," she said.


"It's not the harness that they're going crazy for, but these buns of steel," I waggled. I ran ahead to give Mom a chance to marvel at their magnificence.


I led Mom up the cliff in sprints. When she needed a rest, I found someone on a sitting rock that needed help with their snacks or joined a group for a picture in front of the cliffy view. Mom came close enough to say hello to the diners on the sitting rocks, but every time we came to a cliffy view, she hung back and waited for me come to her.


"C'mere, Spud," Mom called from the shadows, interrupting another family's priceless memories.


"Be right there, Mom!" I fibbed. "These people need help with their smiles."


"Is that a Gopro? How cuuuuute!" said the newest member of my fan club.



When the photo shoot was done, I rejoined Mom in shadows. She reached out as if to pet me, but missed my head and scratched at at the knight on my back instead. Her face squished and I felt the knight pull on the straps as Mom knocked it around with vicious pokes.


"Dog doo!" she growled. "The battery's been dead this whole time!"


"Don't worry, Mom. You can store more memories in your head than that doomahickey ever will."


Mom ripped the saddle off my back. "Who knows if we'll ever make it back to Moab again. I want to bring the memories home with me so I can relive them any time that I want."


"The Witch can take pictures," I reminded her. "You would never let her die of starvation." I looked hintingly at the forgotten bag of brunch in Mom's other hand.


Mom looked toward the only slice of rock sticking out far enough to reach the sun and her face turned pale as a moon. "Heights... I don't... I can't... I'm too scared to get close enough to take a good picture," she admitted. "I was kind of hoping you'd do it for me."


"How about we just pay really close attention so you don't forget a detail? That way you won’t need to look it up on some screen machine to enjoy the memories." I turned back up the trail. "Follow me. I'll show you how paying attention works. It's like looking at the Witch in 3D. You're gonna love it."


"Okay, but c'mere. We're getting pretty high and it makes me nervous when you get so close to the edge."


She fed me a facefull of kibbles with one hand while the other searched my collar for the leash ring. A few stray kibbles fell from my lips and I watched them roll down the trail out of leash range. They picked up speed as they rolled out of sight.



I led Mom to an interesting rock and sniffed it, starting from the bottom and working my way up. "You snork here at the bottom where the scent pools, see? Now you try."


"Come on," Mom said, pulling on the leash.


"Okay, okay. That one was too advanced for you. Let's find an easier place for you to start."


I led her on, searching for a more simple lesson. Now that we were closer to the top, there were more details to explore. The ground flattened until sand, then pebbles, rocks, and finally boulders could hang on.


Finally, when there was so little wall overhead that the sun shone on everything, I spotted a couple of hikers taking in the view.


"Look, Mom. Friends! I bet they can give you some pointers on how to enjoy the moment before it's over." I picked up the pace and barked, "Hullooooo there!"


The Friends turned and smiles spread on their faces when they saw me. I launched toward them in a flying hug.


Suddenly, the canyon was filled with a gurgling scream. Before I knew what was happening, my collar choked me and the leash snapped so hard that it almost pulled me all the way back to last week.


I looked back to see what I was stuck on just in time to see Mom crumple to the ground. Only she wasn't falling backward like you would expect from someone who pulled a leash too hard, but forward onto her knees.



"Excellent sniffing position," I said, praising her on what she was doing right before correcting her on what she was doing wrong. "But you're in the wrong place. The Friends are over there, see?"

"You pulled me toward the cliff," she choked.


"Because that's where the interesting stuff is," I explained. "You can't see it from way back here. Especially when you're squashed low like that. The ground blocks your view of how high it is from down here, see?" I sat by her side and lowered my head to show her what I meant.


Mom misunderstood my demomstration and patted my head instead. "I told you. I'm not good at heights," she whimpered.


"That's what I'm helping with."


"I'm already afraid that some invisible force is going to pull me off the edge and then there you go pulling on the leash." She held up a stay hand and started carefully rearranging her legs back under her. "If you pull on the leash before I've got my balance, so help me dog..."


Mom took one wobbly step, then another. It took her several steps to un-scrunch to her normal height and several more for her to stop testing each step before taking the next.


Everything was going fine until the trail led straight into thin air. The red-grey sandstone was there, and then it just wasn't.


Way, way, way, way down below was a town fluffy with trees and grass, and then, off in the distance, the basketball-grey world of bare rock started again. It was like the Witch was messing with mapps again and spliced a section of Ohio into the middle of Utah.


Mom dropped the leash. "Go on..."



I looked at her, confused. "Where? Don't you see the trail ends right there?"


She held the Witch in front of her in picture-taking position and carefully dropped to one knee. "I've gotta get at least one picture of the view," she said in a queasy voice.


"Are you sure?" I took a step toward thin air, watching her face for panic. When she didn't explode, I turned back to the cliff and tried to read her mind about where she expected me to go.


"OSCArrrgggghhhhhhh!"


The roar was so sudden that it almost startled me right off the cliff, Wile E. Coyote style. I turned around, expecting to see that Mom had exploded into a blinking set of eyes and a collapsing pile of ash. Instead, she was lying as flat on the ground as if she'd been squashed by an anvil.


"Don't get any closer," she croaked.


"But you said..." I took a slow step toward the picture-taking place her eyes were pointing to and she turned back into a banshee.


"STOP!" she bleated. "Stay there. I'll take the picture from here."


She held the Witch on the end of a shaky arm without taking her eyes off of the nothingness behind me. The Witch chirped a few times and Mom pulled in her arm as if she'd touched something hot. "Okay, get over here."


When I was close enough for her to curl her free arm around me, Mom finally took her eyes off of the sky over Ohio to look at what the Witch had done.


"Dog doo. You can't see anything. It just looks like you're sitting on a rock."


"You can see more when you get closer," I said. "It was pretty cool. C'mere, I'll show you."


Mom's hugging arm detected a shift in my muscles and clamped me even closer. At least she was learning to pay attention. "No. Don't go over there," she pleaded.


"I've never heard of a lichen taking good pictures," I said. "You have to be brave to show my Friends how brave I am."


"Forget it. Who wants a lousy picture anyway? Come on, let's get away from the rim where it's safe."

"Yippee! More exploring. Now that we're away from the cliff you won't have to be so squawky all the time."


"This trail isn't a loop, Oscar," Mom ulped. "It's an out-and back."


I looked back at the sky over Ohio. "Then how are we going to get back down?"


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