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Home sweet home

Part of the reason why I have to take Mom far away on the weekends is because she doesn’t like running close to home. “But what about the ocean?” I ask. “The ocean is very beautiful.” “Oh that old thing,” Mom says. “It’s the same every day. Just flat and blue with white at the edges.” “Okay, but what about how the hills go right up to it, that’s pretty cool, right?” “It’s not like they’re real mountains. They’re just green, furry lumps that are a pain to run up.” “Okay, but what about the forests? People from all over the world want to see our redwood forests.” “No way. The forests are like a dank basement, all claustrophobic and shadowy…”

It took me awhile to notice that Mom secretly does love the ocean, and hills, and even the forests, she just doesn’t really like to run all that much, especially since there are hills everywhere we run. Why she spends so many hours doing something she doesn’t like when she could be at home eating as many cheese sticks as she wants confuses me, but she said that knowing how to open a cheese stick wrapper or drive a car to a trail comes with the responsibility of having to choose the trail over the cheese stick sometimes, even though no one’s forcing you. I’m glad that I’m a dog, because responsibility sounds hard. I would hate to have every cheese stick ruined by the doubt that maybe I should have run up a mountain instead.

This morning Mom chose the mountain and we drove to where the redwoods hide the lumpy coast mountains under their firry canopy. I ran beside Mom, smiling to all the hikers and bikers that she scowled at. “Look! A funny-looking rock!” I said, trying to cheer her up. “Don’t you think I would look handsome sitting on that rock?” “Let’s just get to the top,” Mom huffed, taking off her winter shirt to show the tank top with BEAST across the chest that she was wearing underneath. The BEAST shirt is meant to remind her to be vicious, because running isn’t meant to be fun unless someone’s had a leg bitten off. “Look! There’s an opening in the trees where we can look at the whole Bay. Want me to jump on that bench to show people where we live?” “Come on,” Mom said, chugging slowly past the view without turning her head. “We don’t have all day.” “We don’t?” “Okay… maybe we do. But we won’t get anything else done today if we keep stopping.” She was in BEAST mode, and BEASTs do the laundry and the grocery shopping in the same day.

When we puttered into the small patch of sunlight at the top of the hill, all the scenery was hidden behind the trees and there was nowhere to take a triumphant summit portrait. To my surprise, Mom kept running straight through the clearing and into the trees on the other side. “Aren’t we done?” I asked. “We’re here. It’s just downhill that way.” “Yeah, but we’re just a tenth of a mile from hitting 5 miles. It would be stupid to turn back now.” BEASTs don’t have time for appreciation, but there’s always time to round up a run.

So we ran until Mom’s watch beeped, and then we about-faced to let the hill carry us home. This trail was wider and neater than the trails we usually explore on our weekend expeditions, and there were no rocks or roots to slow us as we swooped down the hill. The only thing that broke our momentum was when Mom would scream and suddenly dive off the trail. I stood watch as she cowered until the bikes passed and it was safe for her to come out. “Come on. Off the trail, bud,” she would say, pulling on my collar. “I am off the trail, see?” I said, showing her how my front paws were on the soft leaves next to hers. “Yeah, but your butt isn’t,” she pointed out. I looked back to see my booty wagging halfway across the trail. “Well if they see my butt, they’re going to slow down to pet it,” I said. “Safety first.” Then, after looking both ways to make sure that no one else was coming, we jumped back on the trail and Mom spread her arms like an airplane and we continued swooping down the hill, silently yelling, “Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

Mom pulled her arms in and her mask up when we came around a bend and found ourselves face-to-painted-face with two women who looked ready for the disco club from the neck up, and ready to go to bed from the neck down. The one with thick black rings painted around her eyes had a scarf piled high on top of her head to protect her fancy hair from the untidiness of nature, and she had balanced a baseball cap gently on top. “Imagine living a life where hair and makeup are that important to you,” Mom said, shaking her head. “I’m so glad I never got into the makeup thing. That’s a responsibility that I just don’t want.” I thought it strange to wear a hat when your head didn’t fit inside of it, and that face paint was a very silly way to hide your face now that masks were so fashionable.

Later, we climbed under a bridge for me to take a drink from the water fountain flowing by. Mom peeled the BEAST shirt away from where her armpit skin used to be, and used the damp fabric it to flap air over the raw spot where the BEAST had taken a bite out of her arm. “Everyone around the country is posting about how it’s too cold to run, and here I am with my tank top chafing my arm pits,” Mom said. “I sure am glad I don’t need to worry about winter.”

Then we met a bike coming up the hill toward us. Mom smelled weakness, and instead of jumping into the forest like we did for the downhill bikers, she kept bearing down on him. The bike stopped moving like a wound down wind-up toy, and the man sitting on top wilted over his handlebars. “And how lucky are we that we don’t have any flat runs near the house so we’ve been forced to get comfortable running uphill.” “You walked,” I reminded her. “Sure, but only a few times. We’ll be home in time to put in a load of laundry before lunch.”

Oscar the Pooch


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