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Mary Puppins

If you just met me recently, you may not know that I am a retired explorer with a thrilling and inspiring career touring the far-flung back corners of The West. If you’ve known me for a long time, you might not know that I’m retired.

First, we lost the Mighty Truck in a very long and boring story that will make Mom mad if I tell it. (Don’t worry, only feelings were hurt in that not-story.) Then I got a bum in my knee and the vet had to make me a new one. And then… well… we just sort of got stuck. That’s why I call our leftover house that’s not a truck-house The Stuck House.

I’ve made the most of my retirement by writing my memoir*, but it's easy to forget that you still have a life to live when you're always living in the past. We’d been stuck for so long that I’d almost forgotten about the world outside of My Hometown.

* out at the end of the year (if Mom doesn't drop dead of exhaustion first)! Want to be the first to read it? Find out how here.

When you're a very online dog, sometimes it's hard to remember the difference between robots and reality.

Then one day Mom got off the couch and went to the closet.

“No! Mom! Don’t do it!” I yipped as she reached for the doorknob. “You’ll be crushed!”

Although the Mighty Truck had gone to the big car dealership in the sky, Mom hadn’t had the guts to give up all of the memories it held. So she’d squished them into the closet until it was filled floor to ceiling with sleeping mats, heaters, coolers, and the kitchen bin. Opening the door could bring an avalanche of regrets, bitterness, and blankies.

“Relax, would you?” she said, throwing packpacks, wrapping paper, and a gas station pickle over her shoulder as she tunneled deep into the closet. Then she grabbed onto something and pulled with all her might. A giant black box came out, and my sack full of winter coats and hats subsided into the hole it left behind.

“What’s that?” I asked, sniffing for clues.

“You’ve seen a suitcase before.”

“But how will you carry it now that the truck is gone?”

“I’ll put it in the trunk of the car,” she said, like it was a silly question.

“Yeah, but what will you do with it when you get to the supermarket? Or the liberry?”

“We’re not going to the supermarket or the library, we’re going to Portland to visit Willy. I've got a new client up there, so I can call it a business expense.”

“Hip, hip hooray! You mean it? Really?!” I squealed. "I get to be a busy-ness dog and see Willy?"

The Oregon Curse

Willy is one of my Friends that came out of the internet to meet me in real life. I try to see her every chance I get, but the trouble is that she lives in Oregon, and Oregon is cursed.

The first time Oregon cursed us, it hid Mom’s keys while I was locked in the Wagon* on a hot summer day. The whole town had gathered around to watch by the time Mom found the keys in her own paws, buried under an armful of snacks.

* The Wagon was our car-house before we met the Mighty Truck.

The second time Oregon got us, The Mighty Truck stopped stopping when Mom gave it the command. We had to live in a junkyard for a week before our host was able to find the right part to fix it. No more than an hour after we were released from the car-hospital, The Wagon stopped going when Mom gave it the command. We needed to call another car-ambulance to take us back to the junkyard for another week before Oregon finally let us go home.

The third time Oregon caught us, it did the exact same not-stopping routine, except this time in the woods when the Witch (📱) wasn't talking to us. It took all day for the car-ambulance to find us that time. And an hour after we were released from the car-hospital, The Truck did the not-going trick again, while the Witch was ignoring us again. That time the the sherif had to come find us, even though we were on the only road out of town.

“I thought you said we were never going to Oregon again,” I said suspiciously. “How will we get there? The car is probably too small to make it that far.”

“Of course it can,” Mom said. “The only reason we traveled in the truck was so we could sleep inside. We’ll have to do the drive in one day, but at least the car gets more than 10 miles per gallon and I won’t have to fill up 5 times along the way. It’s gonna be great! You’ll see…”


When the car stopped for good, I stood up to give my butt more room to wiggle as I watched the front door of the nearest house.

“OPEN SESAME!” I screeched.

Mom groaned as she unfolded. Her fists pushed her butt back over her feet where it belonged, and then she squeezed her shoulders to pop the bubble wrap in her back.

Across the lawn, the door opened and a long, lean lady stepped out.

“Lemme out! Hur-ry!” I screamed. “Don’t let her get away!”

As soon as I heard the handle pop, I used the door to push Mom out of the way and shot like a cannonball across the lawn.

“It’s you! It’s you!” I squealed, ricocheting off of Willy’s shins and bouncing back toward Mom. “Mom! Did you see who it is?” I ran back to Willy to show Mom where to look, and then ran back to Mom to make sure she was looking.

I danced a full round of the Hokey Pokey and then I looked Willy up and down.

“Hey, why the long face?” I asked.

“I’m taking Beau back. I mean it this time!” the most patient human in the world told Mom.

Beau is short for Boregard Pûkinipo’o Bruijns, and according to the person who knows him best, he’s The Most Annoying Puppy in History. Other experts disagree, and say that he’s just the most annoying puppy since I became a grown man-dog.

Boregard matches his sleek brindle coat, which is as glossy and elegant as polished wood.

Bruijns is so that his name matches Willy’s.

Pûkinipo’o is from his native Hawaiian, and means pudding head.

Behind Willy, I could see old Custard-for-Brains leaving eager slug trails on the glass door with his nose and stirring up wind with his tail.

“I was making your bed…” Willy began as she reached for the door, but then her story was interrupted by an explosion of barking and flying dogs.

“Yippee-kai-yo-kai-yay!” someone who might have been me screeched.

“Zippidy doo dah!” someone else who also could have been me shrieked.

Mom joined the fun, shouting, “Oscar! Quiet!”

Not to be left out, Willy yelled, “Beau! Off!”

Then we spent a few minutes trying to knock over the furniture.

Use the slider arrows to see more pictures!

The Incident

When it was finally quiet, Willy started her story again from the beginning. “I was making your bed…” she repeated.

“...And I was helping!” Beau chimed in, nosing between me and Willy and stealing my pats.

“...When Beau jumped on the bed…” Willy continued.

“...And I tinkled on it!” Beau announced proudly.

“...And he peed on the duvet!” Willy finished, as if Beau hadn’t stolen her punchline.

“Oh no!” Mom gasped. “Changing the duvet cover twice in one day is a fate worse than death! How can I ever repay you?”

“You can take him home with you when you leave next week,” Willy said. I was mostly-sure she was joking.

“You’re lucky I’m here to help with the hosting,” Beau told me. “The Lady is in a really grouchy mood today for some reason.”

“Thank you, I love it,” I fibbed to Beau. “It’ll be my new favorite pee spot! I’ll use it every night!” I knew that I would be dog-meat if I marked the bed, but it’s impolite to tell someone that you can’t use their gift. Especially after everything Beau had gone through to make it for me.

“Aw. You didn’t mean it? Did you, Beau?” Mom gushed, ruffling Beau’s ears. Beau just looked at her sweetly with his Jell-o eyes.

“Will you teach him how to be a good boy, Oscar?” Willy begged, smoothing the wags out of my butt.

“Never fear, Mary Puppins is here,” I told Willy. “I’m practically perfect in every way. I'll teach him everything I know.”

☂️ Mary Puppins

I helped Mom haul the trunk out of the car and bump it upstairs to the bedroom. When we came back downstairs, the air smelled of dinner.

“What are you cooking? It smells delicious,” I wagged.

Before Willy could read me the menu, Mom pulled out a big bag of kibble, filled a bowl, and set it down at my feet.

I sniffed it and then turned up my nose. “Dog food? No thanks, I’ll have what you’re having.”

“Are you gonna finish that?” Beau asked, walking to the other side of my bowl and ducking under my chin for a sniff.

“Leave it, Beau,” Willy warned. Her thought bubble added, Or it’s back to the Kawai’i Humane Society with you!

But Beau had a come down with a case of sudden deafness, so he missed the warning. “How about I just eat the kibbles off the top for you?” he sniffed. “So you know they’re not poison.”

“That’s it! In the bucket!” Willy ordered.

“Goody, goody, in the bucket!” Beau cheered, turning away from my kibble and running to the big crate by the window. He waited patiently for Willy to catch up, sweeping the floor with his tail. Willy grabbed a sack off the counter and fished around inside as she walked to the crate. When her paw came out, it was filled with…

Treats!” I yipped, knocking Beau out of the way and clamping my butt on the ground outside the crate. “Guests first,” reminded Beau when he tried to cut me in line.

“Is it bucket time?” yawned Stella, who is very old and had been napping through the commotion. She strolled to the crate and sat for treats.

Now there was a problem. Guests first meant that the crate should be mine, but Age before beauty meant that Stella had first dibs. We all looked to Willy to settle the issue.

“In the bucket, Beau,” Willy ordered, poking one finger out of her treat-fist to show where the bucket was.

“No fair!” I whimpered as Beau climbed inside and waited for her to fasten the door. I looked at Stella to see if she’d join me in protest, but she was still eagerly watching Willy without a hint of outrage.

“Good boy, Beau,” Willy praised, throwing treats on the floor of the bucket like crumbs for the pigeons. “Good girl, Stella,” she added, handing Stella a treat. “Good boy, Oscar,” she said, giving me several treats with one hand and a pat with the other.

“Wait, you mean I don’t have to go into the bucket to get a treat?” I asked.

“No. It’s just The Nuissance who has to go in the bucket,” Stella explained, like any idiot would have known that already. “We get treats just for putting up with him.”

That gave me an idea.

When everyone had finished their dinner and Beau had finished his sentence in the bucket, I decided to test my plan.

I perked my ears and looked at the door. “What’s that I hear? Is someone at the door?”

“I’LL GET IT!” Beau woofed. He leaped over the side of the couch, nearly knocking over a statue perched on the side table. “NO SOLICITORS! GO AWAY! AND DON’T COME BACK!”

“In the bucket, Beau!” Willy ordered. Then she reached for the treat sack.

By the time Beau got there, I was already waiting outside the bucket. By the time Willy caught up, my tail had polished the floor.

“Oscar! You little sneak!” Mom exclaimed.

“Nom, nom, nom… He sure is annoying, isn’t he?” I comforted Willy. “Don’t worry, I’ll teach him a thing or two. You can count on me.”

A working vacation

Mom may have come to Oregon for a busy-ness trip, but I was here on vacation. So while Mom was parading around Portland in her clippity-cloppity rhinoceros shoes (👠), I stayed at the house to coach Willy and Beau. Mostly I helped Beau practice bucket time.

“Have you ever tried slippers?” Beau asked. “They’re delicious. Let me show you where we keep them.”

I followed him to the remote corner of the house, where many slippers were lined up next to each other.

“Why would you hide your slippers?” I asked. “Obviously the best place to keep them is wherever Mom wore them last. Otherwise you might not know where they are when you need them. Be a good boy and carry one to the living room where Willy can reach it.”

“Leave it, Beau,” Willy said when she saw us.

“I’m not done with my lesson yet,” Beau said, biting down a little harder.

“Good boy,” I encouraged.

“I said leave it,” Willy repeated.

“But Oscar said…” he mumbled around the slipper.

“That’s it. In the bucket,” Willy ordered.

After I’d swallowed my bucket treats, I followed Willy back to the slipper corner. “You really shouldn’t model bad behavior like this,” I coached her. “Mom never picks things up off the floor, so neither do I. No wonder Beau has such bad habits. He learned them from you!”

All was quiet the next afternoon, when suddenly I came down with a case of the munchies. So I ordered a snack.

“Woof woof, I think I heard a squirrel in the yard,” I said. Then I hustled to the bucket for the billiontieth time that day.

“That rascal! He won’t get away with it this time!” Beau barked at the window.

“That’s it, boys. Let’s take it outside,” Willy announced.

“But what about bucket treats?” I watched Willy walk past the treat pouch and straight to the door of the dog bathroom.

“Yippee! Zoomies!” Beau cheered. He flew over the back of the couch, around the corner, and out the door without ever touching the ground.

“Hey, where are you guys going?” I reluctantly tore my eyes off the treat sack on the counter and followed everyone outside.

Coaching a puppy full time is thirsty work, and being in the dog bathroom reminded me that I had to pee. I sniffed a spot that smelled like duvet and began to relieve myself. I was still mid-pee when suddenly, a flash of brindle lightning darkened the sky. Then I felt a nip at my heel.

What the…” I turned to see Beau snickering behind me with paws wide, head low, butt high, and tail spinning like a helicopter.

“Nanny nanny boo-boo!” he giggled. When I turned around to face him, he bounded to my butt-side and flopped into another play-bow. “You can’t get me!” he taunted.

“Why I oughta…!” I barked. “Come back here you little… Hey, hold still! That’s cheating!”

“Come and get me, you big galoot!”

So I tackled him.

He did a somersault, landing on his back so he would have all four paws free to grapple with. Amateur! I put my chin on his neck and flattened him with the weight of my anvil-head.

It was almost as much fun as the bucket.

“Don’t you want to trade dogs?” Willy asked Mom that night as I recovered from another intense round of wrestlemania and Beau tried to eat a spider that was climbing the fence. “You take Beau back to California with you, and Oscar can stay here with us.”

Both Mom and Beau are high maintenance, so I couldn’t blame Willy for wanting to get rid of them. It had never occurred to me that I could trade Mom in for Willy. It wasn't a bad idea; Willy's neighborhood was full of Friends, unlike mine that was too hilly for anyone to walk around.

“Oscar was a holy terror when he was Beau’s age,” Mom reassured Willy. “I don’t think I had 2 minutes of peace for like 3 years. I spent all my time pulling things out of his mouth or distracting him from whatever he was barking at.”

“I was much better at it than Beau,” I told Willy. “I never gave the slippers back without a fight.”

Then Beau yanked on my bandana, and they paused the conversation to watch me teach him a lesson.

“I haven’t seen Oscar play like this in years,” Mom told Willy the next time we stopped growling and snarfing long enough to get a word in edgewise. “I didn’t think he still had it in him after the second knee surgery.”

I head-butted Beau to show how much pep I still had in my step.

“As long as you keep his weight down…” Willy encouraged.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked. Beau did a somersault in front of me and I sat on him like a sumo wrestler. “There’s no jiggle to my wiggle…”

“Ever since I sold the truck, we’ve just been sitting around the house," Mom admitted. "At first it was his knee, but now we’re just sort of… stuck.” She sighed, and looked very, very sad so Willy would know what it looks like when Mom doesn’t leave the Stuck House for a while.

“Everyone has weeks where they don’t get out of bed. Isn’t that right, Beau?” I reassured Mom.

“Nope. Stella takes care of that for me. She goes to the bathroom about seventy-two times a night, so The Lady never stays in bed for long," Beau said.

“I think my dog’s depressed,” Mom concluded.


The next morning Mom put on running clothes and I walked her to the door to give her a kiss goodbye.

“Hey, where did you find that old thing?” I asked, sniffing the months-old sweat on the running leash in her paw. “I haven’t seen it in ages.”

“I’m just going to take him for a short walk-run to see how he does,” Mom announced, like Willy was her coach all of a sudden. “I’ll probably be back in a few minutes.”

“Wait, what?” I asked. “But what if there are bucket treats while I’m gone? I might miss something.”

“Come on, spud. You wanna go for a walk?” Mom begged, searching under my bandana for the leash ring.

“You guys won’t start bucket time without me, right?” I asked, looking longingly over my shoulder as I followed the leash outside.

The last thing I saw before the door closed behind me was Willy reaching for the snack sack.

“You got slow,” I told Mom as we finished a warm-up lap around the park. “We’ll never get back to the bucket at this rate.”

“Do you need a rest, buddy?” Mom asked.

“No, why? Do you?”

If one of us was out of shape, it was Mom. Without me coaching her, Mom’s workouts had mostly been fork lifts and diddly squats.

Mom looked stunned. “You can run?” she asked, like she hadn’t run thousands of miles with me over the years.

“If you can call this running.”

“Well why didn’t you say so? All this time I thought I was doing your old bones a favor going on those boring walks around town.”

“I’m still only nine,” I reminded her. “You’re the one who just turned forty. I thought we were going easy on your dono-sore bones.”

“Well I’ll be darned. I guess we should both get back in shape while we still can,” Mom promised.

“Deal!” Then, to make sure it wasn’t a trick I added, “Last one back to the bucket is a rotten egg!”

I jogged Mom twice more that week; never more than a couple of miles, making sure to give her plenty of walking breaks so she wouldn’t overdo it. Between morning cardio with Mom and wrestling camp with Beau in the afternoons, my collar was fitting a little looser by the time Mom bumped her trunk back down the stairs at the end of the week. I’d been so busy having fun that I forgot to plan for this moment.

“Quick! Beau! Teach me how to do that thing where you open the bathroom door so I have somewhere to hide,” I whispered.

“It’ll never work. The Lady always hollers when I do it, and the noise will give you away.”

Even Mom’s trunk was reluctant to go. It sulked heavily at the end of its leash as Mom dragged it out to the car.

I had to think fast.

“I know! Let me serve your sentence in the bucket," I said to Beau. "Then Mom will have to take you instead. You’ll love living with Mom. She drops food on the floor all the time, and she never picks up her slippers.”

But there was no time. Mom was already coming back through the door. I tried hiding behind Beau, but he was too wriggly and only drew attention to my hiding spot.

“Stella, cover me!” I pleaded.

“I’m a chihuahua, you goon,” she scowled.

“C’mere, spud. It’s time to go,” Mom said, holding out the leash.

I ran to Willy and sat on her toes, sure that she would back me up.

“Are you sure you’re not taking the wrong dog?” Willy asked.

Mom checked. “Black, goofy, built like a pitt brick house… Looks like the right dog to me.”

“I heard you have coyotes, bunnies, and no fence in your dog bathroom,” Beau suggested. “I love bunnies and coyotes, and I don’t believe in fences.”

But Mom acted like she’d forgotten every word except thank you, which she repeated over and over as she smoothed back Beau’s ears, gave Stella a pat, and grabbed Willy in a full-body hug. Then she dragged me out the door.

“I miss you already,” I my eyes told Willy as Mom closed the door behind me.


“It’s a shame we’ll never make it to the top of Black Butte on a sunny day like today,” Mom said when we reached the dunce-cap-shaped mountain that marked halfway home. She scrunched down in the driving chair for a better look at the tip.

We’d visited the mountain three times in my career. The first time there was too much white dirt to reach the top. The second time there was too much rain. And the third time we made it, but there was too much fog to see anything.

“We could climb it now,” I suggested. The mountain was so close to the freeway that we practically had to run over its toes to get home.

“I heard that the trail was wiped out by a landslide,” Mom said.

“You’ve fallen for that one before,” I reminded her. “Remember? We checked and someone had put the mountain back together with chicken wire. You should know better than to believe the reviews.”

“Apparently all the rain this year was too much and the chicken wire finally gave way last spring,” Mom said. “I doubt they'll bother to re-build it; it's too dangerous. The whole mountain is basically like a giant pile of sand at the bottom of an hourglass. Eventually entropy will bring the whole thing down.”

“What’s entrappy?” I asked.

“It means that no matter how hard you try to impose order, chaos always wins eventually. So why fight it?”

“Hogwash!" I coached. "It’s like running. The only way to guarantee failure is if you don’t try. It took us three tries to get to the top. One of these days we'll actually see the view from up there, as long as we keep trying.”

Mom watched the cone get smaller in the mirror. “At least we can say we climbed it while we still could.”

“Where do you come up with this nonsense?” I chuckled. “The only one that’s entrapping you is yourself. It’s just like the slippers. Slippers don’t put themselves away, but that doesn’t mean that slippers have an instinct for chaos. The reason your slippers are always in the middle of the floor is because you let them stay there. But Willy’s slippers always find their way home, no matter how many times Beau plays with them.”

Mom shook her head. “Poor Willy. She must put those slippers back 100 times a day. What a waste of energy!”

“It’s not a waste. Because every time Beau has to go in the bucket, he gets a little better at not stealing slippers. One day she puts them back a hunerd times, and the next day it’s only niney-nine, and the day after that… well I forget what number comes before niney-nine, but you know what I mean. Pretty soon you can see the floor every day with no extra effort at all. Then you’ll forget how hard it was to learn, just like you forgot how exciting I was when I was a puppy.”

“The house isn’t that bad,” Mom insisted. “I have better things to do than be cleaning all the time.”

When the car finally stopped in front of the Stuck House, I dismounted, stretched, and pressed my nose to the door, waiting for Mom to unlock it.

“Holy crap, Oscar… My key is still on the truck’s keyring. I must not have left the house long enough to lock it since I sold the truck. Has it really been since November? Cheeses.”

Luckily, The Man Upstairs has a key, so we weren’t locked out for long. Mom opened the door and looked around at the ruffled bed, the half-empty cans of fuzzy water on every surface, the unfolded laundry, and the slippers all over the floor. “Cheeses,” she said again. “I didn’t realize it had gotten this bad! It’s like I’ve gone feral.”

“Lucky for you, your life partner is Mary Puppins!” I began to sing, “For every job that must be done, there is an element of fun...” I tried to snap but my paws like in the movie to make all the mess put itself away, but my toes wouldn't do it. “Well I guess you’re going to have to do it the hard way. Come on! Let’s get to work before you catch entrappy again.”


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