Mom’s been in this weird phase lately where she keeps walking in the middle of our runs. She’ll be running along, not sounding tired or like a vacuum cleaner at all, and then she’ll slow down just as suddenly as if she’d smelled a pee spot from a long lost frienemy. Then we walk for a minute or two before we start running again. At first I wasn’t really into it, but then I realized that while Mom was dawdling, I could really sniff up close all these places that I miss when we run by. As soon as I felt the leash slow down, I would slap my nose to the ground and sniff the scene.
Despite acting like she was into sniffing, Mom actually wasn’t thrilled with the idea of coming to a dead stop to really get to know a stump. She preferred to chugga-chug by at a pace too slow to get anywhere. “What the heck are you going so slow for then?!?!” I whined. “I don’t know. I’m just not feeling the running lately,” she shrugged. “When I hear the timer beep, I make a decision whether I want to keep running or walk for a little while. Since I’m not committed to running for more than a few minutes at a time, it makes the idea of a run when I don’t feel like it easier to swallow.” “You might enjoy it more if you stop and sniff the pee spots or chase the critters,” I suggested. But sometimes people don’t actually want to fix their problems, they just want to complain and unload their feelings. Dogs are good listeners for those people, because people aren’t expected to take advice from their dogs. The next time we stopped and I made myself a tent stake, Mom growled and hurried me along. “I don’t want to sniff on these runs,” Mom said. “If we spend all our time sniffing, we won’t reach our goal.” Apparently neither of us is allowed to enjoy the miles if Mom isn’t.
Earlier in the week, during one of our running intervals we came up behind a tall man in a stupid hat. I decided I did not like this man and his stupid hat and scarf all over his face. So I barked at him, “That’s the stupidest hat I’ve ever seen you ugly buttmunch!” The man jumped and then got angry. Who did he think he was getting angry at me? I was angry at him first! So I kept barking. Mom barked at me and swung wide with the leash so I would have a safe margin from the man in the stupid hat. “Next time, you walk as you approach me!” the tall man ordered. “And then you can run from here.” He pointed to a spot right in front of him. Who did he think he was, King of the Trail?! There’s only room for one Mayor in these here parts, and that guy is me. No one tells The Mayor what to do. “Duck you!” Mom said. “Duck you, lady. You watch your dog.” This man was clearly insane. Mom is so short she doesn’t need to worry about ducking so she wouldn’t hit her head and lose her stupid hat. But some people just think everybody needs to live by their rules. “He’s on a leash. He just made a loud noise and startled you. You’re safe. Go to hell,” Mom yelled over her shoulder. “That wasn’t very nice,” I told her when we were around the corner. “I had fun.”
Then, yesterday morning Mom and I were back on the same stretch of My Trail. A couple of Unauthorized Trail Users were coming out from their burrows under the overpass, and one of them froze when he saw us coming and glared at me. It was the tall man in the stupid hat. “What are you looking at, you sour-faced bully? Your face looks like your neck stepped in something,” I shouted at him when I saw the way he was looking at me. “Yes, he is being hostile,” Mom agreed, out loud so the tall man in the stupid hat could hear her. “Let’s just get by him and go home.” For once Mom understood the importance of barking at people who were acting threatening. “Do you think that we should call the cops on him?” Now that I’d learned that the cops take away scary people who shout things, I was eager to see them do it again. “Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s illegal to hate dogs,” Mom said. “Lots of people confuse fear with hate because they have something rotten in their hearts. It’s okay to bark at them sometimes, but usually it’s best to just pretend they’re not there. You can’t change someone’s mind when they have hate in their hearts, especially not by yelling at them. You just have to make sure that their hate doesn’t get into yours. Let’s go.”
-Oscar the Pooch