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This was a very busy week for me at the office so I was pooped-with-a-capital-P. I was so pooped that I slept in until sunrise yesterday morning and didn’t take Mom for a run. Instead, we ran at the end of the day. What was extra weird was that we left from the work and took one of my collies (that’s what you call a Friend that you work with) along with us. So it was a meeting.

My collie is not from The City, so she doesn’t know about all the dangerous things that you can see on a run here, like snakeboarders. “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you,” I thought without actually telling her. She’d see soon enough…

As we started running on the sidewalk that is my work bathroom, we had to duck and dodge like action heroes around all the busy-ness people who were on their way to the weekend. “Look out! Important dog coming through!” I panted as I ran with my nose high in the air like a dog with places to be. When I didn’t have commuters to almost-knock-over, I smiled back at my collie so that she would know that we were having a good time, and that this was how important busy-ness people get ahead.

When we reached the I’mbarkadero, I ran in front to show her around. “This is where I run in the morning. It is a very nice place to run because… DID YOU HEAR THAT?!” Suddenly I heard the mominous roar and clatter of something coming toward me. It spun my head backward and pulled my ears forward until it cut off my thought and wrung it right out of my head. Mom was still running and chattering away when I slammed on the brakes, so she almost fell over at the other end of the leash, nearly crashing into my collie. Now everyone was paying attention and looking in the direction our butts were facing.

Behind us we saw a man standing still and yet charging toward us at running speed. He was turned slightly away and hand his hands in his pockets as if he wanted us to think he was just looking at the Grey Bridge and wondering if they were painting it. “BACK OFF, YOU FIEND!” I barked, yanking Mom so hard that she landed a foot to the side of where she’d taken off. “IF YOU COME NEAR US I’LL BARK AT YOU SO HARD YOU WON’T KNOW WHAT HIT YOU!” I was so scary that all the people on the I’mbarkadero shrunk closer to the buildings to give me enough room to beat the monster up if I needed to. “Oscar!” my collie gasped. She sounded shocked, and if I wasn’t mistaken, a little bit impressed. “Oscar!” Mom growled. She sounded annoyed, and if I wasn’t mistaken, not at all impressed yet.

The monster continued to roar as it floated up to right behind where I was still sort of trotting because the leash was dragging me forward, even though my vigilance was dragging me back. Just when it was about to run me over, it stopped with a clatter and the demon kicked the ground. At his summons, a flap of dog-slapping wood flipped out of the sidewalk and jumped into his hand with a snap. This was evil voodoo indeed!

I looked around me, and all around the open area in front of the Starbucks, there were fiends flying through the air or buzzing around in circles, waving their horrible arms and trying to conjure more evil out of the sidewalk. (And you wonder why I don’t like being left alone outside of Starbucks!) I lunged and roared at the swarm so ferociously that Mom and I stood still for a moment, tied in an all-in game of leash tug-of-war. Finally, I gave one last menacing bark to the swarm of hobgoblins and followed Mom down the sidewalk.

A minute later, the first demon grabbed two of his friends and followed us down the I’mbarkadero. I felt the growling bearing down on us, and when I looked back they were catching up to us with enormous, sweeping paddle strokes of their horrible saggy legs. “BACK OFF!” I shouted so hard my voice cracked, but they didn’t slow even a bit. “Oh no! There are more of them!” my collie screamed, pointing to another Starbucksless waiting area. “Let’s get out of here!” Mom groaned. And then she said, “boop! boop!” which means, “look at me because this leashing is about to get technical.” But who could boop! boop! at a time like this? I shouted and screamed like a Tasmanian devil until the demons joined the new horde and Mom dragged me away yet again. As we resumed our stride, I turned to my collie and grinned. “Wasn’t that a barrel of laughs?!”

You’re not going to believe this, but a minute or two later, it happened again. “Oh my god, are they following us?!” my collie said, as the beasts wove through the dozens of tourists behind us, tracking our scent. “Oh for heaven’s sake!” Mom said. “I usually run in the morning, I had no idea there were so many skateboarders in this city!” “CREATURES OF EVIL, FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE,” I bellowed. “HEED MY SPELL OR I’LL SQUASH YOU LIKE A PANCAKE!” “Calm down, buddy,” my collie interrupted me. Couldn’t she see I was trying to protect her? I ignored her and went on. “HEED MY WORDS AND HEED THEM WELL, GO AWAY OR GO TO…” “Oscar! Seriously, chill!” Mom said, and dragged me away before I could finish my incantation. It still must have sort of worked, though, because the devils stayed away for our whole run back to the office.

Because my spell was never finished, I bet they’re still out there somewhere, stuck in the in-between. Perhaps they’re creeping loudly around the stray humans and over the broken glass on the sidewalks of your city, looking for you. Maybe they’ll sneak up on you during your next run and make you forget to appreciate how freeing it is to run in a place where the humans don’t have to pick up their poo after they go potty in the street. Or they’ll distract you from the joy of playing a few rounds of red rover with the tourists. May dog have mercy on your soul.

Oscar the Charmer

(PS These pictures are from a different run the day before, when we weren’t too haunted to stop and take pictures)



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