Have you ever wondered why I’m such a well educated dog that knows so much about math and history and literature and stuff? It’s because I have a masters degree, which is what they call it when your professor says you need to go through puppy school twice. I went to the ivy league of puppy schools with all the best professors, which is how Mom and I understand each other so well, and how I became a licensed life coach.
This morning Mom took me to a trail that I didn’t recognize, and imagine my surprise when one of my professors was waiting for us! I was so excited to see her after all these years, and squeaked like a manly cowboy for Mom to let me off the leash so that I could go knock her over. As I got close, a dog stepped in my way and said, “Just who do you think you are, and what do you think you’re going to do to my Mom?” “I’m Oscar, and I have a masters degree. Who the heck are you?” “I’m Peter, and she’s MY lady, so go take a cold shower, buddy.” It’s so weird to see your teacher outside of school, but it’s even weirder to realize that she has her own family just like a normal person. “Be cool, bruh,” I said. “I’ve got my own Mom, you know. My Mom and I go running and hiking a lot. Do you know about hiking?” “Do I know about hiking?!” Peter said. “This is My Trail you’re standing on. I know all the places where the bunnies and squirrels and cows like to hang out. I’ll show you, but you have to follow me.” “Ooh! I love following!” I said. “It’s just like chasing!”
I thought that maybe I was going to have to do school work like jumping through hoops or treasure hunting with my nose, but it turned out that this was a social hike. My Professor had seen the Facebook pictures from my adventures, and she wanted to know all about the exotic places we’d visited like Montana and Idaho. I wonder if Mom ever gets tired of being invited places by people who are only interested in meeting me, but I think not because there’s not much special about her, so being my entourage makes her feel interesting too.
The humans hiked at their slow two-legged pace on the trail while I chased Peter all over the hillsides. There were lots of cows, but Peter didn’t bark at them, so I didn’t bark at them either. This time of year the hills are covered in yellow straw and almost no trees, so after running about 200 miles in the sun we were getting pretty hot. Whenever I stopped moving to melt a little bit, Mom picked all the foxtails off of my butt and then snuck in a picture. “Oh, I see how you do that,” My Professor said. “It’s because Oscar stops moving.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “Peter…” I looked around for where I was sure that Peter was melted into a puddle just like me, but he wasn’t. Instead, he was off squirrel hunting without me.
After that I started paying more attention to Peter. When Mom called me, I had to turn my back to him to check on her, so at first I didn’t notice that he ran so much further before he came back. “How can you go so far,” I asked. “Aren’t you worried about your Mom?” “I have a cell phone,” Peter told me, showing me the little box on his collar that vibrated when his Mom needed him. My Mom never bought me a cell phone…
When I had to melt, Peter kept his legs and stood 50 yards up the trail, staring into the distance and patiently waiting for everyone to get moving already. I had never met another dog that was as good at hiking as me, except maybe Bodie. So the next time we chased something, I stayed with Peter even when he ran so far away that we couldn’t see our Moms anymore. When his Mom called his cell phone, he turned back, but since I don’t have a cell phone I kept chasing. I chased and chased until I could hear Mom’s and My Professor’s voices moving backward on the trail to look for me. Only when I knew that I would have everyone’s attention did I thunder back to give my pack something to cheer for. “Did you see me, Mom?!” I said. “Did you see how far I went? Professor, did you see what a brave dog I am? I know all about hiking now. I didn’t when I knew you before, but now I’m a dog of the world and I know how to go far, far away.”
The next time Peter and I ran into the tall grass to do dog things I asked him, “Peter, how did you get to be such a cool dude?” “It’s my Mom,” he said. “She’s the toughest lady in the world. She wakes up in the morning and she kicks ass while we run with Dad. Then she hikes with us. And when she’s done, she spends the rest of her day teaching people how to listen to their dogs. If she has time after all that, she goes back to the gym to kick ass one more time.” “My Mom used to be like that,” I said. “She did all the exercise, and taught other people how to exercise too. But then she worked too much and forgot how to kick ass. Now all she does is complain about how tired she is and how much her body hurts.” “Oscar, you can’t let her get away with that, you know. Humans can’t care for themselves. Without us they would just sit on chairs all day long, eating chocolate and raisins and onions and other poisonous things. It’s not enough to just bark at the mail man so that they put down their phones for a second to close the blinds. You’ve got to get them out every day, and pull them after squirrels so that both their minds and bodies stay sharp.”
It had never occurred to me that Mom’s declining fitness might be my fault. I resolved to take better care of her so that when Mom turned 350 like Peter’s Mom she would be younger than she is today.
-Oscar the Pupil