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The rules about heights

Today Mom and I got to see the Grand Canyon, which is probably the second famous place I’ve ever been (the Golden Gate Bridge being the other). So I’m Level 2 Famous now. We were conflicted about whether or not to include this stop on the trip because dogs are only allowed on one trail (the one that follows the shuttle bus route), but in the end we decided that if we were in the neighborhood then it would be silly to not be more famous.

The hard thing about today was that it was really, really windy. Mom said that the sustained winds were going to be about 25mph, with gusts up to 50 mph. “That’s an exaggeration!” I said. “It’s never THAT windy. You just think it’s that windy because you want people to know you were miserable.” But then she showed me the weather report, and now I owe her a freeze-dried liver treat because she was right!

The wind had rocked our car-house like a cradle while we were sleeping. If it could move our great, big car-house, what would it do to a medium dog and his little human? “Are you sure that you want to run along the world’s most famous cliffs when there are winds strong enough to pick us up like a couple of kites?” I asked. Wind can be scary, but the other thing about wind is that it is stressful. Everything you do takes more effort, and things fly into your eyes and nose and mouth. For someone like Mom who has long fur right next to her eyes and nose and mouth, it can be a real problem. But just like the cold, the wind turned out to be more scary from inside the car-house than outside.

I will spare you the details on our troubles finding the trail, but know that there were lots of duck bombs and some crocodile tears, and we got a later start than expected. Mom would have liked to fall at running pace down one of the trails that goes into the canyon because she wanted to see a cliff close up from the side rather than the bottom or top. But unfortunately dogs aren’t allowed into the canyon. Maybe they think we’ll dig it up and ruin it? So we had to run on the Rim Trail. Do you know what a “rim” is? It is the ground half of a cliff (the other half is open air).

When Mom stopped our run for the first time to take my picture, a stranger lady offered to take our picture together, but Mom refused. “Are you kidding me?!” Mom said. “There’s no way I’m turning my back to that thing!” As Mom explained to me in our pre-run safety briefing, the reason that she’s scared of heights is because you can’t count on staying in one place when you stand still in a high place. There’s a monster that lives just over the edge of drop-offs like cliffs and high buildings that sucks you off the edge if you’re not very, very vigilant and take measures to protect yourself. The best way to protect yourself is to get low to the ground, which is easier for dogs than for people. The safest position of all is face-down with as much of your body touching the ground as possible and with your eyes squeezed shut. But you can’t run from that position, and instead you have to spend the rest of the day barking at everyone around you that you’re fine and they should just leave you alone and go around dammit because you’re not moving from this spot right here where it’s safe. I thought people might think I was crazy if I acted like that, but rules are rules…

We didn’t look at the scenery much in the 9 miles we ran because Mom said that looking off in the distance might trick us into focusing on the wrong thing while we ran right into thin air like Wile E Coyote. We had to concentrate very hard on the trail directly in front of us and not look away for even a nanosecond, and never, ever, ever look down.

When we did finally stop and look at the canyon I wasn’t as excited by it as I am whenever I cross the Golden Gate Bridge to see Bodie. “It looks like it’s painted there,” I told Mom.

“That’s because it’s so enormous. All of that stuff you see, it’s much further away than it seems. Everything here is bigger than it looks, including the distance to the bottom.”

“No, it’s definitely fake. See? The cliffs in the foreground are real because I can see them in high def. But when you look off in the distance it’s all low def and smudgy. That’s an old movie trick…”

“That’s just because your brain doesn’t know how to handle the scale. That’s why it’s one of the natural wonders of the world.”

Yesterday the mitten-god looked far away even though it was close. Today the canyon looked close even though it’s far away. Things sure are different in the desert.

Most of the time we ran like normal, but sometimes Mom needed to shuffle along like a very old person without taking any feet off the ground, for safety. I was a very good boy and didn’t pull, mostly because I was tired and pulling takes a lot of effort, even with the cliff monster helping you pull. When I did pull a little bit, Mom froze in place and said my name with so much stress that her voice broke. I also felt very thirsty even though we stopped every few minutes for water. I thought I would pee a lot too, but I’m peeing as much as normal… which is good for car trips.

After our run we got in the car and drove all day without getting out except a few potty breaks. I was glad. I didn’t know that there was such a thing as too much adventure, but there is. Mom is one of those people that when she finds something good, she wants more and more of it every day until she’s had so much of it that it makes her unhappy again. But I need to take naps and let each adventure soak in and then dry out of me like a sponge. If I don’t get time to rest, I can’t absorb the next adventure and it just runs right off of me and I forget. That’s why I don’t like the idea of “vacation.” Why should you save up all of your fun and have it in one big blow-out? I think it would be much better to spread your fun out in tiny doses throughout the year so that you can soak all of the fun out of each adventure and not waste a drop.

-Oscar the Pooch


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