Let me make one thing straight - a fenced in back yard is highly under rated. For years as a dog owner, "putting the dogs out" entailed opening the back door and letting them run past you. The only hardships were when it was a cold morning and you felt the freezing weather on your face when you opened the door or the frustration of them scrambling around your feet to see who was going first.
Those were the salad days, the carefree times when I was innocent - the years I never appreciated. When I moved to Charleston and brought Ellie with me, we had a new reality. The first morning at 5:30 I awoke to a furry face looking at me with this, "Well, are you taking me out or what?" look.
It was cold outside, I was still sleepy, and "going out" was now a participation sport. So I got up, pulled on some decent warm clothes, put her leash on her and we headed out the door for her morning constitutional. Now, I will say, Ellie is very good on a leash - when it suits her. However, like a determined Sumo wrestler, she can just stop, dig her little feet in and no one is going anywhere. That is until she decides she wants to.
Thankfully, I live in a wonderful neighborhood. I do not need a bigger dog with a bigger chip on her shoulder than 10 inch tall Ellie who, bless her heart, never got the memo that she falls in the "little dog" class. She definitely has the Napoleon Complex.
Marshall, on the other hand, can be schizophrenic. One moment he is this sweet little thing making his way down the street tail wagging and then, at a moment's notice, my fiercest defender. This is the point when I think he is on a suicide mission. It doesn't matter how loud he barks, how menacing his growl is, or how hard he pulls on his leash, the pair of Golden Doodles around the block are not going to be phased, the black lab 2 doors down is not going to really care, and, should he engage the elegant Weimaraner down the street, he is going to lose every time.
Even the squirrels and chipmunks know the score. They know the dogs are on a leash that is only so long. It is not unusual for a squirrel to dash across our path just a few feet ahead. There is one daring chipmunk, who will sit on the grass calmly eating his nut in full view of us as we walk by. Ellie's lunges and Marshall's antics do not phase the little thing at all.
There is the other "Ellie", a lovely older Australian Sheep Dog, who is faithfully walked every morning at 7 and again every evening around 6. If we are venturing out at that time, we go out the back door and walk down the private road that runs behind us. Best let Ellie, the sheep dog, enjoy her constitutional in peace.
We have established our route. We know the characters on the block. We know the house that has the Brittany Spaniel that sits by the front window and move quickly by that door, hoping to go by unnoticed. There is the regular schedule of the little old man who wears a funny hat and his well behaved Jack Russell - best avoid them less I be humiliated by my pups' antics.
Don't get me wrong, friendly folks are always stopping and noting Ellie and Marshall's perky little terrier personalities. Neighbors are quick to acknowledge them. One kind lady even has treats ready to share with them should she be on her deck when we pass.
However, the one variable in the calculus that I have no control over is the yellow Cheshire cat who often lies in wait. I have no clue as to when or where she will make her presence known. So each time I open the door and we venture out, the games are afoot and hopefully our timing will be favorable.