When friends of mine talk about "over sleeping" and missing their morning alarm, I cannot relate. It is hard for me to oversleep due to my two little alarm clocks - Ellie and Marshall. Every morning at 5:30, it is as if their little Mickey Mouse watches go off. If I am not awake Ellie will start nudging me, as much to solicit me to scratch her face as to wake me up. Marshall, on the other hand, will climb on top of me and gently pat me with is left paw, as to say "Let's go!"
When I can sleep late, it becomes a negotiation. I will scratch Ellie's face hoping to mollify her enough that she will settle down and nap. If I ignore Marshall long enough, he will crawl under the covers in defeat and go back to sleep. But the stand off is short lived and shortly we are up and about. Time to get dressed and go out for our morning constitutional.
With the days being shorter and dawn coming a bit later every morning, it is now totally dark when we leave the house. There are 2 choices for our walk - the street that runs in front of my place and the street (more of an alley) that runs behind it. Each carries its own perils, depending on the time of day. Getting out at 6 am or later, means that others will also be out with their pooches. The lady with her large Sheppard mix and the distinguished looking old man with his well behaved Jack Russell will be out and about on their morning walk out back. Any time around 7:00 - 7:15, the older gentlemen 2 doors down will have his Ellie, an older Australian Sheppard mix, out front.
Usually, we are out earlier so we do not have to negotiate these obstacles. Don't get me wrong, I am social and these neighbors are very friendly. Unfortunately, Marshall, with his Napoleon complex will take offense that these other canines are also taking their constitutional. With all of his 10 inch height (he is a full size Yorkshire Terrier, and no, that is not an oxymoron) he will channel his inner canine, bark, and lunge on his leash as if he is going to take these interlopers down. Any person familiar with canine behavior will see his wildly wagging tail and understand his ruse.
So each morning I must make a strategic decision - the front or the back. Lately, we have been out early enough to take a nice stroll down the front sidewalk free of any canine encounters. However, just when I think there will be peace in the morning, there is a new threat - early morning joggers. Being pitch black dark they are wearing head lamps as they come down the street.
So the game is afoot. If I see them first, which can be difficult given they usually are coming up behind me, I can start telling Marshall, "It's OK, it's OK Marshall keep calm." If neither of us are surprised by a jogger, this will usually pacify him. However, this all becomes an issue when we are both surprised. I doubt any of the runners feel threatened, given Marshall's small stature. Often I doubt they can even see his small self as he barks loudly in the dark. I, on the other hand, am mortified that I have such an unruly pet.
Then this can become a game of cat and mouse. If I see the jogger's light bouncing in the dark, I can manage to be standing beside one of the parked cars, shielding the jogger from Marshall's eyesight. Another strategy is to turn into a neighbor's yard, making my way to the back, all the while steering Marshall's attention away from the jogger.
All in all, what should be a relaxing way to start my morning can be very stressful. Often my next door neighbor leaves for work during this bewitching hour. If his departure coincides with our return, Marshall will also bark loudly at him. However, he understands dogs. Instead of trying to avoid Marshall, he will approach my unruly terrier, stoop down and offer his hand. Marshall will immediately stop his barking, wag his tail, and happily accept his kind words and scratches on his head. We exchange pleasantries, I apologize for Marshall's behavior, and we go on our ways.
In contrast to Marshall's deportment, Ellie is always friendly, usually quiet with her little stubby tail wagging as hard as it can. I doubt she cares about Marshall's antics. She is simply trying to solicit attention, as if to say, "Look at me, please pet me, just ignore him". Her unruly black hair (keep in mind Toto was also a Cairn Terrier) makes her look like a street urchin as opposed to Marshall's flowing grey and tan coat. With all his antics, Ellie feels neglected. It is as if she is saying, "Don't mind him, he is just full of 'sound and fury, signifying nothing'."