I grew up in rural southwestern Colorado on five acres, with another neighboring ten that remained vacant for most our time there. It was all my stomping ground for stream-wading, fort-building and bareback rides on my pony. We got our dog Poppy in the deep of winter as a tiny puppy and my mom had to remind me to let her rest - I wanted to show her my whole world on that first day. She followed me until she got tired, then would plop down in the snow and cry until I picked her up and snuggled her into my furry coat. In the summer I stayed outside with her every day until sunset. We ran through the scrub oak and sage brush inventing games of chase and hide and seek. I was an only child; dogs have always been my sisters. I'm sure we used one if we took her places, but I have a hard time remembering Poppy on a leash.
When I was in college my parents bought a bigger, more rural piece of property. They had to extend the road to get there - it was literally the end of the line. On visits home with my previous dogs, Lasya and Freya - who existed primarily as city dogs - got to experience the feral delights of weaving through the pine trees in the snow, of running unfettered through the tall golden grass. That property was sold after my mom died, but Lasya was still able to have tastes of freedom in the canyon country at the first place I boarded the horses when I moved them to Castle Rock. Freya was a clingy dog with some leash reactivity and I never felt she had the same thirst for liberty that Lasya did. In that same way, I don't think Boca is missing out in the suburbs. She scrabbled for survival on the streets of The Bahamas and has a serious appreciation for sofas and scheduled meals.
Ruby is another creature entirely. Lately we've been playing with her flying disc on the long-line - she dashes after it and makes some impressively acrobatic catches. Sometimes she runs in circles around me flinging her disc back into the air, virtually leaping for joy. It's a safe way for her to enjoy some independence, to have more than five or six feet of autonomy, but I find myself asking if it's enough. My dad told me my dogs live in heaven with me, but Ruby's heaven is something I can't give her where we live. She is an extremely athletic, energetic dog whose reactivity prevents us from enjoying some of the options other city-dwelling dogs have, such as dog parks and dog sports. The answer, of course, is a yard of our own. How dog crazy do you have to be to consider buying a whole new home for your 18 lb. terrier?
When animals are your family, priorities change. I'm not sure that now is the right time - the local real estate market is insane - but I have started to think about moving in the near future. I love my townhome - it is absolutely perfect for me and I thought I would stay there for the long haul. It's hard to think of leaving it, until I browse homes for sale online and imagine Ruby zooming around a yard of her own. We could set up our own agility equipment and play flying disc. Ruby could dig holes and salivate over chattering squirrels. Boca is happy as long as she has a spot of sun to lay in, but Ruby was meant to fly. As a country girl, I've adapted to the metropolitan landscapes, but my heart never forgets its wildness, something fueled by the scraps of blue sky patch-worked through windows and power lines, the season's leaves littering concrete, the triumph of a running dog.