Walk and whiz 

An almost perfect night. Sun just going down, near full moon already high in the clear, darkening eastern sky. Jackson is hyped, straining at the leash. I gently tug back. He strains against my pull. I tug harder until he eases up. Which he does, reluctantly.

Jackson doesn’t like the leash. He wants to run.

For a while we had a game where he would sneak from the house and take off down the street. He proved to be a very capable escape artist. Leave the front door open a crack, forget for a sec about the side gate while bringing in groceries, even put a chair near the backyard fence (where it’s two quick jumps and out) – any of those things and it’s off to the races. Some neighbor kid would come running all excited to tell us Jackson’s loose and away we would trot.

He’d always go in the same direction, hit the exact same yards to lift a leg and leave his mark. Then he’d see us coming and trot ahead, his pace just a few paw steps faster than ours. If he had real self-control, we’d never catch him. He could amble ahead just out of reach for hours if he wanted, except that he can’t keep himself from stopping to spritz his scent.

So we’d catch up and collar him within a block or two, a fun little chase to enliven the evening. Until this flaming whack job moved in down the street and came to our door screaming about our goddamn dog running wild and next time he’d be setting his big bad-ass
Dobie on the bastard so he won’t be pissin’ around no one’s yard no more.

So now the kids get a look of terror when Jackson pulls a Houdini. What was once a lark has become cause for panic.

We double-locked the gate and put in a heavy-duty screen door closer that whooshes shut faster than Jackson can jump. Which means he doesn’t get out much these days. Just hangs out in the back yard, barking at birds, occasionally herding the kids, letting the Australian shepherd in him remember centuries of training still embedded deep in some gene.

But tonight’s so nice, I decide to take him for an official walk. After our little tug of war, Jackson heels just fine – until we approach that first lamppost. I click the release button on our plastic spool-style leash, and the cord reels out as Jackson hustles over to lift his leg and whiz.

The night gets even nicer as the sun goes so low it’s gone and the temp hits a point that is perfect.

So why isn’t anyone else out? Jackson and I cover six square blocks and not a soul. Everyone’s tucked away in their neat little ranch houses and tidy two-stories, each with its well-manicured lawn and the tube’s blue dot flickering behind closed curtains.

Jackson likes to piss on it all.

Walk and whiz and walk and whiz. How can he keep it up? Fences, telephone poles, lampposts, trees – all get a wetting. Even in this modern burb, Jackson’s ancient boundary-marking instincts are alive and well.

A chorus of yips and yaps and deep rup-ruupps trail behind from yards on both sides as pent-up pups let Jackson know that they know what he’s doing.

Then we round a corner and come face to face with a wired terrier that leaps against his chain-link, snapping mad with a bark to match.

Jackson stands his ground, then gives mister terrier the stone-cold eye of defiance. With head high and ears flexed, he walks slowly to the corner post and lifts his leg. The terrier bites angrily at the fence while Jackson lets loose a torrent inches away. Then he stops, looks coolly over at the terrier and hesitates a long moment before giving one more "I’m top dog here" squirt.

The terrier goes ballistic. And we walk off into the night toward home, kings of all we survey.

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