I clip on his backpack, load up my treat pouch, tuck the clicker in my pocket, and uncap the can of cheese. Cooper sits calmly by the back door, waiting for me to clip on his leash. It’s odd how calm he is before we start. As soon as we get outside, his head whips back and forth: Are there any intruders? He marches down the street, keeping step with my right ankle. Every time he looks at me, I squirt some cheese. We walk familiar paths. He does better if he knows the route. We pause in the park to train. Sits, downs, watch mes, and stays. He nails them all, of course, because no one else is around. We cut through a wooded path to a neighborhood shopping center. We emerge just as a construction worker walks out of the store on the corner. Cooper growls at the man until we’re past. We loop around the neighborhood one more time. By the time we’re in the home stretch, Cooper is panting. His tongue droops out of his mouth. He sprints up our porch, ready to reunite with his brothers. He’s happy and tired. At least for a little while.
A walk with Emmett is a thoughtful affair. He meanders along, pausing every few feet to bury his face in the grass to take long, deep sniffs. He doubles back: Did he miss something on that patch of dandelions? Or was it just too good to pass up a second smell? He looks up at me, his mouth open in a happy grin. His tail perks then wags furiously as we pass another pedestrian. Emmett treats his walks as friend-making adventures. And he draws people in with that smile, that wag. He stops, nose up in the air. He has to follow that enticing scent, so we change course. We saunter around the neighborhood, testing out new paths and rounding unfamiliar corners. By the time we get home, he’s sagging, dragging behind me with the leash trailing the ground. He’ll drink a bowlful of water, then he’ll find a comfy spot near a sunny window and curl up for a long, snorey snooze.
When the garage door goes up, Lucas bursts out. His tail is in the middle, swishing back and forth. A little whine gurgles in the back of his throat. His walk is the highlight of his day. Every single day. We turn left and head down the alley. He zig-zags left then right. His happy trot is more like a prance, and his ears perk out to the side as if to say, “What a lovely day for a jaunt!” We head down the main thoroughfare toward the park. It’s a wide open expanse where I can see in all directions, except for one blind spot that takes 20 seconds to cross. Because as much as Lucas loves walks, he hates seeing other dogs. And yet, he trots with a loose leash by my side. Even when a bunny darts across our path. Even when we come – unexpectedly – on a herd of deer grazing in the park’s flowerbed. He stops, sniffs, pees. He keeps his head up, ears perked, tail in the middle; all the while I’m watching for oncoming dogs so I can change course or shove the can of Easy Cheese in his mouth. We return home exhausted but in a good way. Lucas watches me put away his leash and the can of cheese, and his face says he can’t wait until tomorrow when we can walk together again.