At The End Of Four Leashes

By Ellie Hansen, August 2019
Photo by Ellie Hansen

Photo by Ellie Hansen

Not a day goes by when I don’t get a comment like “You must be a dog walker.” Or, my personal favorite “I have enough trouble managing two!”

I have become a fixture in my neighborhood. Albeit an unconventional one. People yell across distances at me “Awesome! Way to go!” or “Do you train?” Passing cars slow down to watch and smile. An older gentleman a few blocks over from my house confided in me one day, “My granddaughter watches for you every day. She calls you the Beagle Lady.”

Most recently a young neighbor boy walking by us with his father asked me a question “Why do you have so many dogs?” he asked shyly. Not knowing how to simply answer that question, I just smiled and said “Because I love dogs.”

The truth is that my dogs and I were meant to find each other. Call it fate, providence, or whatever you choose to believe. It is actually as simple as that.

Three Beagles and one small Terrier have been my personal walking quartet for the past four years. Walking two dogs on leash is one thing. Three is a challenge. Four requires a whole new level of patience and agility. It requires honed skills such as leash juggling, pirouettes and Warrior II yoga poses (with leashes in each hand). Since my dogs are all boys, they also love to stop, sniff and urinate on as much territory as possible—sometimes that unavoidably includes each other.

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On leash I must give up a bit of my own agenda. Yes, I am leashed to my dogs as much as they are leashed to me! While walking I often find myself being in a hurry to get somewhere. But after a few minutes of leash pulling and feeling aggravated that we are not getting anywhere fast, I start stepping in rhythm with my four-legged friends who are much more attuned to the finer details of the present moment than I am. My breath slows, my thoughts slow and I am altogether better.

A few years ago I would pass a lady on our daily neighborhood walks pulling three old dachshunds in a red wagon. The little dogs were unable to walk for very long due to old age. She would patiently put each dog in and out of the wagon for potty breaks as they rolled along. It always warmed my heart to watch her—the Lady with the Red Wagon as I came to know her.

I am certain that one day I too will be trading in my four leashes for four wheels as my dogs age and walking becomes difficult for them. I wonder what my neighbors will say then?

Until then I am thankful for the steps we can take together—tangled leashes, yellow fur and all.

Ellie Hansen focuses on writing about the profound relationships she shares with animals. She is a District Leader for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and a member of the HSUS Animal Rescue Team.

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