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A Yard of her Own
Daisy is finally the queen of her castle

Daisy is curled up next to me on the couch as I type this, enjoying an early afternoon nap. The first snowfall of the season is coming down outside. She’s extra sleepy for this time of day—she spent about a half an hour this morning romping in the fresh snow in her brand-new backyard.

At long last, it’s happened: After four years of apartment living, Daisy finally has a backyard to call her own.

My husband and I discovered Daisy’s love of the outdoors the very first time we met her at the Denver Dumb Friends League. The adoption counselor let us take Daisy outside to a spacious dog run for a game of fetch. She had no idea what to do with the ball, but spent a good five minutes sprinting back and forth in the run with my husband, John, encouraging her. She was pure joy.

We’ve talked about “Daisy’s yard” ever since we brought her from the shelter to our small apartment, reassuring her that someday she’d have a big space in which to race around. Walks are fun, but leashes are not. Her aggression issues mean dog parks are a risky proposition. She got tastes of the good life at the homes of friends and family over the last few years, but only for a short time.

In mid-October, we finally made the move from a one-bedroom apartment on Denver’s urban Capitol Hill to a slightly larger house in a residential neighborhood in northeast Denver. The house might not be huge, but the yard is a perfect size for crazed running and snuffly investigations.

John made a video of Daisy entering the yard for the first time. She’s a take-charge kind of gal, so her initial action was to squat and take an authoritative pee. She mostly wanted to sniff, but soon got in the spirit and was darting around like a happy maniac—when she wasn’t getting distracted by a new scent.

There’s been lot of excitement for her in the last few weeks: Squirrels everywhere. Unwary alley cats wandering into the yard. Human neighbors going about their business. When the weather was nice, I opened the front door so Daisy could lay in the entryway and watch the neighborhood action through the screen door. She’s finally discovered what house dogs figured out in puppyhood: You can stand on the couch and see out the front window! (The old place had a view of a brick wall.) And now there’s snow, glorious snow.

It’s fun to watch Daisy adjust to her new lifestyle, but it does come with some worries. We discovered tons of discarded chicken bones in the backyard—after we caught Daisy, ever the scavenger, crunching on them. One of the back gates doesn’t close all the way, prompting an argument about the best way to keep it closed until we fix it. (I said cinder block, John said bungee cord; John won.) Daisy loves to chase the occasional stray cat, but I fear the day she corners one and it fights back.

There are new training concerns, too. At the apartment, Daisy was on a regular schedule of walks. Now we can open the backdoor for her to dash outside and do her business, and then let her run around and play for as long as she wants. She doesn’t yet know how to “ask” to be let in or out, however. With cold weather bearing down on us, I’m trying to get her on a schedule of sorts, with lots of outdoor fun every day.

The move’s been hard on me, I confess. Leaving the apartment represented a major change in our lives, a transition from younger, more carefree days to greater responsibility and future family-raising. It means we’re becoming Real Grown-Ups. I’m ready to begin this new phase, but it’s bittersweet. Seeing Daisy so happy is making the process much easier.

She sleeps more deeply. Our old building was filled with other dogs whose comings and goings drove Daisy nuts; now she’s the lone ruler of this castle. Maybe I’m crazy, but I think her eyes are brighter and her demeanor more lively. The other day Daisy jauntily danced around me as I boringly put on a pair of socks, apparently out of simple happiness. She even gave my big toe a playful nibble. She never did that in the apartment.

Daisy’s outside now, sunning herself drowsily on the large step into the garage. Her outsized bat-ears twitch slightly as she listens to the sounds of the neighborhood. A few birds fly overhead and she watches them, calmly. She raises her head, closes her eyes and sniffs the breeze.

I can’t stop smiling.

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Kathleen St. John is a freelance writer for target The Denver Post and The Onion's A.V. Club, and a lifelong dog lover. She lives in Denver, Colo., with her husband, John, and her dog, Daisy, who's a mix of just about everything. avclub.com

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