Our two schnauzers, Tinker and Tally, are slowly adapting to our small apartment box. It’s the way they started their life in Portland when we moved here over five years ago. They ride the elevators up and down throughout the day and have to contend with the traffic noise and crowded streets. It’s very different from the quiet neighborhood where we lived between apartments. Grass is also at a premium even through there is a park just a block away. This is where we go first thing every morning to do our business. 

We’ve settled into a daily routine that starts with loading Tinker into her stroller. Once she’s buckled in, Tally goes on the leash and we head out the door. I now own more keys than I’ve ever had in my life. One for the apartment door, an electronic fob to get in the building, trash room keys, garage opener fob, plus hydraulic lift and mailbox keys. I replaced key locks for our storage cages with combination locks so that my pockets don’t bulge as much. Are those keys in your pocket or are you glad to see me? I carry just the door fob and apartment key with me when dressed to run. They do their thing in the park and then I escape for my daily three miles. 

By the time I return from my jog, dodging cars, bicycles, pedestrians, and scooters, my wife takes her turn with the pups. Each dog then has a different priority. Tally wants to stay in bed with my wife, while Tinker wants food. Tinker is the classic example of input equals output. This is why we call her “The Poopingest Pup on the Planet.” She’s well into her fifteenth year – about 110 dog years, and relies solely on her sense of smell. Even though she’s lost hearing and eyesight, her appetite has never waned. Also, the minute after I get her out of the stroller, she wastes no time making waste. I have little time to get a doggy bag ready, as she wobbles off to take care of number one. On the positive side, she has not had one single poop-sident in the apartment, but I feel like she’s ready to explode every morning after all the scraps we feed her. One morning, I made the mistake of taking her out without the stroller. Fortunately, I had a bag ready when she started to squat in the elevator. I was able to catch it before it hit the floor. The Air Buggy stroller that we bought for her can prevent such an embarrassment and allows her to keep up with Tally’s much faster pace. 

While I write, my wife takes the pups on a much longer walk, sometimes leaving Tinker behind. The 110-year old lady seems to be fine as long as I’m nearby, but appears to loom by the door hoping that they don’t forget to include her. On occasion now, I’ll go with them, taking turns to push the stroller. Since my wife’s retirement, we’ve done fewer “Schnauzerthons,” where I combine my run with their walk. She has the time to spend with them outside of weekends. I still do the early morning and late night shifts of taking them out, but we now alternate throughout the afternoon, making sure they get six outings every day. 

Tally’s only adjustment issue has been the other dogs. Somewhere along the line she’s lost her social skills, and has been very protective of us, barking at all the strangers that we encounter. She even barked at herself in the elevator the other day, spotting her own reflection in the stainless steel walls.  Loud bus and streetcar noises make her jump, while Tinker never hears them anymore. Hopefully, Tally will eventually settle down. She loves to go out on our tiny balcony and bark at anything down below. We feed her out there, as well, so greedy Tinker can’t steal her food. Once Tinker has quickly gobbled down her own dinner and begins to search for Tally’s, we simply shut the sliding glass door so Tally can take her time eating. When we were in the condo, their bowls were side-by-side so we always had to keep an eye on ravenous Tinker. Tally eats much slower and gets distracted easily. Next thing she knows, her bowl is emptied by Tinker. Eventually, we learned to separate the two of them at meal time. The balcony trick works great, especially when you live in a small box!