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Travels With Maggie: A Memoir in the Making

If It Ain’t Raining It’s a Great Day

Actually, any day I’m above ground is a great day, but toss in forty-eight degrees and sunshine and, well, it’s a cause for celebration.

Last week we had what the Weather Bureau described as a “sunny” day, meaning no clouds. Now I mention that because it was the first time in eighty days we had a “sunny” day.

We are sun-starved in this part of the world. It’s a miracle we aren’t all suffering from depression.

It is a partly-cloudy day today, a bit cool, a good day for fleece and no hat. Won’t you join us on our walk? I’ll just park the truck where the pavement ends and the wonder begins.

A dog playground

A dog playground

A Memoir?

That’s what my friend Heidi suggested, that I write my second memoir centering on these jaunts with my dogs Maggie and Toby. Needless to say, my canines are quite excited about that suggestion. Maggie wagged her tail vigorously when I mentioned the possibility, and since Toby looks up to Maggie, he approved of the idea as well.

Toby’s like that, a pretty agreeable dog. My buddy Frank was like that. No matter what hair-brained idea I had in school, Frank would just smile and go along with it. I’m quite certain he, at times, thought I had lost my mind completely, but good friends are like that, you know. Good friends don’t judge good friends. I’ve known that since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I’ll die with it etched on my memory, and I have my dad, and Frank, Toby and Maggie and Bev, and others, to thank for that priceless wisdom.

Anyway, as we walk today, I’m left wondering what that memoir would look like. An idea is forming in my head, the typical process for me, creatively speaking, a small sprout springs up, reaching for sunlight, and then other growths appear, new buds, all reaching up, and eventually a cohesive book forms. It’s pretty remarkable, far beyond my comprehension, and I’m thankful for it.

My Maggie Girl

Maggie sees something and begins running north towards it when she stops, turns, runs five feet back, and begins sniffing at something five feet west of where she had run. Amazing is all I can say, her sense of smell, to notice something while running at fifteen miles per hour, concentrating on something she has seen and yet noticing something, with another sense, as she passes it.

And I can’t help but think how utterly clueless I am at times, how many things I have not seen because I can be shackled by tunnel vision, total concentration on the task at hand, while life continues to whirl all around me, and ain’t that just a little bit sad?

“Nowhere man, please listen, you don’t know what you’re missing . . . “

We humans are supposedly something pretty damned special, the top of the food chain, you know, the ultimate predator, smart as a whip, able to leap tall buildings at a single bound, and yet we miss so much of life twirling and swirling all around us. How smart is that?

I will go to my grave convinced that Maggie can tell when I’m sad. She is that tuned into my actions and feelings. I’m her human, as is Bev, and she spends most of her time observing me and reacting to me, and how cool is that? How cool it would be if we smarty-pants humans could spend a little more time tuning into each other and really paying attention to the feelings of each other.

The checker at Safeway the other day handed me my receipt and said “Have a nice day” without even looking at me and while reaching for the first item of the customer behind me. Did he really mean it? Would it have killed him to take a second to make eye contact with me and make me feel like he really gave a shit?

Excuse my language, please, but the older I get the more these things matter to me.



Toby Shows the Way

Just last night Toby jumped up, put his two front legs in my lap, and stared at me, his face no more than six inches in front of my face. He just kept on doing it while I was petting him, staring into my eyes, total concentration on his human. It was pretty remarkable, truth be told. At that moment there was an intimate connection between a man and a dog, much more of a connection than I had with any other human that day, and again I find that sad. For the love of the gods, would it kill us to slow down a bit and make more human connections?

Maggie has human eyes. Everyone who sees her says so. They are the most beautiful canine eyes I’ve ever seen, and when she gets up close and personal it’s almost freaky, like a four-legged human is making mind-meld contact with you, a shout out to Mister Spock.

Shouldn’t it be that way with humans?



Toby and Gandhi

Toby is the humanitarian in our walking group. Toby has never met a person he didn’t like. He assumes the best about everyone. Maggie, on the other hand, is a lot like me. She is reserved and guarded. Her tail does not automatically start wagging like Toby’s. In fact, faced with a stranger, Maggie will go into a crouch at first. Her nose will twitch and her eyes will lock onto that stranger. After awhile she will determine friend or foe and react accordingly, all the while Toby is licking the same person and spreading peace throughout his kingdom. It’s a frantic, hyper, bull-in-a-china-closet sort of peace, but peace it still is. We should send Toby to the United Nations. There would be peace on earth within days of his arrival.

Bev and I

Oddly, it Is the same dynamic with Bev and I. Bev is the shining example of all that mankind can be. She is impossible to dislike. She smiles at everyone and wants to help everyone. Me, not so much. I do not automatically trust others as Bev does. I do not smile that often. In fact, and I’m a bit embarrassed admitting this, but I just don’t have a terribly high opinion of my fellow man. I find mankind fascinating, and I marvel at our ability to soar with the kinder angels of our nature, but our baser instincts cancel all that out more often than not, and I’m left greatly disappointed in my species.

Maybe that’s why these walks are so good for me. I can learn from my dogs on these walks. They truly are the teachers on these strolls and I the student, and I need a great deal of schooling.



Thanks for Joining Us

I think next week we will move our walk to the city, around our neighborhood. The weather is warming, more people are out walking, and it would do me good to meet more people and practice my people skills. No worries, though. No matter where we walk, you can bet the pavement will end and the wonder will begin wherever Maggie and Toby reside.

I hope you join us then. Until then, I’ll be thinking about that next memoir.


2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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