I began this series three or four years ago, back at a time when we raised chickens on a farm owned by one of Bev’s sons. This was back when there was just Maggie, before her brother Toby came into our lives. Maggie was probably about a year-old when we began our daily trips out to the farm, about five miles away from our home, and on that farm she and I would walk down the country lane, soaking up the nature around us, and contemplating about life. There we learned about each other; there we bonded together; and there grew trust and love.
We no longer go on those farm walks; instead, we walk around our neighborhood, greeting neighbors, soaking up the considerable nature around our city home, and contemplating about life.
Each walk begins where the pavement ends and the wonders begin.
We invite you to join us as we begin what will most likely be the end of this series of articles.
A Familiar Route
We take the same route each day, the dogs and I. Left out of the house to Ethridge Street, down Ethridge to Bethel, right on Bethel to Miller, and right on Miller, following that to Fir Street, where we live. It’s a mile, that loop, and I could literally be struck blind tomorrow and the dogs would be able to lead me along the familiar path and back to home.
To some, traveling the same path might seem boring, but for me and my dogs, I believe . . . we believe . . there is comfort and peace-of-mind to be found in normalcy. My earlier life was hectic. My earlier life, at times, was turmoil unleashed. I was not at peace with myself and I certainly did not bring peace into the lives of others. So now I embrace the tranquility I have found on these walks, and the dogs embrace quality time with their owner. It’s a win-win if ever there was one.
Three years, same route, every single day . . . yes, there is sameness, but if you look closely . . .
There have been eight homes sold in that time, along that route, eight families gone, eight new to replace them, new faces to see, to say howdy to, to communicate on an important level, from California they came, from Virginia they came, the rest local, nice people they seem to be, friendly, guarded at first, but Maggie and Toby don’t stand for guarded long, tails wagging, inquisitive eyes, doggy smiles abound, sooner rather than later my dogs make friends with new folks, and I reap the benefits.
More than a few trees have fallen in those three years, windstorms and snowstorms, twice eighteen-inch snowstorms, big branches and small, the woods littered with the weak and old, and each of the fallen is replaced by new buds, one-year tiny sprouts, the next, inches of growth, and the fallen logs nurse new plants, a veritable garden from the death.
The winters are harsher than when we first started this dog-walking ritual. The summers much hotter. There is no political statement in that declarative, simply a verifiable fact, deeper snows, dog-days in the triple-digits, fiercer winds, the mild temperate zone of my youth no longer, and those changes beget other changes, and on and on we go.
And, of course, these past two years were COVID, the masks, the social distancing, the weary stares from strangers, unpleasant days, at first, slowly some semblance of a comfort level, to finally today, almost back to a neighborhood of acceptance and kindness sans fear.
And I have a new hip as well.
The Constant We Could All Count On
Applause to Maggie, and to Toby, unchanged, unfazed by it all, just walking their walk, smiling their doggy smiles, wagging their doggy tails, familiar four-legged ambassadors for love, letting the people of our particular neighborhood know that some things never change, some things like canine loyalty, canine playfulness, and canine love are as constant as it gets in this world today. Treat a dog with kindness and that dog will remember you for years, even if you are apart for long spans of time. Treat a dog with love and that dog will run through a wall for you, take on all predators for you, literally die to protect you. It is as true today as it was sixty-eight years ago when my parents brought home a Toy Terrier named Pixie, my constant companion for eighteen years, a boy’s best friend, the absolute best pet I could hope for until . . . Maggie . . . and until . . . Toby!
I could get all sappy now. I could lay on you some serious philosophy about mankind. I could dazzle you with quotes and ply you with bromides for the soul, but the bottom line is the same as it’s been my entire life: what goes around comes around, and karma can be a bitch. I think about that on today’s walk and I smile, words my dad first told me, treat others with respect, protect family, expect nothing in return for your kindness, and eventually you will reap rewards. Dogs seem to understand it instinctively; humans need to learn it, be taught it, have it modeled for them, and have it re-taught to them over and over again.
The Turn for Home
A right on Fir Street, a light sprinkle falling, Maggie’s coat sparkling with beads of moisture. Heidi comes out of her door and waves, how ya doing, Bill, hugs herself from the chill, and returns to the warmth of her home. A little neighbor girl, also a Maggie, comes running out her front door, asks politely, with a huge smile, if she can pet Maggie the dog, and the new friends give each other what good friends always give. New neighbors, Betsy and Randy, wave as they straddle their bikes, getting ready to pedal off on adventure, wishing us a great day, undeterred by the chill in the air. Smoke rises from chimneys and stove pipes, squirrels continue to act busier than they actually are, and somewhere a coyote alerts the humans of his lonely, struggling existence.
Another pleasant valley Monday in Olympia, Washington, here in status symbol land, my shout out to the Monkees, no stepping stones they.
All Good Things Must End
I’m seventy-three now, no spring chicken for sure, and there are no guarantees that another walk with my canine friends will happen tomorrow. I think of these things often, not wishing for the inevitable effects of age, but not denying they exist, either. And that fact, that realization, makes each walk with Maggie and Toby that much more special. Quite frankly, speaking the cold, hard truth now, I am blessed. I shouldn’t even be in this position, tried my best to end a miserable life sixteen years ago, failed, was helped, and here I am, enjoying the hell out of each and every bonus minute I am given, taking nothing for granted, marveling in a Hume/Descartes/Plato sort of way at the randomness of it all, the sheer folly of life, from blindness I have come to 20-20 vision when it comes to the important things in life, and ain’t that a hoot and a head-shaker?
I look at Maggie. I look at Toby. They wag their tails. I bend down, close now, and licks of love adorn my unshaved face.
“It’s good to be home, isn’t it, guys?” And their jumps and barks convey a similar satisfaction, a similar happiness, and how in the holy hell could life be any better?
A Final Note From Me
I appreciate all of you who have followed us on our journeys. If you enjoyed articles like this one, and the others in this series, you will find other articles about the wonders of life on our new website, which will be unveiled in the near future.
Thank you for your support over the years.
Thank you for your friendship.
Maggie and Toby wish you well as you leave the pavement and begin your journey where the wonders begin in your lives.
2022 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)