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Travels With Maggie: Angel Tears

The Pineapple Express

That’s what they call it in these parts, an atmospheric fire hose which begins in the Hawaii area and aims for the Pacific Northwest. Look at a radar map and all you can see is a thousand miles of rain clouds, crossing the Pacific Ocean, taking aim on our little corner of the world.

It is wet!

Forty-eight hours of wet!

It is non-stop!

And we are about to walk in it. Hey, dogs need to exercise. Excuses are not tolerated, so put on your rain slicker and get ready to experience Olympia in all of its glory. Umbrellas are not allowed. We in Olympia laugh at umbrellas. We take great pride in looking like drowned rats.

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Oh, the Look

The dogs look at me like I’ve lost my mind.

“Come on Maggie, Toby, let’s get this over with,” I implore, and you can see on their faces a look that says “Really, Bill, you want to walk in this?” But they climb down out of the truck, look around, shake off the first coating of wet, and then promptly head for a mud puddle, where they promptly lay down.

I kid you not!

All I can think about is the mess they will make in the truck on our return trip, but then they stand up, shake thousands of droplets in my direction, as if on cue leap vertically, and then race down the road, leaving me laughing so hard I fear I’ll have a bladder accident.

Welcome to my world, the City of Olympia, the County of Thurston, and the State of Washington.

The Wet Landscape

Evergreens are not terribly lovely in a downpour, their drooping branches looking forlorn, their whole vibe one of chill and dejection. They stand in company with the deciduous, skeletal memories of better days, distant days, when leaves embraced the sunshine and warmth was expected. And beneath them all the soil can take no more, waterlogged to the extreme, puddles forming by the minute, joining with other puddles until entire fields are covered with an inch, two inches, of water, and the dogs race for that flooded playground with reckless abandon. When you wear a fur coat you can do that, I guess, and not worry about the dry cleaning bill.

Water flies as my two “hydroplanes with legs” skim across the swollen fields, not a care in the world, not giving a hoot about record-breaking downfall, and record-breaking it is, or so the talking heads on the radio told us as we drove on this morning, wettest day, blah, blah, and more blah, it being hard to distinguish wet from wetter from wettest but hey, gotta fill those airwaves with something, and off my memory flees, as fast as my dogs, racing back in time to filled airwaves, filled with the sounds of Pat O’Day and Larry Lujack, KJR Radio in Seattle, playing all the hits for ya, 1966 and not a care in the world as we cruised the neighborhood in my dad’s Mercury, trying to look cool but lacking the instruction manual. Damn those were good times, happy times, carefree times, all gone now as the rain continues to scour the air of man-made pollutants, thank God for North Face, all my Northwest homies know what that is all about, a Northwest clothing staple, like Eddie Bauer and Patagonia, don’t leave home without it, y’all hear now?

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Obedience? What Obedience?

Toby is not good at following instructions when he’s excited. Maggie underwent training; Toby did not.

It’s painfully obvious on these walks. On a good walk, Toby will listen to my instructions about 50% of the time. On bad days? He ends up walking on a leash, which breaks my heart since I love to watch them run free but dammit, for his own safety, there are times that dog needs to be tethered to reality.

And even writing those words seems strange, considering who wrote them. Me and reality . . . me and common sense . . . Lord knows I had to make mistakes for learning to occur. I had to brush shoulders with stupidity in order to find intelligence, if you get my meaning. I needed to be put on a leash many times for my own safety and the safety of others, so I have a natural bond with Toby the Reckless.

Warming up to People

Have you ever noticed that not all dogs like all people equally? I’m not sure what that is all about, but I’m convinced it is true. People give off a scent to be sure, but they must also give off a vibe, friend or foe, that sort of thing, trust or distrust, good or bad. Watch Toby and Maggie on these walks and the truth of that statement will become obvious quickly. Maggie especially, she does not give out instant friendship. She approaches a stranger with caution, dipping down into a crouch as she gets nearer, slowing noticeably as she gets closer . . .then the sniff . ..then she will either wag her tail and allow further contact, or turn around and come back to me. That’s all it takes, one sniff, and you are either worth her time or you are not.

Toby, on the other hand, he’s a big pup, and everyone is to be trusted in his world. That will change, of course. It does for all of us as we get older. I think it’s instinctual, you know, and I think we all have it. I know I do. I can size a person up within minutes of meeting them and determine whether I like them as a person or don’t want to have anything to do with them. Sometimes my instant judgment is wrong, but more often than not it is right on. Strange how that happens; we have some pretty cool wiring. We just have to learn to trust it.

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No Stopping the Rain

Not on this day, at least. The entire walk is under water-soaked skies, the angels weeping upon us, tears from above mixing with tears at our feet, man’s inhumanity towards man making the cherubs sad on this day, or so my grandmother believed. Silly little superstition/belief, or maybe not, you know? Who am I to question the mysteries of the universe during this walk?

Maggie and Toby, they don’t much care about talks of pink-faced spiritual beings. They just know the walk has ended and it’s time to head back home. I spread out towels on the seats of the truck, they jump up inside and politely wait until I’m strapped into the driver’s seat before they shake their coats, spraying me with more angel tears. I have no response other than to laugh. What are you going to do?

The radio comes on and John Fogerty is asking “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” and I laugh again. It feels good to do so. There was a time, thirteen years and counting, when I found no enjoyment in the rain, in the snow, or for that matter in the sunshine. Today I do. It’s all about acceptance and a change of attitude.

Thanks so much for joining us. You can find us most days, about noon, where the pavement ends and the wonder begins.

Just a man and his dogs, walking down a country road.

2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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