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Travels With Maggie: Breaking Bad Habits

No Raincoat Necessary

Low clouds, low ceiling, low pressure, no moisture, comfortable temps, all await us as we park the truck in the roundabout and prepare for our walk, right at the edge, where the pavement ends and the wonder begins. We have Maggie’s brother Toby with us today. Would you like to join us?

Brother and sister about six months ago. I need to take new pictures.

Brother and sister about six months ago. I need to take new pictures.

Toby Is a Handful

He’s still a pup, this Toby dog, and he is full of piss and vinegar, a shout out to my grandma for that lovely saying. The farm is an explosion to Toby’s senses, an overload if you will, and he just doesn’t know how to handle it all. Full-speed ahead is his default setting, chasing guinea fowl, chasing squirrels, chasing a passing truck, visiting carpenters, racing into the woods, barking at falling leaves, twirling in chase of his tail, it is exhausting just watching Maggie’s brother when he joins us. Maggie keeps up with him for awhile but eventually she silently says “to hell with it” and joins me on the walk, letting her brother continue his manic search for entertainment.

We catch up with Toby fifty yards down the road. He’s prone in a mud puddle, looking at us like we’re nuts for not joining him, forty-six degrees, half-submerged in water, looking quite pleased with himself, and then exploding out of the water, racing to me, and of course jumping up, front paws on my chest, water dripping down my pants, and me deciding whether Toby’s value outweighs his negatives. Of course it does, and I must admit to laughing after the initial shock of it all, loving that big pup and his “don’t give a shit” attitude about life.

Toby doesn’t know it yet, but he’s about two months from a trip to the Vet to be neutered, so he’d best enjoy his wildness while he’s still got it.

It Saddens Me a Bit

This neutering thing, it seems a bit primitive and yes, I understand the importance of it all, I know it’s necessary, but still, a part of me will mourn his loss of Puppyhood when the time comes, and the reflective side of me will mourn a bit for all of us when we pass from childhood to the teen years to adulthood, losing a bit of the Wild Child with each step up the ladder of maturity.

When was the last time I played in a mud puddle? When was the last time I chased the figurative squirrel or ran headlong into the unknown in search for answers, and damn the consequences? How about you? Same questions?

My wife Bev still dances in the rain. She still splashes in puddles, and I love that about her, the childlike innocence she still retains, just one of many reasons I stick close to her, hoping some of it will rub off on me. Bev, Maggie, and Toby, they are my connections to the whimsical, and I love them for it, so yes, snipping Toby’s tubes will be a sad occasion for me, just as it was when Maggie was spayed, and that’s just the real of it.

Mysteries await us

Mysteries await us

Bat out of Hell

There’s a stanza from the Meatloaf song, “Bat Out Of Hell,” which has always resonated with me:

I'm gonna hit the highway like a battering ram
On a silver black phantom bike
When the metal is hot and the engine is hungry
And we're all about to see the light

That’s what Toby is like on this walk. That’s what I was like at one time, full-speed ahead, damn the consequences, deal with the fallout after the fact, and squeeze as much of living as possible out of each experience. It was a hair-raising way to live, always on the edge, always pushing the envelope, always working the gears for more rpm’s and a higher speed, but the inevitable will happen, the engine will blow, and then I was left to pick up the pieces and start over, hopefully wiser, and hopefully more in control.

These walks, along a country road, just a man and his dog, are a way for me to find balance. They are a way for me to appreciate all that I sped by as a young man. They are a time of introspection and reflection, taking inventory and allowing myself some affirmation. Yes, I made mistakes, just as Toby did about a month ago when he jumped into deep grass and disturbed some yellow-jackets, but the mistakes were not deadly, I did survive, and now my job is to learn from them.

Heat-Seeking Missile

That’s what Toby reminds me of as he dashes into the woods, something’s got his attention for sure, the barking commences, and Maggie follows, but you can tell her heart isn’t in it. She goes about fifty feet, stops, sniffs, and returns to me. All we can hear is thrashing, twigs snapping, and more barking as Toby continues his assault on the peacefulness of our Hundred Acre Wood. I look at Maggie, she looks at me, we both shrug, turn, and return to the road. Toby will catch up with us once the adventure in the woods has ended.

And he does!

A world of adventure

A world of adventure

Hard-Playing Siblings

It’s fascinating watching Toby and Maggie play together. They play hard. They bare their teeth, nip at each other, snarl, push, tackle, all while running full-speed across a field, and to anyone not in the know, it appears that those two dogs hate each other. Maggie is fond of the “hind leg takedown,” a maneuver she has perfected, while Toby is more a cannonball sort of warrior, using sheer body weight and speed to overpower anyone in his path. Quite frankly I’m amazed they don’t hurt each other during these walks. Oh, occasionally I’ll hear a yelp from one of them, and at night I’ll find a scar or two while petting them, but it really is just “rough and tumble” stuff that siblings have been doing since time began.

And it’s pretty entertaining! On this day it reminds me of that old childhood game “Red Rover,” where you try to crash through a blockade of arms to reach the goal. I can’t tell you the number of times I came home from school covered in scrapes and bruises from a rousing game of “Red Rover” during recess. Mom would just shake her head, apply some iodine, and I was good to go for the next “battle.”

Did iodine do any good at all in healing my wounds? Does any of my worrying about Toby and Maggie do any good? I prefer to just let them be dogs and thoroughly enjoy the decade of life they have ahead of them. Who knows when their last romp across the field will happen? Who knows when our last romp will occur?

It’s Time to Go Home

Always a battle of wits, this time-to-go-home affair. Maggie is always fine with it. Home means comfort and love. Toby, on the other hand, wants the fun to never end. He would stay at the farm for hours if I allowed it, and I always have to trick him to the truck with treats. I understand completely, the words of my mother ringing in my memory, “get home by dark, Bill,” and me squeezing every minute of playtime possible out of the setting sun. Still, it is a bad habit I will have to break in Toby. A semblance of obedience is necessary for most of us if we are to function smoothly in our world.

My two soaking wet dogs pile into the truck, I crank up the engine, turn up the heater, and steer towards home. Thirty seconds into the trip they are asleep, visions of mud puddles and wrestling in the field dancing in their heads.

It’s been a good walk, and we thank you for joining us. You can find us here most days, where the pavement ends and the wonder begins, just an old man and his dogs.

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 12, 2020:

Peggy, my dogs are thrilled when you join us, so keep it up please!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 11, 2020:

I know that I have written this before, but I love these romps (walks) with you and your dogs. It reminded me of the rough and tumble play that we got to see when we at one time had three dogs. The younger ones, of course, were more boisterous. Keep on sharing your experiences with us. They make me smile.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 19, 2020:

Meatloaf was my musical god in the 80's....that first album was genius. As for flying a helicopter, I'll leave that thrill to you, Lawrence. I'm glad you survived.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on January 18, 2020:


Meatloaf was my favourite singer when I was in my twenties!

Then again it was a bit 'entertaining' back then and NEVER dull!

As a Groundcrew with helicopters I occasionally got the chance to fly them, and there's nothing quite like being four feet off the ground going 'like a bat out of hell!!' doing about a hundred and twenty miles an hour UNDER pylons and dodging trucks (damn, didn't mean to put that in there!:-))

Things are a little more sedate now, but then again, I've got the writing for that escape!

Great post.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 02, 2020:

Lori, may 2020 by the year you replace Nellie and enjoy the unique company of a dog once again. Happy New Year my friend.

Lori Colbo from United States on December 30, 2019:

I loved this. I miss having my dog Nellie. I got her when she was four and had already had four litters. She was malnourished, extremely depressed, and didn't wag her tail for eight long months. I was pretty much in the same shape, although my four sons (litters) were born decades ago. When her spirit finally returned, she became playful, went to play with other dogs with carefree abandon, and loved to play cat and mouse, diving under the trailer when I called her in. Then peeking her dead out as a neener neener, and dive under again. I miss her so much. I love that you take the time to walk the countryside with your boy and girl. May you all have a blessed 2020.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 29, 2019:

Thank you Genna! It's always a pleasure hearing from you. Wishing you a brilliant Happy New Year!

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on December 29, 2019:

What a delightful handful Toby is..." prone in a mud puddle, looking at us like we’re nuts for not joining him, forty-six degrees, half-submerged in water, looking quite pleased with himself." Lol. I envy his sense of carefree play. Kudos to Bev for dancing in the rain. :-)

It must be such fun to watch Maggie and Toby together -- each with their own perspective and sense of discovery. Thanks for inviting us along. Denver's iconic song is perfect. Loved the pic of Sis and Bro. So cute.

Happy New Year!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 25, 2019:

I got it brother...thank you!

manatita44 from london on December 24, 2019:


I'll try and send you one. Just from another Chistmas party at a Monastery. Not skit or humour, but lots of biblical and other readings, as well as Christmas carols and of course meditation and food to please Linda.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 24, 2019:

Manatita, I would love to see a picture of your angel. Hoping you will share one with us all.

Merry Christmas my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 24, 2019:

You are so correct, Nithya! One of the problems with growing older is an inclination to stop having unbridled fun. I hope you always find enjoyment out of life.

manatita44 from london on December 24, 2019:

I love the freedom and adventure in this piece. That of the dogs, especially Toby ... that of the freedom of youth and Bev still dancing in the rain. That of you walking in nature.

Yesterday was our Centre party. I played an angel in one of our plays. A red and turquoise angel at that. We had great fun!

Once again, Merry Christmas Bro. Enjoy!

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on December 24, 2019:

Toby is full of life and fun, ready to explore the world. Maggie is all grown up and responsible. I guess we have to follow Toby's example and have fun. As we grow, we forget how it was to be young and carefree. I enjoyed the walk; thank you for sharing.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 23, 2019:

Thank you Pamela, As i write this, Toby is laying at my feet sleeping, and I find that oddly comforting.

He, and I, wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 23, 2019:

Thanks Liz! I hope Toby doesn't lose all of his puppiness. We would all lose if he did.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 23, 2019:

Thanks once again, Devika. Merry Christmas to you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 23, 2019:

And I like that, Denise. Thank you and blessings to you always.

Liz Westwood from UK on December 22, 2019:

Toby reminds me a little of Bear, the dog in our family. It's over 2 years sonce he had the op. He did calm down a lot, but he still has his moments on walks in the country.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 21, 2019:

The walk is adventurous and in the details lies the good company and enjoyable time you have.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on December 20, 2019:

That's good. They don't have visions of sugar plums, but visions of country roads dancing in their heads. I like that.



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 20, 2019:

Brenda, may Meatloaf always live in our memories of youth! Thank you for joining us! You are always welcome, rain or shine. :)

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 20, 2019:

I love the description of Toby's behavior and this will be a precious memory one day as he ages. It is probably very good for him to get rid of his excess energy. This makes the walk itself worth writing about and I enjoyed walking with you and the dogs today. Bev's reaction to the rain reveals her joy for nature and the simple things. I have always liked people who rejoyce in the simple things.

Enjoy the Christmas holidays, my friend.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on December 20, 2019:


What a wonderful adventure with Toby and Maggie.

It does make me wonder when I last acted like a child care free running wild splashing in a mud pile...maybe I will make a snow angel next time it snows...cause it is winter here.

I believe we all need a little kid in our hearts.

Its been awhile since i have heard Meatloaf. Good choice. Plus I have always loved John Denver.

Great write. I look forward to reading more.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 20, 2019:

If nothing more,Bill, Toby does dd adventure for sure.

Wishing you a brilliant holiday season, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 20, 2019:

Make them count, RoadMonkey. The day is coming when I won't be able to do this, so I plan on enjoying the heck out of it until then.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 20, 2019:

Zulma,I'll take the camera with me next week and get some new pictures. Not today, though. We are currently experiencing Biblical rain and may cancel our walk. Yes, I'm being a wimp.

Happy Weekend, my friend, and thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 20, 2019:

We are lucky, Linda! I think it is so important for dogs to be able to run free; this road is one of the few I can find where it is safe to do it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 20, 2019:

Oh I will, Heidi! The fun and the clean-ups! lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 20, 2019:

Thank you Becky! I should have remembered from Old Yeller.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 20, 2019:

Flourish, Toby is a handful for sure...then at night he puts his head in my lap, looks at me with an angelic face, and I immediately forget all the things he destroyed earlier. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 20, 2019:

Sing all you want, Ruby! We don't mind at all. The dogs are quite accustomed to me breaking out into song on a walk.

We are getting dumped on big time today. Our walk is going to be seriously wet I'm afraid.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 20, 2019:

Puppies do the zoomies too...that's what we also call it....pretty entertaining to see, but make sure all valuables are nailed down and protected while it happens. :)

Happy weekend, Linda, and thank you!

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on December 20, 2019:

Enjoyed today's walk, Bill. Bringing Toby along certainly adds some adventure to your walks and there is nothing wrong with that. Have great weekend.

RoadMonkey on December 20, 2019:

Very reflective walk. As you say, we don't know when our last romp will be. So we may as well romp while we can.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on December 20, 2019:

I wish you had a picture of Toby in the mud. It must have been priceless. I imagine the look he gave you is the same one the cat gives me when I stroll in to the kitchen and find her sitting in the sink. I look at her like 'how come you sit in there', and she looks at me 'how come you don't.'

I know you're of two minds on the neutering issue, but perhaps it may provide that 'semblance of obedience' you're looking for. I doubt it though. Toby sounds like he will always be a live wire, but maybe he'll be more receptive to the lessons you're trying to teach him.

At any rate, have a lovely weekend.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 19, 2019:

You're so lucky to have a quiet road where it's safe for the dogs to exercise off the leash. Toby certainly sounds like he's enjoying life! I know what you mean about being sad when a pet is neutered. I've felt that way with all of my family's dogs.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on December 19, 2019:

Yep, when the pups leave puppyhood, it's kind of sad. But give me a grown up pup any day! Savor the fun while it lasts. :)

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on December 19, 2019:

Bill, a javalina is a wild pig. Not a domestic one that went wild. Vicious fighters too. Think of the old Disney movie, 'Old Yeller'. Those are peccaries or javalina. We have coyote too, but even they don't mess with the javalina, unless they are in a pack.

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 19, 2019:

We all have that one relative that can’t grow up (or refuses to)and have Toby’s inner spirit. Glad he’ll be fixed soon.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on December 19, 2019:

I had a good time watching Toby explore and Maggie was cute when she went with Toby, soon returning to walk with you. Funny how we all slow down a bit when we age, even Maggie. It is a gorgeous day here, sun shinning, 40 degrees. See you the next time you venture on the trail. For some reason I wanna sing, Happy Trails To You.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on December 19, 2019:

Bill just watching Toby is exhausting. Cats don't do walks like that, but our Pumpkin does what we call the zoomies. He dashes around the house at 101 mph and you dare not get in the way.

By the way, I don't think Toby will lose all that "pupppiness" after he gets snipped. I know you'll still have exciting excursions. Thanks for letting me join you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 19, 2019:

Shannon, I think that's hilarious. I can see Toby doing that, no problem. He is a hoot except for the times he isn't. LOL

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 19, 2019:

Oh, Becky, I hate to admit this, but I don't know what a javalina is???? Here's it's coyote, and Maggie and Toby definitely do not tolerate coyotes.

Thanks for joining us. I'm getting ready to take them on their walk today before the rains begin.

Shannon Henry from Texas on December 19, 2019:

What an interesting walk today. Your Toby reminds me a lot of my Sam as compared to my Daisy. Yesterday, I go a photo texted to me while I was at work. Sam jumped into a neighbor's car and wouldn't get out. So she took him with her to get breakfast. I told her he would eat her food if she wasn't careful. I guess he enjoyed the ride, though, because he got out when they got home. I think puppies are worse than toddlers. LOL

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on December 19, 2019:

Sounds like Toby is a fun dog. I enjoyed the walk. My son has a dog that has the same exuberance for life. That fool is 75 lbs of solid muscle, and when he cannonballs into you, you will go down unless you're braced. I was over there yesterday, and outside when he was let out. I got cannonballed, and enjoyed it. The fool is 4 years old now, and not slowing down a bit. He is just full of love and curiosity. He also does not like it when javalina get in the yard with his goats. He chases them off and they will run from him. They can be dangerous though.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 19, 2019:

Sally, I always appreciate you taking the time to join us. Maggie and Toby are wagging their tails in appreciation. Merry Christmas my friend.

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on December 19, 2019:

Not so old that you cannot enjoy a walk with the dogs. Thank goodness! What would I do if I could not accompany you on these walks? Thanks again for sharing.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 19, 2019:

Beautiful, my friend! Enjoy that feeling for as long as possible.


Ann Carr from SW England on December 19, 2019:

Happy Holidays to you and your family too, bill! I'm starting to feel the relaxed vibes as all is prepared; stress has gone and I'm looking forward to peace, goodwill and Christmas cheer!


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 19, 2019:

Eric, your description is perfect. How did I know you would like Meatloaf? I used to have a Meatloaf Appreciation Club at one of the schools I taught at...what a hoot that was.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 19, 2019:

Ann, I don't think you need the grandchildren excuse at all. LOL Me thinks you come by that naturally. You and Bev would get along smashingly well.

Thanks for joining us and Happy Holidays to you and yours.


Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 19, 2019:

I am sorry Bill but I just cannot read these as other than explaining my children. Gabe running around, Brooks walking with me and explaining life and the girls just kicking back and laughing. Everyone splashing and kicking water at the beach.

Thanks for Meatloaf.

Ann Carr from SW England on December 19, 2019:

I love escaping into these walks! Toby certainly is a handful.

To answer your questions about childhood impulses, I can't walk past a pile of leaves without kicking through them and making them swirl, I can't resist a really good puddle (but I do have to be wearing wellies!) and I'll put out my arms and put my face to the pouring rain, smiling all the while. It does help to be with the grandchildren, not that I really need an excuse to enter my second childhood!

Thanks for the escape today. It's time for another walk by the sea...


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