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Travels With Maggie: It's Not So Scary After All

Is “afterall” one word, or a hyphenated word, or two words? I think I knew that at one time, but the mind isn’t nearly as sharp as it once was. Anyway, my apologies.

By now, many of you know how this works. Each day I take my two dogs for a walk. The walk begins where the pavement of our driveway ends, and where the wonders begin. The weather is absolutely gorgeous in Western Washington this week, so no coat is necessary. Won’t you join us?

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

The Bark Is Worse Than the Bite

Both Maggie and Toby are barkers – deep, threatening, guttural barkers, the kind of bark which says “beware” in every language on the planet, the kind of bark which will weaken knees and transport most humans back to their roots, hunters-gatherers, always on the lookout for wild beasts intent upon savage attacks and raw meat meals.

But it’s all for show! To my knowledge, based on over three years with Maggie, and two with Toby, they are not aggressive dogs. They speak a language with their barking, perhaps nothing more than a warning shot to all who hear it, but there is no follow-through, if you get my meaning. In other words, they sound a hell of a lot more ferocious than they actually are.

Truth be told, there is some scaredy-cat in both of them! Don’t tell them I said that; it might hurt their feelings; but it’s the truth!

Take today’s walk as Exhibit A for the prosecution.

Are you coming????

Are you coming????

Western Washington at Its Best

On days like today, it’s hard to imagine a prettier place on earth than Western Washington. We are tucked between two mountain ranges in a broad, long valley. We have abundant rivers and lakes and an inland sea, and most of our cities and towns are small enough so that overpopulation is just something we read about but never experience.

Our weather is, for the most part, mild and non-threatening. Winters are not extremely cold, summers are not extremely hot, and things like tornadoes and hurricanes are witnessed on television, from afar.

So, days like today, they revitalize and feed the soul. Puffy white clouds slowly waltz overhead. The breeze is gentle, caressing the skin. The sun, bright and soothing, lights our way as the walk begins, spring flowers serving as guideposts along the path, the dogs down low, noses to the ground, a cornucopia of aromas greeting them. There is a bit more freedom in their walk this day, the chains of winter cast off, the oppressive grayness a distant memory.

A Growl Followed by . . .

It happens fairly often on our walks, the growl at another dog approaching, that menacing warning, meant to intimidate, meant to loosen the bowels and clear the way of danger, first Toby, then Maggie, at the sight of a Golden Lab one block away, on-leash, the owner some thirty-something mother in workout clothes, pushing a stroller, walking towards my dogs, all manner of unhappiness about to fall down upon her and her dog, when a sudden gust of wind occurs, blowing a tarp which was draped over a car in the driveway we were passing, the tarp slapping the car as the wind subsided, a loud clapping sound, and I swear my two dogs elevated, levitated, so startled they were at the loud sound, and I couldn’t help it, I laughed, out loud, very loudly, my two menacing, threatening, don’t-mess-with-me dogs, scared out of their wits by that tarp, the approaching mother and stroller and Golden Lab all but forgotten.

All bluster, they are!

But yet . . .

This was the same dog, Maggie, who two years ago chased a coyote off our son’s farm, racing into the woods after that wild creature, no fear apparent, my girl determined, and I have no doubt, if she had caught up with that coyote, she would have done battle.

This is the same dog, Toby, who stood his ground when we were accosted by three dogs, off their leash, charging at us from a neighbor’s yard, not giving an inch, baring his teeth, standing in front of me, ready to take on the threat, ready to protect his human, a lump of emotion filling my throat, so in love with my dog I was at that moment.

Both scared of a tarp!

Are Dogs Like Their Human Owners?

It got me thinking, you know, because that’s what old men do with their time, we ruminate, we philosophize, and we solve all manner of mysteries within our own minds. It got me thinking, how very similar my dogs are to me. I rarely smile. I am gruff in appearance. I am sure I appear menacing when I am approaching, two-day old beard, worn-out clothes, scruffy hair atop my head, certainly not an appealing figure walking along the road, not a warm-and-fuzzy type, you know? And yet stop to talk to me and my voice softens, I am genuinely interested in what you have to say, and yes, I am gentle and kind.

And loud noises startle me!

I won’t back down from trouble or threat, thanks to a father who absolutely made sure his son would stand his ground against all threats, but I’ve been known to jump back a step or two when a horn honks from behind, or a trashcan suddenly clangs loudly as I am walking past a home.

Which got me to thinking about soldiers, and first responders, and PTSD, and how in the living hell do they return to normal life once they have faced the unimaginable?

Just random thoughts on this walk, under perfect skies, with the two best dogs a man could ever hope to have in his life.

Part of a Familiar Landscape

The dogs and I, we are pretty well-known around the neighborhood. The regulars we see, almost on a daily basis, all stop to chat, or at the very least offer up a friendly greeting, to me and the dogs, and I find that reassuring. I’m a loner by nature, a card-carrying introvert, but I enjoy the contact with my fellow humans, and I enjoy being known in my ‘hood.”

Katie waves from across the street, asks how my wife is doing, remarks about how big Toby has gotten, tells me her garden bloomed overnight, that sort of mundane “stuff” that makes our worlds go round. Mr. Hancock, stooped over, shuffling along at a much slower pace, Vietnam vet he is, not much older than me, truth be known, but his years were much harder on his body, on his psyche. Still he looks up, sees us, and the hint of a smile cracks the craggy face, tells me he’s having an OK day, any day OK when above ground, he says, winks, and shuffles on down Miller Street. Then there’s Violet, probably eighty, maybe a little older than that, standing erect as she walks, sunbonnet of bright yellow perched atop her pewter hair, smiling her best smile at my dogs, reaching out a hand, the sniffing commences, soft words of praise for Maggie and Toby, a wish for a wonderful day for me, and she thanks me as she takes her leave, thanks me for letting her share in my obvious pleasure, and isn’t that a nice thing for her to do?

And it is a pleasure, you know, being above ground, as Mr. Hancock so eloquently stated, and walking with my dogs on a stunningly-beautiful Northwest afternoon, as Violet pointed out, and damn if I’m not one lucky s.o.b.

Worn out after the walk

Worn out after the walk

The Walk Has Done Its Magical Job

It never fails. I start these walks laden with heavy thoughts, or concerns, or juggling a long list of “to-dos,” eager to return home to start the terribly important chores I think hold precedent over a simple dog walk, and I return home lightened of my burdens, smiling wider than earlier, and not nearly as concerned about life as I was an hour earlier.

The dogs have, once again, done their jobs.

And ain’t that just too cool for words?

And, on this particular walk, I return home to find a former student waiting for me, a surprise visit, and I smile. That story will be the fuel for the next chapter in this series.

Thanks for joining us! The wonders never cease on these walks. All that’s needed is for all of us to be receptive to them, you know?

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

Comments

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2021:

Thanks for the reminder, Sha! I'll start that article this week, Good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 03, 2021:

Thank you again, EK! Have a wonderful week ahead.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on May 03, 2021:

What a wonderful walk, Bill? Your neighborhood seems very diverse in age and backgrounds. Very cool.

Obviously, these walks are therapeutic for you and Maggie and Toby. Also very cool.

Can't wait to read about the surprise visit from your student. What a great day this has been!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 03, 2021:

Thank you Linda! It is a pretty nice group on this neighborhood. You are always welcome to join us if you get the chance.

EK Jadoon from Abbottabad Pakistan on May 03, 2021:

You don't need to apologise, Bill. I was just curious about your weather.

Yesterday, I heard about my cousin who lives in the village. A mad dog entered her house. Unfortunately, a calf and goat was bitten by the dog. It also attacked my cousin but luckily, she got a wooden stick in her hand. With the help of stick, she defended herself.

That was an awful situation.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 02, 2021:

It was lovely to find another article about your dog walks in my feed. It sounds like you have some nice people in your community.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 02, 2021:

Bobbi, it's so good to have you back among us. I hope you are well and healthy. Don't stay away so long, please. You are valued.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 02, 2021:

MG, I appreciate your kind words. I try to write in a conversational style, so your praise gives me hope that I am achieving that.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 02, 2021:

Denise, I had a mentor who told me don't sweat the small stuff, and it's all small stuff. lol

Blessings to you always

bill

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 02, 2021:

You said it all, Flourish! It is great to be alive and loved. Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 02, 2021:

Mary, it sounds to me like you need a dog. There are many out there who need a good owner like you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 02, 2021:

EK, it was an old picture. Forgive me. Here it is spring right now, and leaves cover the trees. I should be a bit more careful in choosing photographs.

I don't blame you for being afraid of dogs there in Pakistan. It is completely different here. Dogs are for companionship, and it is rare to find a violent one in public.

Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on May 01, 2021:

Oh! Bill,

What a wonderful article about Maggie, your community and all the pleasing people who live there. I loved it and I hope I do not miss anymore. It sounds like the farm community I grew up in with my Grandmother Knight sharing and her neighbors sharing with each other. A community of love. We need more love spread around today.

Have a great weekend.

Bobbi Purvis

MG Singh emge from Singapore on April 29, 2021:

Bill, what I like about your writing is to make mundane subjects interesting and here you have done it with your dogs. Yes, I have two of them but never thought of writing about them. Very interesting and more shall I say stimulating.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on April 29, 2021:

It is great to be above ground. Things are looking up as spring arrives. Thanks for reminding me that nothing is all that serious. Blessings,

Denise

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 29, 2021:

It’s great to be alive and to be loved! You have great four legged children there.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on April 29, 2021:

Bill, you're lucky to be where you are. My dog friend, Lily, died and so this is the first time in the cottage when Lily did not visit. However, my grandson has a dog now called Stevie and they were at the cottage last weekend. It is a joy to be with our friends.

EK Jadoon from Abbottabad Pakistan on April 29, 2021:

Hi Bill,

It sounds like weather is good. I didn't see leaves on the trees in video. Maybe there is still autumn. Sorry, I know little about your weather.

Barking dogs literally scare me. Here, in Pakistan, people used to keep dogs for security reasons. And they barks awfully.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 29, 2021:

Thank you Nithya! These two are dedicated, for sure. I love them, as they love me, and isn't that beautiful?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 29, 2021:

Thank you Umesh! It was a pleasure having you join us.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 29, 2021:

Misbah, you are always welcome on our walks. Maybe some day you will come visit and you can walk with us in person.

Blessings always

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 29, 2021:

Thank you for that, Brenda. I had an old mentor, several years ago, who would always answer that question by saying "life is good." It's a pretty simple answer which carries a ton of importance, yes?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 29, 2021:

That's fantastic, Bill! You were talking about wanting a dog and now you have one. Thank you fate! Enjoy that Maltese and those walks, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 29, 2021:

Dora, that's one of those words (2 words) which has always seemed confusing to me for whatever reason. I hope I remember it from now on. After 72 years, it's about time for me to learn that, don't you think? lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 29, 2021:

Thank you Pamela. Your description of my dogs is perfect. They would overwhelm you with licks and love.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 29, 2021:

Thank you, Ann! We love having you join us. You are correct, of course. These walks are all about normalcy and equilibrium. I am at peace on these walks, and they are an integral part of my day that I totally enjoy. I need to know there are people out there, and the world isn't completely upside down.

Enjoy your birthday weekend, my friend.

bill

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 29, 2021:

That's a good point, Devika! Dogs are just doing what comes naturally. Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 29, 2021:

Yes, Peggy, I goofed and used an old photo. I should have noticed the snow, but I got distracted while I was posting it. I should have known my sharp-eyed friends would catch it. As for veterans, God bless them all.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 29, 2021:

Ours do the same thing, Liz! I've grown to trust their barking, even though it can be annoying at times. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 29, 2021:

It's an old picture, Susan, and I shouldn't have used it. I didn't notice the snow until it was too late, and then I got distracted and just didn't change it. Nice catch on your part. :) Happy Thursday my friend.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on April 29, 2021:

I enjoyed the walk and your musings as always. You live in a beautiful place and are surrounded by great neighbors. Maggie and Toby will put up a fight to protect you; dogs love their owners.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on April 29, 2021:

Refreshing Bill, as usual. Very flowing narration. Thanks.

Misbah from The Planet Earth on April 29, 2021:

This was a refreshing and enjoyable walk, Mr. Bill. Glad to know you are having good weather. I enjoyed the walk, Thanks for taking me along. I enjoyed. I like the pictures too. Thanks for sharing.

Blessings always

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on April 28, 2021:

Bill,

That's an awesome write.

I can picture Toby & Maggie jumping at that Tarp.

Hell, I probably would have jumped too.

I kniw this older man who walks with a walker, but still ventures out everyday.

When you say hello & ask how his day is...he always says..."it's great to be alive. "

He is a wartime vet.

It's always refreshing..a reminder to count my blessings.

Kinda just like your journey with Maggie & Tobi.

Thank you.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on April 28, 2021:

Always nice to read about your walks with Toby and Maggie. As luck would have it we have a new - old dog in our life. A rather tragic set of circumstances led her former owner (a good friend of my wife’s) to have to find a new home for her. She is a 9 year old Maltese and she is slowly adjusting to her new home. We are already enjoying some new walks of our own.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 28, 2021:

"After all." Two words. You asked. Great that you and the dogs had such a good day today, in good weather, meeting familiar faces and enjoying life. A leisurely experience. Thanks for letting us tag along.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 28, 2021:

What a beautiful day for a walk with the dogs, Bill. I think your dogs sound like the type that bark but would ultimately lick you to death. It is s pleasure to walk with you and your 2 special dogs. I have thoroughly enjoyed this event today. Thank you.

Ann Carr from SW England on April 28, 2021:

I've told you before about my two scatty dogs, sisters, who wouldn't say boo to a goose, but when approached by a threat to me their hackles were up and they sent off the unwanted visitor. Needs must and all that. It's reassuring when you have such friends by your side.

Great walk and I'm privileged to be a part of it. Just those daily remarks with other walkers bring back the equilibrium to the planet, I think. That's what I like about my strolls along the prom, fresh sea breeze blowing out the cobwebs.

But yes, we do need to be receptive to these things and appreciate our ability to sense life, nature and all those around us.

I love coming along on your walks. Thanks for the invitation, bill.

Ann

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 28, 2021:

Hi Bill your interesting experiences with Maggie are intriguing. Dogs bark at what they are not used to hearing or at strangers. In the wild you can't be too sure. I enjoyed reading another fun hub.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 28, 2021:

Like Susan, I was wondering about that white stuff on Maggie. Was it snow? It is always a pleasure accompanying you (via your posts) on your walks. As to veterans returning from service after being in a war, it is a wonder any of them can do it successfully.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 28, 2021:

Your dog walks are always refreshing. Interesting thoughts today on what makes dogs bark. The labrador in our family barks before we even notice someone passing by outside.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on April 28, 2021:

Sounds like beautiful weather in your neck of the woods. Dogs are always barking at Dawson. He's such a laid-back Newfoundlander, nothing ever seems to phase or bother him. I often wonder if he'd ever go after anything. I remember Maggie and she was a squirrel chaser like most dogs and a barker. Anyways enough about my dogs. I have to ask you, is that snow on Maggie in the first picture?

Have a great day, Bill.

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