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Travels With Maggie: Man's Best Friend

Where the Wonders Begin

Thanks for joining us today on our walk. It’s always nice having company. You can find us all days where our driveway ends and the wonders begin. Maggie and Toby are excited and ready to go, despite the heat, so let’s get this walk started.

Let's go!  Come on, I'm ready, let's go!!!!

Let's go! Come on, I'm ready, let's go!!!!

Separate but Equal

When alone, I will walk the dogs individually. They are both in the sixty-pound weight range, and they can be a handful for one person to walk with. Both are pretty good on a leash, but that flies out the window with one squirrel or one rabbit, the base instincts of my dogs take over, and I am yanked in various directions. At my age, with a hip that needs replacing, I can’t afford to be yanked in any direction, thank you very much.

One at a time is all I can handle.

Maggie always goes first, seniority having that privilege. One mile with Maggie, return home, leash-up Toby, and one mile with him. We take the same route daily, down Ethridge, right on Bethel, a right on Miller, and back home on Fir. The neighbors know us on that route. It’s a fairly safe route for a route mapped along city streets. It provides plenty of shade for the hot days, and plenty of greenbelt areas for sniffing on any day.

Maggie has her favorite spots to roll in. It never fails, the exact same spot, drop down, roll around on her back until my patience ends, then back up. This happens three or four times per walk. I can’t really get too impatient with her, despite my desire to keep going. She gets such enjoyment out of those rolls in the grass that I just sigh and allow it to happen.

One day last week, though, Maggie found a new spot for rolling, one never before rolled upon. She went about her business, dropped, rolled, obviously enjoying it, then rose and we continued. We got home, I leashed up Toby, he and I went the same circuit, and then something strange happened. As we were approaching home, from ten feet away, Toby stopped, sniffed the air, and made a direct trip to the new spot Maggie had rolled in previously. He dropped and rolled in that same, new spot, and Toby is not one to roll on these walks. It’s like some invisible signal had been tripped in his brain, at that precise spot, and he knew his sister had rolled there.

It was weird! It was magical! It was wondrous!

Sweetheart Maggie unless she's threatened.

Sweetheart Maggie unless she's threatened.

The Wonder of Dogs

I am in awe of dogs. They see things I will never see. They smell things I will never smell. They hear things I will never hear. Add to that the fact that they are fiercely loyal, unflinching in their desire to please their owners, and an endless supplier of warm and fuzzies, and I am left with days when I wonder which species really is superior, mankind or dogs.

I will believe this until the day I die: no dog is born hating people (let's ignore the fact they are descendants of wolves for this discussion). No dog is born aggressive. Bad behavior is learned. Bad behavior is the direct result of actions taken by a dog owner as the dog grows older. In their natural state, a dog wants only to please its owner, to give love, and to receive love.

Kind of like human babies, come to think of it.

Are there bad seeds among us? Was Ted Bundy one such bad seed, born with a personality abnormality, or was he the direct result of a misshapen childhood? I think of these things often, and I suspect that a vast majority, somewhere in the 90% range, of anti-social behavior is learned behavior. The vast majority of bad kids were not bad babies. The vast majority of babies are born innocent. They are, in fact, innocence personified. To think otherwise is to invite many a sleepless night, and I won’t go down that nightmare road.

The neighborhood in the Fall

The neighborhood in the Fall

A Perfect Day for a Walk

We are currently enjoying Chamber of Commerce weather, the kind of weather which draws tourists to our distant shores, mild, high-seventies, low-eighties, comfortable sleeping weather in the evenings, certainly better than the brutality of one-ten we lived in during a three-day stretch in late June. Without a doubt, the climate is changing, no political agenda there, simply observations based on seventy-plus years of banging around these parts. The summers are noticeably warmer, uncomfortably so, and the winters feature larger snowstorms than is our norm. There seems to be less rain, the lifeblood of our environment, forests are drier, the whole ball of wax, and that ball of wax is screaming CHANGE.

What does it mean? What can we do? What should we do? I think about these things as the dogs and I pass by neighbors, toss out our hellos, stop on occasion for a pat on the head, kind words exchanged. Lydia has her garden sparkling with a variety of colors, and I tell her so. Bob is pruning, smiling as he does, listening to Credence, his right leg tapping to the beat. Two young girls bike by, giggling as they do, “Hey, Mister, your dog is cute,” one shouts, a slight breeze passes over me in the wake of their travels.

How many colors are there? Not the invented ones at Home Depot, but actually base colors? They are all on display during these walks, and variations of them, gardens bursting with colors, the background dark greens of firs and pines, light greens of maples and ash, and wispy clouds kiss the sky on their way to the next summer scene down the highway of life, mine to witness for a few moments before they become overhead dream-makers for others walking other paths of life.

A Growl of Warning

Maggie stops as we pass a wooded area, stands absolutely still, and growls, a low-guttural sound, menacing, primal, her eyes locked on something I cannot see, and I feel the hairs on my neck stand at attention. It is a growl which says this ain’t no Hollywood-manufactured horror scene but one rooted in reality, danger is nearby, the shape and form of which are only discernible by my girl, my protective girl, and she stands her ground, not giving an inch, the last bastion of defense between the unseen threat and her owner, and pride washes over me, engulfs me, emotions running freely through me, this dog, this sixty-two pound bundle of fur and muscle, would absolutely lay down her life for me, no questions asked, no command given, that she would do for me, and I feel a tear slide down my cheek, for loyalty like that is known by very few.

And then the moment has passed, the unseen having moved on, like the wispy clouds overhead, to present a threat to someone else down the road, and Maggie relaxes, wags her tail, rubs up against my leg. I pet her, tell her what a good girl she is, and I am reminded, once again, how very special these walks are, and how very lucky I am.

Our Home Comes Into Sight

One last greeting to Anna, our eighties-something cross-street neighbor, out getting her mail, a brief exchange of small talk, Maggie anxious to return home for her treat, the pavement of our driveway now underfoot, the wonders of the walk at an end until tomorrow, and then tomorrow, and then more tomorrows, for it seems to me that life is a never-ending documentary, chronicling the absolute joy of life, if only we are willing to sit still and watch it, enjoy it, and become one with it.

Thanks so much for joining us on our walk. We hope you choose to do so again, one day soon.

From our world to yours, blessings always!

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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