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Travels With Maggie: Spreading Doggy Love in the City

Walking in a New Reality

Same old world but a different reality, yes?

Welcome to 2020, the Year of the Virus! Me, Maggie, and Toby, we hope this finds you well. Won’t you join us on a walk around the neighborhood? Maybe, just maybe, my dogs can take your mind off the negatives surrounding you right now.

No traveling involved today; no trips to the farm; it turns out the pavement ends and the wonder begins right past our driveway, so put on your walking shoes and let’s go get us some wonder.


Why the Change of Scenery?

Way too much development out along the old country lane leading to the farm; since we began our walks out there, two homes have been built and two new families have arrived, with another just clearing ground and pouring a foundation. Heck, if we want to walk by homes and people, we can do that without driving five miles. Besides, it doesn’t make a bit of difference to my dogs. They just want to explore, sniff, and experience, so out the door we go, turn left at the end of the driveway, and a new adventure begins.

City walking means walking one dog at a time. On leash my Maggie and Toby don’t do well walking with each other. They have a tendency to want to wrestle with each other, while on leash, and that makes for far too much work for this old man. So I walk Maggie for a mile, return home, and then walk Toby for a mile. It seems to work well. They get one-on-one time with me, which they seem to appreciate, and I double my workout, which my Fitbit seems to appreciate. It’s a win-win, the best possible arrangement.

The Age of Social Distancing

We now live in the Age of Social Distancing. I wonder who dreamed up that catch-phrase; someone with far too much spare time, obviously. Anyway, social distancing in our neighborhood means fewer cars and more walkers, judging from the number of dog-walkers roaming about. For sure the numbers have increased since the virus arrived. Me and my dogs, we can’t go two blocks without encountering another “isolated” human being.

Maggie is weird on these walks. She is wary of strangers but not aggressive. She is wary of other dogs, but aggressive towards some of them. And kids on bicycles or skateboards freak her out. I have no idea why, but she goes bat-shit crazy when she sees a bicycle approaching. I literally have to stop the walk, kneel down next to her, and reassure her that everything is all right. It’s weird. There is some deep-seated memory which is triggered within her during those moments. For sure she has no idea why, and I’m clueless as well, but her reaction is real to her and that’s all that matters.

So we deal with it.

I knew a woman once. She had been beaten by her husband for five, six years when I met her. She finally filed for divorce, her husband moved away, a year passed, two passed, and she began to build a new life for herself. One day I reached out to touch her shoulder, get her attention to say something to her, and she screamed and jumped back. It was an ingrained reaction, surprise touch means pain to follow, and at that moment I had no doubt she was being beaten, in her mind, by that bastard once again.

We deal with it all, one way or another.

My parents, the Great Depression, unemployment at twenty-four percent, food a scarcity, not knowing what each day would bring, and they made it.

We deal with it all, and always move forward.


Toby, on the Other Hand

Toby has never met a person or dog he doesn’t like, and a bicycle or skateboard is just some fast-moving toy for him to explore. He is curious about everything. He has to smell everything. He literally walks, on leash, in a zigzag manner, back and forth in front of me, forcing me to pay close attention so I don’t trip over my directionally-challenged dog.

Person approaching, Toby goes into a crouch, like he’s herding, his belly close to the ground, his pace slowing, and he continues that way until we reach that human and the sniff test is employed to determine friend or foe.

And it’s always a friend!

I suspect Toby’s personality will be changing drastically soon. He goes under the knife tomorrow to have his “maleness” snipped. I’m a bit sad about it, but it will also be nice to have him a bit calmer, you know? So not a win-win for Toby.

Pleasantness Abounds

People seem to be friendly in this new reality of social distancing, at least on these walks. Many hellos are shared; many stops to pet each other’s dogs; and many more smiles are given, which hasn’t been the case in the past. It’s kind of nice, truth be told, this increased comradeship, dog walkers unite to spread the love, human beings reaching out to find a bond, some contact with another, as human a reaction as you are ever likely to find.

Several now know Maggie and Toby, know their names, speak to them in greeting as they pass, and that is nice as well, and I respond in kind, and in some small way we all feel not-so-alone, you know, and connected in an era of distancing.

It helps that spring has arrived. Cherry blossoms are overhead as blue skies grace us these past few days. Warming temperatures warm hearts, or at least it seems to me. Crocus appear, birds chirp in joy, buds sprout, daffodils, new shades of green, reminding me of an old Pat Green song, “you came upon me wave on wave,” and I sing it to myself as we walk along.

“Was I the one you were meant to save? You came upon me wave on wave.”


A Quick Shower

“The clouds broke and the angels cried,” but it was no more than a five minute rinsing, not enough to send us scurrying for cover. Maggie shakes off, water flying, fur fluffing, and she looks at me with those brown human eyes, I swear she smiles, and man and beast bond once again.

Maggie will always be my favorite. Don’t tell Toby, but Maggie was first by a year, an unbreakable love was formed, and that’s just the real of it. I love the heck out of Toby, but these walks are about truth and reflection, so there you have it.

A Slow Changing

What has become of me? I climbed mountains, for God’s sake, and here I am shuffling along, like the old man I am, talking to my dogs. How freakin’ sad is that? I roamed the outfield, chasing flyballs, and ran races and jumped with reckless abandon, leaping over buildings at a single bound, and now look at me, seventy-one and counting steps on my Fitbit.

I smile at the thought.

It’s all as it should be.

I’ve lived twenty-one years longer than my dad lived. I’ve outlived every member of my immediate family, and most of my close friends, so a little “catch in my step” is just the price one pays for longevity and a life well-lived.

All in all, this social distancing thing is all right for me and my dogs. We are adjusting quite nicely, thanks for asking, and we will continue to adjust in the future.

That’s just who we are! And the same can be said for the human race. We will adjust. A new norm will be established, and when it is all over we will hug each other a little tighter with the realization that we stared into the eyes of “the elephant” and lived to talk about it, stories around future campfires about the time the evil Corona came visiting and we survived the encounter.

And we will talk, in hushed tones, about those who did not survive, and we will remember them fondly.

Thanks for Joining Us

Maggie and Toby are wagging their tails in thanks. We really do appreciate you joining us, and we hope this finds you healthy and safe during these strange times.

If you need us we aren’t hard to find. Just look for that spot where the pavement ends and the wonder begins. That’s where you’ll find us!


2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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