Travels With Maggie: The Wondrous World of Acceptance
It’s That Time Again
If you’ve walked with us in the past you know how this works. We begin each walk where the pavement ends and the wonders begin.
Won’t you join us today? Maggie is the center of attention today, my three-year old Northwest Farm Terrier, sixty-five pounds of unpredictability.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Prejudice With Four Legs
I don’t know any other way to say it: Maggie is prejudiced against old white women with red hats!
It pains me to say that but hey, the truth hurts sometimes.
My darling, gentle girl has nothing against young white women. She has never been heard to bark at a black woman. Mexicans are, and always will be her friends, as will Asians of all sizes and colors.
She has no problem with old women with blue hats, and old women with yellow hats don’t faze my girl at all.
But show her an old white woman with a red hat and all hate breaks loose.
I have no explanation for it and, believe me, I’ve pondered this matter for a good long time. It’s nonsensical, right? Why would any animal on this planet hate another animal/species/being because of color?
Let me set the stage for you on our latest walk, just in case the same thing happens while we are walking today.
A Pleasant Walk It Was
Partly cloudy, low sixties, nary a wind to speak of, we were out doing our thing in the neighborhood. We passed a couple dog owners, with dogs, usually a moment of apprehension for my three-year old Northwest Farm Terrier, but on that day she looked at her canine counterparts, sniffed, and continued walking as the branches dappled the yards with differing shades of green.
We passed a man weed-whacking his overgrown brush. We passed little kids on skateboards. We passed a woman pushing a baby stroller. None of these things registered on Maggie’s “give a damn” meter, an oddity for sure because Maggie is a bit of a prima donna, truth be told, or a nervous Nellie if you prefer. She is easily startled, and usually her moments of foul temper are fear-generated.
But on that day none of the regular instigators bothered her in the least.
Until the little old woman with the red hat approached, at which point I had to hold Maggie with two hands, and restrain her until the woman passed.
The lovely day suddenly turned dark and foreboding.
Looking for a Reason
Where does irrational prejudice like that come from?
As Maggie’s owner, naturally I looked at the way I’ve raised her these past three years, but I cannot think of anything I did to influence Maggie’s view of old women with red hats.
I called the breeder who sold Maggie to us, and asked if there was a similar problem with Maggie’s parents, to no avail. No such bias was shown by Maggie’s mother or father.
Has Maggie been threatened by an octogenarian in the past, one with a red hat, thus rendering her totally unaccepting of all old women with red hats?
Perhaps it’s the color red and has nothing to do with octogenarians, like some people see black as evil?
I did an experiment. I purchased two identical dog chewies, one yellow, one red, and presented them both to Maggie. She played with the yellow one but would have nothing to do with the red one.
Aha! For some reason, Maggie has an illogical fear/hatred/emotional response to the color red.
My dog is a bigot!
My heart is heavy.
Obviously, Maggie needed some schooling in diversity and acceptance.
So day after day, following that first bothersome behavior, I would take Maggie for a walk, and on each occasion I would wear a red t-shirt. Now Maggie loves me something fierce. My wife, Bev, will always be Maggie’s favorite, but I come in a close second. When Bev is working, Maggie will follow me around the housed constantly. When I’m writing she lays down at my feet while I write my articles. In fact, she is in that position this morning as I type this story. Her loyalty to me is beyond doubt.
But the red t-shirt gave her pause that first morning. She was definitely uneasy about it.
Not to be deterred, I repeated the process day after day – prepare for our walk, put on the red t-shirt, and head out the door. Slowly my girl came to accept the color red. Slowly my girl came to see that red did not mean danger to her. Slowly my girl learned acceptance.
The True Test
Finally the day came when, out on our walk, the same old woman in the same red hat approached us. I held tight to Maggie’s leash as the gap between us and the woman narrowed, but my apprehension was laid to rest as Maggie’s tail wagged and she allowed the woman, Mary by name, to pet her and tell her what a pretty dog she is.
I was greatly relieved, as you might suspect, a proud parent who cracked the code and brought peace to our little neighborhood.
I don’t know where that type of illogical hatred comes from. I’ve seen it all of my life, from humans, and it baffled me as a teen and still baffles me today. I mean, a dog is one thing, right? How large is a dog’s brain? It would be easy to simply pass it off as a small-brained animal with irrational fears. But a human? An advanced being with the same irrational reaction to color? That’s a bit harder to explain, now isn’t it?
I tend to believe, and we’re just talking about my personal opinion, that bigotry can almost always be traced to upbringing. It is ingrained in the young, and continually reinforced over the years into the teens and then adulthood, and by God it’s not going to end without painful, but honest, conversations. We have to drag it out of the shadows, where it festers, and bring it out into the sunlight, for all to see.
But what do I really know? I’m just a bear of very little brain, and I’m just happy you allow me to babble about such things on the HP site.
Back to the Walk
Soft summer grasses, pre-heat wave, the way grass should feel underfoot, inviting one to lay down upon it, under the shade of a willow tree, lavender nearby, butterflies and ladybugs and dragonflies cavorting, these are the things I love so much about these walks. We’ll deal with the bigger issues of life another time; there is never a shortage of them. For now I’m just a guy and his dog, on a walkabout, if you will, enjoying life and all of its mysteries.
Thanks so much for joining us. I noticed a couple of you wore red, and I was proud of Maggie for ignoring her nemesis color.
You are always welcome, you know. The wonder is waiting for all of us, just at the edge of the concrete, just at the edge of our imaginations, that place where the mind ends and the heart begins.
Pax vobiscum to you all!
2020 William D. Holland
H.O.W. (Humanity One World)