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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?

My girl ready and willing

My girl ready and willing

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.

She doesn't look like a bigot, does she?

She doesn't look like a bigot, does she?

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.

My Solution

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.

Random Observations

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.

It ain't going to happen in our house, not now, not ever!

It ain't going to happen in our house, not now, not ever!

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)


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 09, 2020:

Thank you PS! My dad said if bullshit was money I would be a rich man. Maybe that's my "way." lol Angels heading back atcha.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on July 08, 2020:

You have a way, my friend...a complex issue shared in a clever way. Angels headed your way. Stay well and safe. ps

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 03, 2020:

Thanks for walking along with us, Brenda. It's always nice to have good company such as yourself. Reflective I am, my friend, and the older I get the more reflective I become. I wonder if that's true for everyone?

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on July 02, 2020:


Your walk today serves a quite a reflection.

The fact that you recognized Maggie's dislike of the color red is amazing. I might have just thought that a dogs are good at knowing people and for some reason she wanted to steer you clear...to not trust this one.

Dogs seem to know who is a good person.

You took the step further and realized she had a problem with the color red.

Then taking time out to retrain her way of thinking and it indeed worked.

I am so delighted you took your time to teach her.

It is so true that we are taught things at an esrly age which stay with us...I think we could all use a little retraining.

Great walk today and writing.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 01, 2020:

I'm beginning to think so, Jo! lol

Jo Miller from Tennessee on July 01, 2020:

So I guess the message is dogs are smarter than people?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 30, 2020:

Thank you Devika! I hope this finds you well and healthy.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 29, 2020:

Thank you Genna! It's always nice having you stop by. I hope you enjoyed the walk. Go ahead and say something along political lines. I chose red on purpose, my friend. :)

Happy 4th of July, Genna! Be safe!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 29, 2020:

Me too, William! I think we'll shorten the walk next time, buddy.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 29, 2020:

Thank you Denise! I think dogs understand me better than people. Should I feel good about that? lol

Happy 4th, my friend, and blessings always.


Devika Primic on June 29, 2020:

Hi Bill you have shared the greatness of your life and a different side to the color red. Interesting so worth the read.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on June 28, 2020:

Ahhhh....the fear of the color red. (I'm tempted to say something along political lines, but I'll let that one pass. Lol.) Prejudices can run deep and can be based on some unknown incident in the past, as your dear Maggie has shown. But thanks to your wonderful love and patience, she is no longer afraid.

"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." Absolutely Bill -- well said!

Happy Sunday, my friend. And thank you for this delightful and insightful article.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on June 28, 2020:

Interesting walk, Bill. Who would have thought a dog could be prejudice? You did a fantastic job of training her. I have to sit and rest. The walk wore me out!

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on June 27, 2020:

I have known dogs to have a prejudice against a color. I love your solution. Well done. The dog whisperer! You rock.



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 27, 2020:

Liz, thank you! I'm beginning to think that human prejudice will never be eradicated in my lifetime, and that saddens me.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 27, 2020:

I appreciate that, Rajan! Thank you my friend. I hope your weekend is filled with wonder.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 27, 2020:

Thank you Nithya! It's always nice having good company on these walks, and you are good company for sure.

Liz Westwood from UK on June 27, 2020:

I appreciate the way you have drawn out a very valid point about acceptance and equality from your walk this week. I am also impressed at how you treated the red prejudice and overcame it. Maybe you could do with training groups of people too to overcome prejudice!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 27, 2020:

Finally, Maggie can rest in peace now that her hatred, or was it dread, for red colour is gone. Calmer walks for sure, now on. You certainly did a good job, Bill. Have a great weekend, my friend.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on June 26, 2020:

It is easy to teach when the student is willing to listen but Maggie was ready to listen with an open heart. It is tough in the real world that we live in, it is a different story altogether. I enjoyed the walk and your musings, thank you for sharing.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 26, 2020:

Thank you Bill! Happy Weekend to you, and Happy 4th next week!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 26, 2020:

Indeed, LInda! Indeed! Thanks for seeing the point in all of this.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 26, 2020:

I'm glad you're smiling, Dora. I don't think Maggie is a bigot at all, but she was handy for me to make a point.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 26, 2020:

Thanks Heidi! I think my metaphor missed the mark judging from the comments.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 26, 2020:

Zulma, I don't think Maggie is all muscle. My girl could stand to lose about five pounds. Now Toby, definitely, seventy pounds of muscle he is.

Continued warm here. Almost too warm. There is no pleasing me, I'm afraid. lol

Happy Weekend my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 26, 2020:

Thanks for your thoughts, Flourish! I am a big believer in vibes.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 26, 2020:

Thank you Linda. I can barely figure out why I do certain things. It's a real test for me to figure out my dog. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 26, 2020:

Thank you for your thoughts, Anya!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 26, 2020:

HP is playing games this morning, Manatita. My reply to you disappeared. Sigh! Anyway, I agree completely with you. Without some sort of spirituality, I would be lost.

Blessings and love to you always, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 26, 2020:

Thank you Inspiredbro. I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on June 25, 2020:

Very interesting, Bill. One can only wonder what goes through Maggie’s brain when she see’s an elderly woman with a red hat. But good for you for conditioning her to be accepting of whatever was bothering her. Too bad humans aren’t as accepting. I always enjoy these walks. Have a great weekend.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on June 25, 2020:

With love and patience Maggie was able to overcome her fear and distrust. And, I think that's where racial bias and hatred comes from.

But, Maggie trusted you and was willing to listen. Who is the trustworthy leader in all of this?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 25, 2020:

Just one more mystery to consider, Meg. I've got thousands of them to keep my brain busy. :) Thank you always!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 25, 2020:

Lori, if only indeed!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 25, 2020:

Without a doubt, Ann! I stand corrected. :)


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 25, 2020:

Wouldn't you think that, Nell? How difficult it is, though. Everyone has their own agenda, and rarely do those agendas match. Sigh!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 25, 2020:

I have no answers, Marlene! Only dreams of a better world. Thank you for being my friend. You're a gem!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 25, 2020:

Maybe indeed, John! I'm afraid the solution is beyond my pay grade, but we can always hope, right?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 25, 2020:

Interesting, Becky! We don't think of how this all affects our animals, but your example points out what should be obvious to us pet-lovers.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 25, 2020:

Bill, I've been reading a book which says that colors affect us differently. Maggie has some human tendencies, so why not, her reaction to a certain color worn by a certain someone? She may just be sensitive, not necessarily bigoted, but I'm smiling the whole time I'm writing this. Much love to Maggie! I enjoy your togetherness.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on June 25, 2020:

Well, dogs aren't generally prejudiced, at least not in the way we understand it. They just act on instinct. Something in her history caused her to associate red with something to avoid. Or maybe it's something else.

My one vet said that dogs are not color blind and can see some colors. In a great article on the AKC site, "Are Dogs Color Blind? Side-by-Side Views," it says that dogs really can't see red. So maybe because she can't really see the lady in the red hat very well, she's afraid. Do read that article. The side-by-side views of what we see in color and what dogs see are pretty fascinating.

On top of that, dogs scent perception is extraordinary! Red hat lady may use some sort of product that bothers Maggie.

Whatever it is, I don't think Maggie's a bigot. Just a dog doing what dogs do. It's us who process these physical differences and add emotional and psychological meaning to them.

Thanks for taking us along and for trying to raise your "kids" to be inclusive!

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on June 25, 2020:

Well done, Bill, on helping Maggie overcome her aversion. But I have to wonder why she reacted at all since dogs are colour blind and see the world in yellow, blue and grey.

I can't believe Maggie weighs 65lb. I'm going to assume it's muscle since she looks so trim and toned.

Thanks for the walk, Bill. It's starting to warm up over here so I'm trying to get as much done before it the heat overwhelms me.

Catch ya later.

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 24, 2020:

I suspect that red hat lady Mary had a behavioral mannerism you may be unaware of that was off putting somehow to Maggie. Red is a bold, sexy, dominant, power color and when one wears it one gives off a certain vibe, knowingly or not. Gosh, I sure wish you had rescued Maggie instead of purchasing her from a breeder given all the homeless animals there are.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on June 24, 2020:

This is a very interesting article, Bill. I always enjoy reading about Maggie, but the facts in this article are especially interesting. Maggie's behavior is intriguing. As other people have mentioned in the comments, researchers say that dogs can't distinguish red from other colors. Maggie was obviously detecting something special about the red items, though. I'd love to know more about what she was seeing and about what was going on in her mind!

Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on June 24, 2020:

A phobia or something triggering a flashback is not the same as racism. Phobias and flashbacks have nothing to do with the size of anyone's brain - they're due to trauma.

manatita44 from london on June 24, 2020:

A very interesting story from you Bill. I mentioned Maggie today. Ain't that great!

I have spoken of two short stories that I read somewhere. One was of the theologian who felt he needed to read the Koran, before condemning Muslims. He liked it so much, that he began giving interviews about its goodness.

The other is about a black man who called and arranged a meeting with a Klan leader. Their first meeting was naturally heated, but they continued to meet ... then visited each other and this guy even went to Klan rallies!

Finally the Klan leader left the group. That's extreme and risky, but you have showed by your approach with Maggie, that we can all learn.

In my short life on earth, I have met both white and black people of incredible kindness. I have also met with brutes of both colour. Brings me back to the basics of Spirituality for which I have a real passion: love, human decency, hope, empathy, self-giving and so on.

Where I differ from the life-coaches and motivators, is that I say it is almost impossible not to fail without spiritual practice. Hence prayer, meditations and other forms of worship. Grace is necessary, I say. We cannot do this without God, call it what we will.

Inspiredbro on June 24, 2020:

Love it, nice work.

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on June 24, 2020:

That's difficult to understand because apparently dogs do not see the same colors as us, they see (according to the experts) a mix of blue, yellow and gray and the color red is supposed to blend in with those, so dogs don't experience "redness" like we do. Maybe Maggie has eyes that CAN see red, especially as she was uneasy seeing you in a red tshirt. Mystery!

Lori Colbo from United States on June 24, 2020:

Gotta love Maggie. She's teachable. If only people were more so.

Ann Carr from SW England on June 24, 2020:

How could you laugh at her, bill?! Butterflies can be very scary indeed...


Nell Rose from England on June 24, 2020:

I love your walks with Maggie. I always thought dogs were color blind, only black and white? strange. How weird about the red. I totally agree with you about human beings and color. I just said the same thing on something else. We live on a tiny round planet in the middle of nothing. You would think we would love each other. Maybe one day.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on June 24, 2020:

I enjoyed today's walk, and what a powerful lesson we learned here. If only people could learn to release their animosity as quickly as Maggie, it would be a wonderful world.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2020:

God, Sha, will you and I live long enough to see that kind of change in this country? I'm beginning to think not. Let's hope I'm dead wrong.

Thank you my friend. Stay safe!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2020:

That was interesting about you painting the room, Peggy. Thanks for sharing that. I can relate to Tommy and his reaction. As for the elections, let's hope a major change is accomplished at the polls.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on June 24, 2020:

I felt sorry for the little old lady in the red hat, but glad your experiment worked and you eventually accustomed Maggie to the colour red. Apart from that it was an enjoyable walk, Bill. It is a a pity a lot of our fellow humans can’t accept certain colours either. Maybe they need to be exposed to them more so they become accustomed rather than prejudiced against them.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2020:

I wish the same, Pamela, but I'm seventy-one now, and I am beginning to believe I will never see an absence of bigotry in this country, and that makes me very sad.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2020:

Maggie was happy to see you, Ruby! Toby actually got loose yesterday, then came back from a block away, wagging his tail, quite happy with himself. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2020:

I think I'll pass on the hospital rooms, Eric. I'm afraid if I go there they won't let me out. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2020:

Thank you Ann! Maggie is an interesting dog. The strangest things upset her, and the strangest things don't faze her. She is rock solid and would defend me to the death, but a butterfly scared her yesterday. lol I had to stand there and laugh at her; then I felt bad.

Happy Wednesday my friend.


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2020:

We do indeed, Sally! I must admit, Toby is much easier to walk than Maggie in-town. Maggie is becoming a cranky old lady. lol Thanks always for stopping by. I hope you are well.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2020:

Thank you Rosina! If there is hope for Maggie there is hope for us all.

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on June 24, 2020:

I recently lost my old boy. He didn't like people with masks. He didn't care how well he loved you or knew you, if you had a mask on, you were barked at. Very gentle dog otherwise. My son was wearing his ski cap with the fold down face mask, because it was colder than heck and snowing. He came to visit and when he walked in, I thought we were being invaded, until he rolled the bottom up. Then our boy calmed right down. Good thing he isn't around all these people wearing their corona masks, he would be in a constant turmoil.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 24, 2020:

Bill, what a wonderful lesson this walk holds for us today. Kudos to you for determining Maggie's prejudice and helping her overcome it. You found a simple solution to a perplexing problem. May all humans follow your lead in hopes of ending dissension and creating harmony.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 24, 2020:

People are already voting in primaries in some states, and soon, all of us will have our chance to make some changes at the ballot box. Hopefully, with some new people in leadership roles, new laws and ways of doing things will become more equitable for everyone.

Now, on to the color red. I was wearing a red blouse one time when I visited my cousin in Illinois. He had a pet parrot. Bill warned me not to get too close to the cage because his parrot was fearful of the color red.

At one time, I faux-painted one of my mother's living room walls. The colors, while mixed, were too vibrant with some shades of red in the mixture. I repainted the walls to tone them down. However, before repainting, her dog, Tommy, when he first entered the room, he stopped and stared at the wall like he was transfixed! It was funny at the time. He stared and then slinked around the other side of the room as if he was frightened.

So yes, there are at least some dogs and parrots that see the color red as a threat.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 24, 2020:

Thank you a wonderful walk with you and especially Maggie. I am proud of her as she learned to accept and actually enjoyed the petting by the woman in the red hat.

Everything that is happening in our country is becoming very scary. There is so much violence. I understand the protesting and I hope there will be some changes. I have noticed a lot of violence being down by whites so it isn't always being down by a black person. I did not grow up without any biogetry. I was taught to treat all people with respect. I never heard my parents use the N word.

I think you are right about children learning biogetry at a young age from their parents. I sure don't have the answers but it is heartbreaking and I wish people would come together and talk. We need healing in this country.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on June 24, 2020:

I drug out my red hat and boots to wear as we walked, and Maggie licked my hand. I missed Toby. Did he run on-ahead? Loved the way you brought acceptance into our walk.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 24, 2020:

There is an old saying; "familiarity breeds contempt." I kind of get it in a sibling type arrangement. No secrets and all that that makes us vulnerable. But I have never seen it with color. Seems familiarity there breeds acceptance.

A fun one is hospital rooms. Check out the colors. They are that color for a reason.

Thank Maggie for me, for the reflection.

Ann Carr from SW England on June 24, 2020:

Is that like a red rag to a bull?! Poor Maggie; she must have thought you'd had a funny turn wearing all that red - worked though, didn't it? Well done you!

I've noticed often that toddlers don't like people in hats, men or women - maybe it's because they're way above them and it seems firstly strange, secondly threatening. Extra height makes someone look much bigger too. The colour red is 'in your face' stuff so maybe it's just a combination of those factors. It is a colour known to induce unrest at the very least. Maybe Mary should wear calming green or blue in future but now that Maggie knows her, she won't have a problem will she!


Hears to happy walks in the future! Have a whacky Wednesday, bill!


Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on June 24, 2020:

That is hilarious! I myself think it was probably your own unease or anticipation of what was to come rather than the other way around. Poor Maggie! I had always thought that dogs were color blind but it seems they cannot even see red:) The truth behind your dog's vision is that dogs do have color vision but your furry friends' color spectrum is limited due to having more rods and fewer cones in the retina. Predominantly the colors a dog can view are blues, yellows and grey while other colors tend to blend into one of these. We learn something everyday:)

Rosina S Khan on June 24, 2020:

Thanks, Bill for your wonderful walk with Maggie. Glad to know that she overcame her prejudice against red color and no longer hates old white women with red hats. A great, inspiring story.

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