Travels With Maggie: Unconditional Loyalty
The Gandhi of the Dog World
Welcome back! We are so happy you could join us on this walk. You are always welcome to join us, us being me and my dog Maggie, sixty pounds of four-legged teacher. Maggie is actually Bev’s dog but, like most human beings, I like to take credit for special things, even when I have no ground to stand on.
The chickens have been fed, the eggs have been collected, so it’s time for that walk. Let’s go!
Maggie is a gentle soul. She’s never met a child she didn’t like. She patiently endures the torture of our new pup, Maggie’s brother by the same parents, different litter, Tobias by name. She is trusting of adults once she’s had a sniff or two unless, of course, they are untrustworthy. Daily she walks among the chickens, sniffing, nudging, but never hurting, and even the peacocks, which she instinctively knows to herd out of the chicken area, are safe from her bite. I’ve seen her corner a peacock on numerous occasions, but she is never aggressive in that cornering.
All of which makes the following story all the more remarkable.
One Day Among the Evergreens
Probably six months back, just preparing for another walk, through the gate and Maggie froze in place. A sniff of the air, a quick glance to the right and then, as if shot from a cannon, Maggie was off running into the pasture in chase of a coyote, hackles up, growling, snarling really, her intention quite clear.
From placid walk to what could only be described as a possible life-threatening situation in the blink of the proverbial eye. My Maggie girl is sixty pounds of passivity and domesticity. That particular coyote appeared to be about sixty pounds of wild nature unleashed. Domestic dog vs wild predator, and I gotta tell ya, visions of vet bills danced in my brain like fairies from a long-forgotten ballet. This encounter was not going to turn out well for anyone involved . . . especially, I was sure, for Maggie.
Several things struck me about that encounter.
Instinctively Maggie knew there was danger. It was her first encounter with any predator on the farm, but she automatically recognized that coyote as a threat.
And she never hesitated. To Maggie, threat equaled protection, and every ounce of my loving, gentle, peaceful dog was transformed into a rabid protector of the farm . . . and, in a role reversal . . . my guardian.
It was a frightening moment, my heart beating to the sounds of a thousand ancient war drums, the taste of adrenaline rising in my throat, as Maggie sprinted across that pasture, closing in on the coyote, a vicious encounter surely to follow until . . .
The coyote climbed over a wire fence and found freedom, Maggie stopping at the property line, one more quick glance at the interloper, and then a casual jog back to me.
Reflections Back to 1969
Me and my best buddy, Frank, eating a snack in the Student Union Building of Seattle University, about ten at night, enjoying some juke box sounds after a day of living, learning, and tilting windmills. We had just finished our snack when an acquaintance of ours, Wally by name, sat down with a grilled cheese sandwich and fries. We had known Wally for two years, shared some classes with him, knew him mostly as a gentle giant, about six-three, two-fifty if an ounce, a Business major, just random, surface stuff you pick up through conversations. Wally would never be a close friend but he was a hi, how ya doing, what’s new kind of casual buddy.
So Wally sits down, mutters hello, and I reach over and grab one of his fries, a common occurrence at college, free-for-all around food for twenty-year olds, nothing abnormal about it, when suddenly Wally flies out of his seat, climbs over the table, and has his hands around my throat. His intentions were not to casually warn me but rather to eliminate me, and I can say, with no embarrassment, that I was overmatched and scared shitless.
That’s when Frank did a “Maggie.” Frank, no bigger than me, outweighed and out-muscled by Wally by a good seventy pounds, climbed on Wally’s back, put his arms around his neck, and started to squeeze his displeasure with Wally’s actions. Wally stood up straight, Frank holding on for dear life, and Wally tried his damnedest to shake Frank off, to no avail, me on the floor wondering how the hell my night had turned so shitty so fast.
And just like that it was over.
Wally tapped out, visibly gave up, all hostility left him, and it was over. Frank released Wally, Wally walked out the door, and was gone.
Four years later Wally was institutionalized by the courts, a danger to one and all.
You just never know!
I can go further back, back to discussions with my dad when I was a kid, him imparting whatever wisdom he had gathered during his short life. At one time he was talking to me about loyalty, family, and friends.
“Bill, there are some things in life a man just can’t waver on,” he told me. “A man must always be loyal and protective to family and friends. It might, at some point, require you to step into harm’s way. There might be a chance of you getting hurt, but you have to do it, and I’ll tell you why, Bill: Because the pain from stepping into a fight isn’t anything compared to the pain of walking away and letting your friends and family down. That kind of pain, that pain of spirit, that will haunt a man his entire life.”
My buddy Frank instinctively understood what my dad had talked about.
Maggie understood, as well, that day with the coyote.
Family has family’s back! Friends are loyal to other friends.
It’s a pretty simple credo to live by, and I’ve never forgotten it.
A Quiet Moment
Just the other day, Maggie and I were sitting in the car, waiting for Bev to come out of work at the end of a long day. Maggie had her head in my lap and I was petting her, and I suddenly felt my eyes watering up while petting my girl. It felt like an odd moment at first, just me randomly crying while petting my dog, but I was just overcome with emotions of love for that animal, her unconditional loyalty, her bravery, and the fact that, to her, I was damned near the most important being in the world. And I thought back to Frank, and I thought back to my dad and, well, the tears flowed.
That’s just who I am today, and I’m happy because of it.
Maggie sends her love. Come join us next week. We’d love to walk with you if you can find the time.
© 2019 Bill Holland