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Travels With Maggie: To Trust or Not to Trust?

A Guy and His Dogs

The first dog I had as a pet was Sugar, a Cocker Spaniel when I was three. Oddly I still remember that dog, these many years later. She ran off one day, gone from my life, leaving a heartbroken toddler in her wake.

Two years later my parents bought me a new puppy, a Fox Terrier; I named her Pixie, and Pixie was with me for the next eighteen years. I absolutely loved that dog, she being an important part of my childhood and teen years, with me through grade school, high school, and college, a more-devoted dog you are not likely to find.

Fast forward fifty years and say hello to Maggie. Now technically, Maggie is my wife’s dog, but she and I spend a great amount of time together, so I’m claiming part ownership, thank you very much.

Best damned dog I’ve ever owned.

Maggie is fast-approaching her second birthday. Hard to believe, really, but the calendar does not lie. It’s my hope that Maggie and I will grow old together. I suspect she will be a great comfort for me this coming decade. I hope she thinks the same about me.

Maggie goes with me to the farm every afternoon and helps me feed the chickens. When our chores are done we then take a walk in the country, a stroll for the soul, a way to decompress, and a way to learn about, and observe, life.

Won’t you join us?

Maggie as a pup!

Maggie as a pup!


Maggie and I were out at the farm yesterday. It was raining, as it has a tendency to do in Western Washington, in March. We went into the hay barn in search of chicken eggs (found five), and then she and I just sat on a bale of hay and watched it rain. The barn was rich with the aroma of fresh hay. The rain created a damp barnyard smell, a mixture of mud and droppings, straw and goat feed, disparate aromas which somehow combined to create a rich sweetness.

Fifty yards away the evergreens swayed in the wind, and riding that wind, overhead, two hawks surveyed their own personal buffet below.

The rain stopped and we walked down the country lane leading to, and from, the farm, passing various goats, all curious, all nudging the fence, all dreaming of escape . . . passing the llama and the sheep, content to munch wet pasture grass, escaping not on their minds at all . . . passing the horses, the pigs, all under the watchful eye of two peacocks sitting on a shed roof. Two deer broke cover and bounded over the road ahead of us, Maggie, enthralled, giving chase in vain but seemingly not caring, for the joy is in the chase for my girl, and not the outcome.

And then we came upon, to borrow from Crosby, Stills, and Nash, a child of God, walking along the road towards us, another sojourner enjoying a wet afternoon. Maggie stopped, stood still for a moment, and then began barking. It wasn’t a menacing bark; no malice was intended; it was rather a “I see you, state your business, the jury is still out on whether you are friend or foe” kind of bark. No tail wagging, no growling, just a simple announcement in dog-speak for the stranger to hear and comprehend.

It was at that moment that I realized my Maggie girl was growing up.

Our daily Highway of Life

Our daily Highway of Life

Wariness Where There Was Once Unbridled Acceptance

When Maggie was a wee lass all humans were her friends. She would approach any two-legged descendant of the cave man with glee, tail wagging, butt swaying to and fro, eager to meet them and establish a bond. Not so as she approaches the celebration of her second year. Strangers, though not her enemies, are not automatically trusted. There is a wariness to Maggie’s approach, a “test the waters before I dive in” approach, certainly not born from any horrific event in her past but more instinctual. She has arrived at a time in her life where trust is earned and not freely given.

And, of course, that got me to thinking about myself and how similar Maggie and I are.

As a child I trusted all with the wide-eyed innocence of youth. I had no reason not to. I was never abused as a lad. I spent my younger years in a protective bubble of love where never was heard a discouraging word, and concepts like heartbreak, distrust, disloyalty, and deceit were simply not in my vocabulary nor my heart.

But somehow . . . at some point . . . that changed! At some age I became instinctually distrustful of strangers. I no longer ran forth, without prompting, to grab a leg and hug any giant within reach, but rather stood back and observed . . . stood back and categorized . . . friend or foe . . . safety or danger.

And it’s been that way ever since.

The Death of Innocence

And the days became months, and the months, years, and that distrust . . . that wariness . . . that death of innocence . . . became more pronounced and more instinctual than the trusting nature it replaced.

And I find that sad!

What caused it? What happened over that span of time to cause the death of my innocence?

The answer, or course, is simple and yet oh, so complicated. Deaths occurred, lies occurred, cheating, theft, and duplicity occurred. The frailty of humanity occurred, to put a pretty bow on it, the selfishness and the anger and the stone-cold, dead-eyed sociopathic anomalies occurred, the news stories of horrific nightmares in living color, the first-hand accounts and the stories told round the campfire, they all occurred, and over time that shit adds up, my friends, adds up and weighs down upon you, bearing down, making it, at times, hard to breathe, in and out, in and out, it will be all right, it will be all right, but then it isn’t, then the one bad occurrence becomes five, then ten, and suddenly you find yourself, decades later, looking at strangers with jaded eyes and one hand on the butt of your metaphoric gun.

Life is for exploring for Maggie!

Life is for exploring for Maggie!

Back to the Walk

Just a man, and his dog, walking down a country road, learning from each other, and I find that very, very cool.

Maggie is learning to take cues from me. She has the ability to sense when I am at ease around people and she has the ability to sense when people make me tense. She is tuned in to some cosmic radio station I will never hear . . . or perhaps I do hear it and don’t realize it. Perhaps it’s nothing more than instinct, something I’ve always had, and something I need to learn to trust in once more.

The young woman we met that day? Maggie sniffed an offered hand, looked at me for an unspoken cue, and then wagged her tail. The woman, Julie was her name, had passed the test and was considered trustworthy and a friend for life. It was as simple as that and yet so much more complicated.

Just a man, and his dog, walking down a country road . . . you are invited to join us next time. Friends are always welcome. Put on your walking shoes and meet us on the road next time. If you pass Maggie's inspection, all is well.

© 2019 Bill Holland


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 22, 2019:

I definitely believe that, Lawrence. When it comes to newcomers, I yield to Maggie's senses for a good judgement.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on April 20, 2019:


Sorry it took me a while to get here, but the walk was great, and I think I might have an answer to the question you aren't really asking. Dogs can literally 'smell' our emotions!

A friend told me once that you can tell if a person is a good person simply by the way an animal behaves around them, if the animal trusts them then they are trustworthy.

Speaking of which, it's time to take Barney for a walk!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 07, 2019:

I think so too, William, but thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 07, 2019:

Thank you Dee! She really is a very sweet dog. I'll tell her you said hi!

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on April 07, 2019:

Checking in late, Bill. Sometimes that happens, but better late than never. I'm glad I finally got here. "Just a man, and his dog, walking down a country road" - I think it's more than that!

Dianna Mendez on April 06, 2019:

Such a sweet companion! It seems she has her radar up when meeting people, that is certainly indication of her loyalty and intelligence.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 27, 2019:

My pleasure, Tamara!

Tamara Yancosky from Uninhabited Regions on March 26, 2019:

Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 25, 2019:

My goodness, Genna, you got all poetic on me, and it was beautiful. You are a kindred soul,my friend, and I thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 25, 2019:

Thank you Tamara! You are welcomed on our walks any time you can get free. Maggie and I love good company.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on March 24, 2019:

Maggie is adorable...what a cutie pie she is. :-) And what a day...to sit on a pile of hay and watch the rain...to stroll down a country road through all of the beauty that nature provides. The innocence of a child's internal life fades as the frailty and woundedness of humanity breaches the depth of the soul. The passage down that same road becomes more cautious with time. But still, what journey it is, and what a blessing to have such a companion by your side. I loved this, Bill. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Tamara Yancosky from Uninhabited Regions on March 23, 2019:

A delightful experience I just shared while walking with you, and Maggie. I have an Aussie and she gets spooked quite easily on walks which makes her go on the attack. At home, though, she is sweet and adoring. What an adorable dog Miss Maggie is, though! Nice walking trail, too.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 19, 2019:

Thanks Jo....more walks are planned, and I'm sure I'll share them with you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 19, 2019:

And thank you, Janda, for sharing about Lindy! I appreciate your comment.

Jo Miller from Tennessee on March 19, 2019:

I hope we here more about your walks with Maggie, Bill. She may be able to teach us a thing or two.

I listened to the TED talk and found it delightful.

Janda Raker on March 18, 2019:

Bill, I loved your story of walking with Maggie! I haven't been reading much online OR commenting OR writing when I should be because I'm walking every day with our dear Lindy, our lovely, curly, 9-year-old shelter dog! We've taken walks at home and where we've traveled, from East Coast to West, from North to South, and it's always a treat, whether in the city of the countryside, from a canyon to a mountain to the lanes through a campground and in all kinds of weather! It's so fun to see it all through our dogs' eyes. Thanks for sharing!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2019:

Perhaps we have lost it, Rajan. I wonder if we can regain it?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2019:

I really appreciate that, Karen! Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2019:

Thank you Marlene! Isn't it amazing what dogs are aware of? Like you said, I wish I was honed in on whatever it is.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2019:

Bill, I think it's time you got another dog, don't you? You deserve one for sure.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2019:

Thank you Francine! I hope you join us next time.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2019:

Thank you Nithya! For sure, dogs have a sense we don't, so I try to always listen to Maggie.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2019:

Thank you Verlie! Put on your walking shoes and join us any time.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2019:

Thanks for joining us, Eman! It was lovely visiting with you on the walk. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2019:

Thank you Clive! It's always a pleasure having you here.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2019:

Beautiful weather, and more walks, ahead for us, Zulma. You are welcome to join us at any time.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2019:

Ruby, you have been missed, my friend. I'm so happy to see you here today. Bless you always!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2019:

Thank you Lori! You pretty much described me growing up. I still don't naturally trust people. I doubt that wariness will go away.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2019:

Thank you Peggy! I put a lot of faith in Maggie's trust of strangers. I'm convinced dogs know something we don't know.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 15, 2019:

Life is all about learning, from whomsoever. That said, a man's best friend is the best at judging a human being. The sixth sense, perhaps, we have lost today.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on March 15, 2019:

Enjoyed the walk with you and your cute dog. Dogs know whom to trust by instinct and they are good at that. We have our experiences in life to come to a decision about trusting someone but even then we can go wrong.

Francine Glasser from Kingston, NY on March 14, 2019:

Great article our dogs resemble each other! My dog is Maizy

Karen A Szklany from New England on March 14, 2019:

Thank you for sharing your journey with us in such a lovely way, Bill! The TED talk and music video were essential aspects of the experience, so thank you for including them. This "hub"/article rocks!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2019:

Thanks for sharing that story, Mike. I get it. Maggie has a loud bark, and to the uninitiated it might seem menacing, but there is nothing menacing about my girl.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2019:

Ellison, thanks so much for the visit. It was very nice hearing from you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2019:

Trust love again, Sean? Always!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2019:

Thank you Heidi! You could be onto something with that Mother dog instinct thing. I have found females to be much friendlier than males too.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2019:

Sis, you are welcome to join us any old time. We walk slowly, so no worries being in tip-top shape. :) We'll just be two old siblings shuffling along, with Maggie patiently waiting for us.

Hugs and love always

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2019:

Thank you Linda! A part of me hopes your oldest daughter never loses that acceptance, but I completely understand your fear.

Readmikenow on March 14, 2019:

What a great story! Really enjoyed reading this. When I was backpacking once, I went past a house on a rural road. A dog in the yard was barking and struggling at it's fence to get to me. I thought how I was lucky that dog was behind a fence. The next day, to leave the area, I had to walk past the same house. I came around a corner, and the dog was sitting in the road next to its owner. It saw me and came running at me barking. I yelled "Your dog tries to bite me I will defend myself. The owner chuckled. When the dog got to me, it lowered its head and its bottom was moving. I realized the dog behind the fence didn't want to attack me, it wanted to interact with me and that was the reason for its actions. I learned maybe things aren't always as they seem. It was a really sweet BIG dog.

Ellison Hartley from Maryland, USA on March 14, 2019:

This was a really good read, of course, I'm partial since I like most dogs more than I like most people.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on March 14, 2019:

The thing I love about dogs is that I don't have to spend so much time discerning. As you observed, dogs are extremely keen. I have never had a dog that misjudged a person's character. I wish I had that ability. I really enjoyed walking with you through the countryside. You and Maggie are a joy to each other and to us.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on March 14, 2019:

Hi Bill. Nothing beats a long walk with man's best friend. Dog's have such a great way of reading people people and I have always said, if my dog doesn't like someone, then they are probably not a nice person. Our Gobi (shih tzu) has been gone for 3 years now and I miss her every day.

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on March 14, 2019:

A stroll for the soul indeed! Thanks for the walk with Maggie. I could smell the barn, lovely. Enjoyed the Ted talk too. Great stuff Bill, nice share.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2019:

it's a good life, Erik my friend. Here's hoping you and I don't find a way to screw it up. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2019:

Thank you Louise! I appreciate that.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2019:

Shannon, I lean more towards your last paragraph. lol I just don't trust openly, end of story. I wish I could, but my opinion of my fellow man prevents me from doing so. Sad but true.

Thank you for all that sharing....I would love to meet you one day.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2019:

Not a bad way at all, Sha! I love this dog...she makes me feel young again. She makes me feel loved.

Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on March 14, 2019:

Dogs are loyal animals to their friends. My uncle loves dogs and takes care of them. He was always bringing them to my grandfather's home for guarding.

Clive Williams from Jamaica on March 14, 2019:

Maggie reminds me of my very own dog Venom. There is a strong message in this piece.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on March 14, 2019:

And a lovely walk it was. It's still too cold for me here so I appreciate joining you and Maggie. Has it really been two years? Hard to believe.

Have a lovely day, Bill. Sounds like you've got the perfect set up for it.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on March 13, 2019:

I loved my journey with you and Maggie. To be at peace with a friend, Maggie, is the epitome of contentment. Not all people know about that kind of serenity, which is sad. I love the way you take us on these excursions and show us the animals and birds along the way. I have missed your writing, loved reading this. I can go to bed knowing there is goodness when you are open to adventure with a friend like Maggie.

Lori Colbo from United States on March 13, 2019:

There is something inexplicable about the ways of dogs and the bonds they forge with their masters. Of all the creatures God has made dogs are my favorite. It's beyond words how they affect me and so many others. I don't have a dog at this point and would love to have one.

It's also sad at how this broken world can make otherwise happy, normal people cynical, and jaded. I had a pretty good childhood too. Not perfect, but overall, it was a great life. But the older I got the more fearful and untrusting I became. When I got into my jr high and high school years I could barely function sometimes. I felt unsafe an didn't know why. Decades later memories of harsh realities I'd experienced as a child and blocked out slapped me upside the head. It's taken years to feel safe in the world and though I do my best not to be, I still feel cynical in this world once in a while. I turn to God and he straigthens me out.

This was a beautiful read.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 13, 2019:

It was so nice meeting your Maggie. I had two sets of aunts and uncles who both had dogs named Maggie at the same time. We have had 5 dogs in our lifetime. One of them never developed that wariness of strangers. He loved everyone he met!

Most animals are good judges of character. Nice to know that you and Maggie will be sharing time in the years ahead. You should both have many adventures of daily living to experience. Enjoyed your descriptions of spending time together in that barn while it was raining.

Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on March 13, 2019:

Thank you, Bill, my brother, for this walk with you and Maggie, for this return to innocence that we all need so much!

"That's not the beginning of the end

That's the return to yourself

The return to innocence."

Let us trust Love again!


Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on March 13, 2019:

What a lovely story! I have had similar ones with my pups over the years. They definitely pick up so much more than we realize. Sometimes I wonder what's going on in their heads.

My boy loves people, but ignores most dogs, preferring to visit with humans first (treats may be involved). My girl is just the opposite, greets dogs first, then humans (maybe). But when she gets to know you--dang!--she won't leave you alone. I think it's a female thing since other females I've had were friendly, but a little aloof in meeting others at first. Neighbors' girl dogs are that way, too. Mother dog instinct?

Maggie is just adorable! Thanks for sharing your life with Maggie with us!

Suzie from Carson City on March 13, 2019:

Awww....any story about a man (or woman) and their fur baby(ies) goes straight to my heart. Sadly, I am dog-less for the first time in my life and this is for his/her sake, since I'm no longer an adequate playmate nor walker & it just wouldn't be fair. However, fur babies I MUST have to be complete, so I have 3 furballs of the feline type....Brandy, Bruce and Beemer. They are as laid-back as I have learned to become.

I had a wonderful time walking with you and Maggie. Thanks so much for taking me along. I'm sure of the bond between you & Maggie and clearly understand how you feel. Here's to a really long and wonderful friendship. Tell her Aunt Paula loves her too!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on March 13, 2019:

Bill, I was walking right with you and Maggie, every step of the way. Thank you for the invite.

Although you mourn your loss of innocence, I think that wariness is a good thing; it's the negatives that fostered that loss we regret.

My older daughter (you've met her) does not have that protective filter and it worries me. She is so very loving and open--everyone is her friend. Yes, she's been disappointed and taken advantage of but that hasn't changed her rosy acceptance of any and every person she meets.

I see many happy years with Maggie in your future. "Oh, the places you'll go."

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 13, 2019:

I like this "A man and her dog". Sounds like here with my 9 year old. I life is set up so I can take on walks whenever I want and I having to trust a when he start rock climbing.

Louise Barraco from Ontario on March 13, 2019:

This is amazing

Shannon Henry from Texas on March 13, 2019:

Wow, that's quite a journey you took us on there. Things got a bit tense for a minute or two, but then all is well again (for real).

My dog, Daisy, is a German Shepherd who loves people. She does her duty to bark and to growl if there is someone outside that she does not recognize by sound or smell. You can tell by watching her that someone is about to knock on the door before you hear the knock. But she still loves people. I've yet to see her growl at a stranger she does not like once she actually sees the person.

Your mention of toddlers running and hugging giant strangers made me think instantly of a little girl who just moved in by us. It was hug at first sight when she met me. Good thing I love kids, especially since she called me Grandma and my husband Dad. What's up with that? LOL....She's still learning that not every adult is a mama or a daddy to her. Or a grandma, apparently. But anyway....it is sad to think that one day all too soon she will lose most or all of that trusting nature. No matter how necessary it is to be wary of strangers, there is still a certain sadness about it.

I was thinking along these lines yesterday. There was a time when I would take offense to someone telling me I'm too Polyanna. Now I just sort of embrace the notion. When it comes to relationships of any kind, I am very idealistic. I choose to be because I don't like the alternative. However, at the same time, I don't trust all that easily. (How's that for an oxymoron?) Anyone I truly love or consider to be a close friend probably has a significant history with me, each of us proving ourselves to the other simply by being who we are. These people know my many moods and accept me as I am, vice vera. They are rare.

Maybe people should all just take a cue from dogs? Instant loyalty for those who are worthy and bared teeth to anyone who wishes harm.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 13, 2019:

I've always been able to know who's trustworthy and who isn't by the way my cats react to a stranger. Animals senses are amazing that way.

You and Maggie really enjoy your walks together. You're both discovering what's around you, and each other in such a free, mesmerizing setting. What a way to grow old together, huh?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 13, 2019:

Thank you Pamela....trust our gut....that's something I was afraid to do when I was younger, but something I do almost exclusively now. Thank God for experience!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 13, 2019:

Maggie is so cute! I can't think of much nicer than walking on a country road with a dog you love.

When I was young I was so naive and made some made choices also. I guess many of us do. I trust my gut for some time now when making a decision or reacting to a situation. i wish I could have done that when I was young.

I enjoyed reading your article Bill about Maggie and more.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 13, 2019:

Thank you Sally! It's always a pleasure having you stop by for a visit.

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on March 13, 2019:

Now that is my kind of writing, you can be sure I will be tuning in sometime soon. Love it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 13, 2019:

They really are, Susan, and I'm sorry you don't have your two with you anymore. It's a real shame they are gone.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 13, 2019:

Thank you Flourish. I fear I wouldn't understand the literature. I'm just a bear of very little brain. But I understand Maggie, so if she trusts someone, so do I. :)

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on March 13, 2019:

I really enjoyed learning a bit more about Maggie and other pups you've had through the years. I miss my two more than I ever thought possible. I know what you mean exactly about the way in which they bark. Dogs are truly amazing.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 13, 2019:

Maggie sounds fantastic. I bet she is a super companion. There's a large and interesting literature on the psychology of trust, including different types of trust, individual differences in our propensity to trust, various factors influencing a partner's perceived trustworthiness, cross-cultural differences in trust, and the impact of trust on subjective well being and other important outcomes. Maggie's apparently well versed.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 13, 2019:

All true, Nell! I'm glad you didn't give the dog owner a belly rub. That might have been a little odd, don't you think? LOL I always say, you can trust a person that dogs trust.

Nell Rose from England on March 13, 2019:

What a lovely wander Bill, I was with you there. I sometimes look after my sons/girlfriends dog, and I love it. The trust of someone, the bark for another and yes they know more than we do. Funnily enough, I attract dogs! lol! They spot me a mile away, then they still, stare and bound across for a hug and a cuddle. one dog, in particular, dragged his owner over for a belly rub. The dog, not the owner! We forget what its like to be with a dog, then when we remember we wonder why we haven't always had them.

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