Travels With Maggie: The Case of the Color-Confused Dog
Truth Through the Eyes of a Dog
Long walks are times of reflection for me. Besides being able to soak up the natural setting, and decompress from the slings and arrows of life, I am able to look inward, clean house, and shape my future on those walks.
And truthfully, the best teacher I have is my dog Maggie.
Maggie is a Northwest Farm Terrier, a rather new breed in the making, thirty years of mixing and matching to find the desired result, an example of man’s insistence on altering the Given to achieve the Desired. Whatever the goal was, for the original breeders, they came up with one hell of a dog. Maggie is a jewel.
Which makes what I’m about to write so mysterious.
Maggie does not like white chickens! I have no explanation for it; I simply know it to be true.
She likes black chickens just fine. She has no complaint about yellow chickens or brown chickens.
But white she does not tolerate.
Totally illogical . . . or is it?
Maggie has been going with me to the farm now for almost two years. I admittedly do not watch her every moment that we are there. I’m busy getting water for the birds, filling their feeders, and making repairs to the coops. It is entirely possible she was once attacked by a white rooster. It’s entirely possible that the color white frightens her on some metabolic level. These things I cannot say with any certainty. All I know is what I see, that this mild-mannered dog, a dog which can be trusted with little children and all manner of other creatures, does not like white!
Which Got Me Thinking, of Course
My dad was a racist! I would love to sugarcoat that statement, considering the fact that I adored and loved the man, but facts are facts. He hated blacks. He hated Japanese, and he hated Germans. Now the Japanese and German hatred I can understand, considering Dad’s time in World War 2. I can understand it. I can’t in any way condone it. But the hatred of blacks . . . that was a mystery for many years.
One day while thinking about his racism I remembered him telling me about the time he spent growing up in East St. Louis, some casual, offhand remark about race wars and blood flowing in the streets. I had to look it up, being a curious sort, and what I discovered confirmed that there were, indeed, major clashes between whites and blacks in St. Louis in 1917, two years before my dad was born. I can only surmise that my grandfather was somehow involved in those riots, was negatively affected by them, and passed that negativity down to his sons.
Understanding racism, but not condoning it!
Back to Maggie
So there is obviously a reason for Maggie and her dislike of white chickens. I’m just not aware of it. All I can do, with her being a dog and not a rational human being, is closely monitor the situation and make sure she does not become aggressive towards them. I cannot give her counseling. I cannot have a discussion with her about color-blindness or the power of love, she being an animal and all.
As for my father, well, I grew up with a mind of my own and no such negative experiences to mold me. I was a kid in the Fifties, a teen in the Sixties, and oddly I did not meet a black person until college, in 1966, at the age of eighteen. I attended Seattle University, which is located in the Central District of Seattle, and at that time the entire surrounding neighborhood was populated by blacks. I was suddenly thrust into a black environment, with nothing to guide me other than a willingness to learn.
A willingness to learn the truth!
College is a great place for that type of learning. Japanese, German, French, black, white, yellow, brown, all sharing the same dorm floor, all attending an institute of higher learning with the express purpose of learning facts and truths.
And one truth I learned those many years ago is we are all the same. At our core, when you strip away all the experiences and teachings and cultural bull, we are all the same.
Maggie doesn’t know that yet. I don’t know if she will ever learn that simple truth. There is no inherent danger to her from the color white. White, black, yellow, or brown, they are all just chickens doing their chicken thing. My dog will just have to fight through the negativity of her past and get beyond it, as we all must if we are to live together in any semblance of peace.
In the Meantime
In the meantime, me and Maggie will continue to do our thing. We will walk the country lane, enjoying each other . . . loving each other. I do not love her less simply because she does not tolerate white chickens. I’ll keep loving her and hope that my love, for her, will eventually change her behavior. In time she will come to realize that there are good white chickens and bad white chickens. She will see the same with black, yellow, and brown chickens, that the color has nothing to do with the quality of the chicken within.
That’s all I can do.
She is, after all, just a dog, and I am just a simple man.
2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)