Travels With Maggie: Understanding Each Other
The Farm Interactions
We’ve already taken our walk today, but you are welcome to join us as we sit under a fir tree and learn about farm animal interactions. What say you? Do you have ten minutes to waste doing nothing? It just might be good for you. One never knows, you know, a play on words, for sure, from an apprentice wordsmith . . . not from Maggie . . . Maggie doesn’t talk, of course, she being a dog.
Ah, there you are! So glad you decided to sit with me while Maggie “walks her rounds” on the farm. It’s a perfect day for observing, don’t you think? Mid-seventies, nary a breeze, puffy-whites slowly marching by overhead; let’s watch Maggie and see what she’s up to today.
Maggie and the Farm Animals
When we first started going to the farm, Maggie was cautiously curious about all manner of animals. She was just a pup then, with no worldly experience, and the farm was overcrowded with strange new animals for her to investigate and interact with. All Maggie knew prior to those first few farm visits were other dogs and humans, so the new world of the farm must have been quite a cultural experience for her.
Horses intimated her from the start, seriously large, frightening for sure, she barked and circled them whenever they approached. The bark was not so much an angry exclamation as it was an “I’m unsure of you so let’s keep our distance” bark, and it went on for weeks. Gradually, however, the volume and the nature of the bark changed, from loud, constant, and tinged with apprehension, to occasional, not nearly as loud, and more greeting than warning. Her tail, which in those early days slumped, began to rise, and today, nearly two years later, Maggie and the horses coexist, most certainly not best of friends but also not potential enemies.
Who Doesn’t Like a Goat?
The goats were less intimidating from the start, not much larger than Maggie, potential playmates for sure. You could just tell from Maggie’s mannerisms that no fear existed, no concerns for her welfare, just curiosity run rampant as Maggie roamed among the sixty-odd ruminants. She was on solid ground, my Maggie, with the goats, and her herding instincts kicked in shortly after the first meeting.
Peacocks were not tolerated from the very beginning, their flashy flamboyance an annoyance to Maggie, or perhaps a signal of danger, whatever, but in Maggie’s eye a peacock meant removal from the premises, and for two years nothing has changed Maggie’s mind about them. See a peacock, chase a peacock, that’s Maggie’s mantra when facing off with them in her version of Tombstone, she the Earps, they the Clantons.
Who Else Is out There?
Sheep and llamas, other dogs and cats, toss in an occasional pig, each one elicited a different response from my Maggie girl, the reasons for those responses locked firmly in Maggie’s psyche. Why would she like a pig but not a llama? Why bark at one dog and not another? And why did one coyote-sighting send my mild-mannered dog into a homicidal rage, having never seen a coyote before? Those are just some of the questions I have asked myself over these past twenty-three months.
Back in Time
Let me take you back to 1966, my freshman year at Seattle University, a small Liberal Arts college located in the Central District of Seattle, Central District a synonym for “the black neighborhood.”
In 1966, at the age of eighteen, I had never met a black person. Writing that now I find that to be an amazing statement, but it’s true nonetheless. I grew up in the North End of Tacoma, Washington, and on any given day, on any given walk, on any given drive through the North End, you would not see a Negro. Period! Not a single one! There were none in my elementary school for sure, and not one in my high school. There were none in our congregation at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.
None as in zero!
The same could be said about Asians and Hispanics. Not one . . . zero . . . I saw them on television back in those days. It was the only way I knew they actually existed, and I’m not being facetious when I write that.
So 1966 was an eye-opener for this boy. I was suddenly surrounded by black families. A walk of two blocks would be a walk into another culture, one I had no information about. Inside the dormitory could be found Asians, real life Asians, and Hawaiians and Hispanics and all other manner of human beings, all with different backgrounds, all with different beliefs, all comprising a strange new world for William Dale Holland, white-bred and terribly ignorant.
It took some getting used to, to say the least.
Was I afraid of them? I don’t think that would be accurate, looking back. I don’t remember fear so much as curiosity. They were different in appearance. They were an unknown, and as such I wanted more information, the type of information which only comes from experiencing firsthand, and so we went about our day-to-day, rubbing shoulders with each other, eating with each other, laughing and playing practical jokes with each other, and helping each other to survive that first year of academia.
Some became good friends. Others did not make the “cut,” but all evaluations were based on personality and not ethnicity.
Perhaps the Greatest Reward
Looking back, perhaps that was the greatest reward I received from my college days. The degrees were simply words on parchment, certificates to be saved in dusty boxes for decades. Friendships came, and went, as is always the case with college, eventually becoming names associated with class pictures and little more. But the realization that we are all the same, regardless of color or social status or whatever other distinguishing characteristic you may choose to declare important, that was the greatest gift college presented to me, and the one I cherish the most.
In learning that lesson I rose above the education level of my parents and grandparents. They had access to the classroom of life but chose not to learn the valuable lesson of inclusion. I was eager and willing.
We Soon Will Have Another Join Us
Maggie’s brother Tobias will be joining us on our farm walks soon, and I have no doubt Maggie will spend a considerable amount of time introducing her brother to the horses, goats, llama, pigs, and assorted other inhabitants of the farm. I also have no doubt lessons Maggie has learned will be passed down to her smart-as-a-whip brother, and those will be lessons of tolerance and an understanding that differences do not exclude cohabitation on this beautiful planet of ours. Fear of the unknown can only be eradicated by actually facing the unknown. Ignorance can only be cast away by a willingness to learn.
And love can only be given by a loving heart!
Thanks for joining us. Same time, same place, next week. We hope you are able to join us.
And for those of you who asked, Maggie is doing well after being spayed this past week. She cruised through it like the warrior princess she is, thank you very much. I expected nothing less from her.
Just a man and his dog, walking down a country road.
“When I wake up every morning, I smile and say, 'Thank you.' Because out of my window I can see the mountains, then go hiking with my dog and share her bounding joy in the world.” Carole King