Friday, November 18, 2011

Maggie's Pawprint

I've decided to run some posts about the animals I've had in my life over the years. How they've affected me and how their personalities are all so very different. It's amazing, really, when you start thinking about the personalities and characteristics of the animals who've shared your life. I don't believe, for one moment, that animals don't have souls, maybe not like ours, but something is in there.

Maggie came to us in 2005. Our oldest son had been working at a state park over the summer. One evening, when he rolled into our driveway in his Jeep, with no doors, I could make out something sitting in the passenger seat. At first my thoughts, no doubt loud, though I can't recall if I said anything out loud, "Are you kidding me? You actually brought a dog home?"  Yeah, my ire rose at first. We had one German Shepherd, Xena. Xena was not the most social dog when it came to other dogs. I was worried more than anything else. Son jumped out of his Jeep, and the dog bounded after him. He explained that the park manager had said if the dog wasn't picked up by the next day the dog warden would be called to pick her up. Son is a caring soul regardless of how macho he tries to be sometimes and just couldn't let that happen, so he brought her home. He'd done the same thing with a box of tiny kittens three years prior.

The dog was kind of cute but kind of not. She was of a black/gray marbled color.She looked like she was an Australian Cattle Dog/ Blue Heeler with one blue eye and one brown eye giving her an odd, almost spooky appearance with her rather tall pointy ears. My son reminded me that I once said I'd love to have a Blue Heeler after seeing "Zip" in the movie Last of the Dogmen. Well, yes, he was right, but I'd like to be prepared for another dog. Giving a dog a home is a major responsibility, in my opinion. However, it was kind of hard to reject her when she sat down at my feet and looked up at me as if to say "I'll be good. Can I stay?" while her tail thumped behind her and I was drawn to the blue eye. Funny, when you look at her, you tend to focus on the blue eye.  My sons had done this to me once before, ten years earlier, with Xena. I had said NO to one more dog, we already had two "rescues", when my mother-in-law, their grandma, had shown the adorable fluffy black pup to my sons, fully knowing they'd fall in love with her. But that's for Xena's pawprint story...

So, I said we could keep this apparently abandoned dog, for a while. She may belong to someone was my thought. Son decided to name her Maggie Mae. I didn't really want to name her just yet. He  explained, pleading her case even more, she'd been wandering around the state park camping area. She had a collar but no tags attached. She also had some decent manners and knew how to sit when asked. She appeared to be around two years old, not quite a pup, but not quite an adult. I told Son to at least TRY for the next week to see if someone is looking for her when he went back to work at the park. He said he would ask around and ask other workers to do the same. In the end, after a couple of weeks, no one claimed her and no one came to the park looking for her. 

Maggie seemed like an awfully nice dog on further inspection. But, I had the horses to consider and I didn't want a dog running them. Little did I know then, I'd only had the horses for about nine months at that time, for the most part, my horses don't like dogs in their field and they can take care of themselves. Sometimes, it seems the two of them even like to tease the dogs. But, on our property, the horses are the top dogs and that's my rule. 

Maggie did have her period of transition. She is a herding dog, hence the variety of descriptive names of her anchor breed; Australian Cattle Dog, Blue Heeler and Queensland Heeler. She's most likely not full Heeler, but looks to possibly have some Sheltie, Border Collie or Australian Shepherd after researching these breeds. She's not as stocky as most Heelers, but doesn't have the same hair as the other three breeds. Blue Heelers are not known to have blue eyes, in general, while the other breeds can. Anyway, most of that doesn't matter. What mattered was that her herding instinct was getting her into trouble with me. 

For several months I had to find a way to turn that herding instinct in another direction. She had a habit of chasing and barking at the horses when I opened the gate to let them into the front field or when they were enjoying a leisurely roll on the ground. They ignored her most of the time. It took some patience on my part to work through this problem. Unfortunately, for Maggie, the problem took care of itself. One day, as I was opening the gate to let the horses out, Maggie took off after them, heeling and barking, not really sure what she was doing. In the blink of an eye my younger horse, Spirit, he was three years old at the time, turned on a dime and ran Maggie down right in front of me. I gasped as Maggie rolled on the ground, scrambled up and ran out of the field. I was horrified. I found her lying by the fence, breathing hard, blue eye looking up at me as if saying "What just happened?" To this day, she rarely goes into the field where the horses are, she'll stay along the outside of the fence and if  she does enter,I command her out, by simply saying "Maggie, OUT" and pointing toward the gate,she trots out and waits for me. Even dogs sometimes have to learn life lessons the hard way. I checked her over after the incident, she appeared bruised in the rib area, but nothing worse. She learned when and where she needed to be careful around the horses that day. Now, if the horses are romping in the field and she starts barking, all I have to do is say her name to get her attention, and tell her NO. She stops. One thing that is indisputable about Blue Heelers they are intelligent and learn quickly.

My fears about Xena not accepting Maggie into our "pack" were unfounded. Xena and Maggie got along well. They became buddies, BFF, if you will.Naturally, Maggie and Xena had their arguments until the position thing was worked out, but it didn't take long. A few growls, a couple of  "arguments", and they settled into their relationship. When Xena died three years later, Maggie was genuinely lost for a while. There was saddness in her eyes, well, especially the blue eye. Maybe she was feeding off our sadness at losing our friend of twelve years, but I believe she missed Xena. Dogs do grieve losses for a period of time.

I must admit, at first when Maggie was chasing my horses and barking, alot, at times I was exasperated with her. Xena never chased the horses so I wasn't sure how to deal with this young herding dog. But, I'm not the kind of person who gives an animal a home then turns around and abandons it or sends it somewhere else because of some inconvenience on my part. Dogs, and horses too, need guidelines. Once you've worked with them and showed them, with patience and consistency, what those guidelines are, they are the most wonderful companions in the world. When they know they have leadership in you, are safe, cared for, have plenty of food and shelter, and insecurities can be overcome, they return the favor with their devotion. Isn't that all we really want from them? Our animals really ask for so little yet give so much.

Sometimes I've wondered what Maggie's life was before us. She seems attracted to older women which made us wonder if she maybe belonged to an elderly woman and was abandoned because something had happened. My mother-in-law is not a dog person yet every time she would come to our home, Maggie would sit down  beside her. Or maybe that was just Maggie being sensitive to someone who didn't really care about dogs one way or another and was trying to win her over. Maggie has proven to be a people pleaser. I've also noticed that Maggie loves kids and gets excited when she sees them, while our other dog, Lucy, doesn't, so maybe Maggie had kids in her life as well.

Whatever her background story, it ends with our family. Maggie has earned her place in our pack and forever left her pawprints on our hearts.



Linda said...

We have a dog named Maggie, too. Animals are angels--God's gift to people, that's for sure. They can be frustrating to raise until they know what we want from them, but when it all comes together they are irreplaceable and live way too short of lives.

Leslie said...

You're so right, Linda. I've had animals, of one kind or another, all my life and have always felt rewarded by simply caring for them and enjoying their companionship.