Tuesday, July 8, 2008

An old dog, a new trick

Maggie is going home tomorrow and I’ll miss her.
Calling your attention to the photo on the right side of the page, you’ll note that Maggie is a dog, an Airedale Terrier/German Shepherd mix.
She has been staying with me for the past week while her owners were on vacation in Boston. We’ve had no disputes, really. Oh, the first time I left the house, she proceeded to shred the bamboo blinds on the front door, but I do not believe she did this with any malice. I think she was just suffering from a little separation anxiety, which is understandable since she was in unfamiliar surroundings.
But that has been just a hiccup. We’ve gotten along famously, to be honest.
Each morning, before the heat becomes too oppressive, we talk a little walk. In the evenings, we take a longer walk, usually about 45 minutes.
Now, I am sure that Maggie will be happy to be back home. After all, she has a lot more room there and more people, too, including a couple of kids. Dogs love kids, it’s been my experience.
So, while I’m sure she’ll enjoy being reunited with her family, I also believe that she’s enjoyed her stay here. I know I’ve enjoyed having her.
I gave her snacks and belly rubs and a place of prominence on my bed. (not my side, of course; we worked that out on Day 1).
Really, it’s a pretty good place for a dog. Because I live on an “urban ranch,’’ there are a lot of things that are of natural interest to dogs
Now, as the time approaches for Maggie‘s departure, I realize that she has been teaching me a pretty good life lesson.
They say you can‘t teach an old dog a new trick. But I reckon an old dog can teach us a lesson or two, if we pay attention.
The first couple of days, as we made our evening walks, Maggie seemed to be aware of everything we approached. There were many, many thinks to sniff, to study, to bark at. During those first couple of days, she must have stuck her nose in every gopher hole on the property, which is saying something. She put all the horses on the property to a through sniff test, and they returned the favor. She stared, fascinated, at the goats and the Alpaca who live on a nearby property. Alpacas are world-class competitors when it comes to a stare contest, by the way.
Yes, Maggie spent our entire walks sniffing and discovering and investigatin g. She seemed to be aware of everything.
And, then, on our third evening walk, she spotted a rabbit. The fact that it took her three days to see a rabbit is a bit surprising, to be honest, for the rabbits are plentiful and unafraid here on the ranch. You can approach to within a few feet of them.
But a rabbit’s instincts tell it that a dog is a predator. And in Maggie’s case, those instincts were correct. Maggie spotted her first rabbit as we were leaving the house. The rabbit was lounging under a horse trailer when it caught Maggie’s eye. Suddenly, Maggie was sprinting after the rabbit, almost jerking my arm out of its socket, so hard did she pull on the leash.
Well, that single incident changed the nature of our walks.
What had been a leisurely stroll, became - at least from Maggie’s point of view - a hunt for blood.
From that point on, she rarely investigated any gopher holes or stopped to sniff out the scents that had always fascinated her in the pre-rabbit excursions. Horses, alpacas, other dogs - they also disappeared from Maggie’s consciousness.
Her’s was a single-minded obsession. The multitude of pleasures that greeted her along the way in previous walks seemed to offer no solace.
I think it was a poor choice on Maggie’s part. After all, she must have realized the futility of it. There was no way I was going to let her off that leash. She was never going to catch a rabbit.
And yet, she persisted in her obsession.
I wonder if we humans aren’t like that, too.
I know I am.
God save us from our most desperate desire. Its pursuit can blind us to all other blessings.
I guess Maggie taught me a lesson she can’t learn for herself.
Thanks, girl.


xfevv said...

Loving the stories. Keep them up. We miss seeing you around. Shoot us an email or give us a call if you ever wanna hang out.

Anonymous said...

What a pleasant surprise to find your blog! I shall continue to keep you in prayer and hope things get better for you.