The family Australian shepherd, our granddog Maggie, was in the living area, on the couch where her "Grandpa" doesn't want her to be, and I was in the craft/computer room frittering away time on Facebook, not feeling too guilty as two electric servants, the dishwasher and the washing machine, were hard at work.
Suddenly, a knock, knock, knock in the laundry room told me the washing machine was out of balance. I got up quickly to redistribute the clothes, and Maggie was already in there looking at it as if to ask, "What's wrong with you?!"
Earlier this morning, she barked at our cat, Ashley, when she made the mistake of curling up in my recliner for a cat nap. I used to scold Ashley when she'd sharpen her claws on the sliding door or dining room window screens, but I don't have to anymore. Maggie now runs to where Ashley is misbehaving and barks at her!
Today's TBT picture is of me and Maggie in my truck. How classically southern is that?--a Georgia girl, her dog and her truck. This is 2010. Maggie is approximately 10 months old here and I'm 47.
During Maggie's first year of life, she frequently ran off to a nearby horse pasture to follow her instincts to herd. The problem with that was she had to cross the intersection of two major highways to get there! It's a wonder she is still with us today. There was that day I was freshly out of the shower, wearing only a nightshirt, and my husband called and told me to get over to Perimeter Road (one of the highways facing the horse pasture) right then, he was trying to get Maggie to come to him and she refused.
Our animal communication styles are decidedly different. He wants to dominate, command and subdue and I am more like Dr. Doolittle, though animals will respond to my point and glare gleaned from mommyhood days. Maggie and her Grandpa were having a standoff and Maggie was winning! I responded promptly to Grandpa's barked order because he is ordinarily a gentle soul who never bosses me about, but Maggie didn't know him as well as I do and she wasn't budging.
In broad daylight, clad only in a nightshirt and flip flops, I stood on the shoulder of Perimeter Road, calling to Maggie who was stubbornly ensconced in the median across from the horses. She telepathically took my pulse first to see if I was as upset as her Grandpa, decided I wasn't, and bounded across two lanes and jumped dutifully into my Explorer.
As suddenly as a puppy stops chewing everything within its reach, Maggie stopped running off and became glued to my side. True to her breed, she needs a lot of affection and often sits or lies touching me. Sometimes all 44 pounds of her jumps into my lap when I least expect it!
Maggie was adopted by my younger son and his girlfriend within the year the older of my two brothers died, her primary residence with us at The Ponderosa, where she had more acreage to bound than in town. My grief for my brother was nearly engulfing, too much for other humans, and Maggie sensed that. She was completely available for my thoughts, tears and prayers. One evening while she was still a pup, we were sitting on the front porch after dark. I was in awe of the majesty of the night sky and knew the Maker of it held the power to release me from the stubborn grip of grief. Suddenly this precious little creature began to growl, moved from my side and positioned herself in front of me.
She wasn't big as a minute then, but like the day she arrived at The Ponderosa, she was oh so bold. I don't know if she was confronting a creature in the woods or a demon sent to torment me, but she stood her ground, hackles raised...and that was the moment she completely won my heart. Her protective vigilance ushered in a much needed breakthrough.
At the time my brother died, I'd been abandoned and turned on by several dysfunctional extended family members while I was helping care for him. He had his own liquid demons in life to battle, and in the end, not enough close family members stood loyally by him. I learned the hard way that when someone dies leaving unresolved issues literally in their wake, the aggrieved misguidedly seek another target. I commenced building a fortress to keep out those who, in better circumstances, would have grieved with me.
Enter a silky-coated Australian Shepherd puppy to the rescue. My son's girlfriend wasn't completely up the back steps with our newest family member cradled in her arms before Maggie was boldly barking at residents who'd preceded her by more than a decade, the family cats.
All the chaos a puppy brings to a household mysteriously, miraculously transformed a twisted grief journey to a straighter road toward internal peace and recovery. I believed the Lord Himself sent this animal into my life to help cement what He'd already tried to tell me, weeping may endure for a night, but joy is sure to come in the morning.
In 2013, circumstances prevented my son and his girlfriend from keeping custody of Maggie--exorbitant pet deposit, move across the country, small apartments, etc. It appears that Maggie's fur-ever home is with Grandpa and Grandma. I had told them I realized Maggie was their dog and I was ready (emotionally, but I didn't say that to them) to relinquish her. Yeah, maybe I lied a little, but humans still come before animals and if my son and his girlfriend wanted to take her, I intended to send her with them as bravely and graciously as I could pretend.
My son said to me, "She likes you," emphasizing the word you. Maggie loves everyone in the family, even those who could do without her affection, but I was the person to whom Maggie was most attached. It just kind of happened by default; the kids gave her as much time as they could, but with several part-time jobs and numerous college classes between them, they didn't have the amount of time a very affectionate dog needed. Along that part of their lives, time was all I had, blessedly, to work on the business of healing my heart, broken over the loss of a sibling who had never once said a harsh word to me. Ever.
|my late brother, my baby and me, Christmas 1999|
I later learned my baby boy told my older son that he couldn't take Maggie, he didn't want to "break Mom's heart."
Pausing to wipe my tears. I'll wait while you wipe yours.
There are days when I threaten to ship my rambunctious Maggie to Colorado to be a crag dog to my mountain climbing son and his girlfriend, then she'll lay her head on my knee or my chest and I melt, affirming she is still at the right place at the right time.
Maggie is content to run while I walk trails in the woods, and she performs other important duties like keeping the cat and household appliances in line. Her unconditional love, the type we frail humans can't always give, saw me through a rough patch in my life. Some are offended when it is pointed out that God spelled backwards is dog, but I'm not. It's high praise to one of His finer creations; in my case, one renewed in my spirit that God's Word and love is unfailing.