It’s Maggie’s birthday this week. She’ll be 9, but it doesn’t seem that long ago that we brought her home. But then of course we didn’t actually bring her home 9 years ago, as she didn’t choose me (see Best Friends) until almost 8 weeks later.
She’s most definitely the most tactile dog I’ve ever known. People say that dogs take after their owners. (Hubby and I rarely argue, let alone raise our voices, but whilst we’re not huggy, kissykissy, smoochy type people, we do tend to hold hands walking down the road and are openly affectionate towards each other in our mannerisms and conversations.) As a puppy, we encouraged her to be inquisitive, yet in unfamiliar surroundings we wanted to be able to stop her from getting into trouble and keep her safe on command.
We were visiting a friend her very first Christmas, and took the dogs for a walk in a local quarry. It was familiar to us from our previous visits, but obviously to a young pup, all those new smells were exciting, intriguing and inviting to be explored. Our friend’s dog was off like a shot after a rabbit, but Maggie was doing her helicopter impression (tail going round and round) as she sniffed the ground picking up a variety of scents and not knowing how to cover them all, especially all at once! As was the norm, and much to our pleasure, she had naturally taken to looking back in our direction as if to ask permission to go off on her own. We were quite happy for her to do so, and continued with our walk chatting away to our friend.
Suddenly, we saw her above us racing towards the edge of the quarry face. My heart was in my mouth as it was a sheer drop of about 35 feet. She could obviously see us, but was totally unaware of any danger, but my Hubby stopped her in her tracks with two words, ‘MAGGIE! NO!’
Bless her, she waited at the top about a foot from the edge until he was close enough to see a rough path in the undergrowth on one side and guided her safely down. She was so excited, so pleased, and we were so proud. Lots of praise, lots of fuss, and the well deserved treats (lots of palpitations, hot sweats, heavy breathing and panic from me) .
That wasn’t the only time she nearly gave me a heart attack. We used to walk her every day along the beach, where she found it great fun to chase the seagulls, and if there were any puddles in her way, all the better. She loves the sea, and would go rushing in with confidence. One particular day, she was using the groynes as her own personal obstacle course and went flying over one, which had a substantial drop on the other side. She did a complete half flip and landed (I thought) on her back. By the time I got close, I could see she was happily swimming in relatively deep water and enjoying herself. It turned out she had been doing this quite frequently when Hubby walked her on his own when I was at work. He then mentioned she had another trick to show me. We’ve never been people to get our dogs to ‘do tricks’, so this was something new to me. I expected to be brought a lump of seaweed or something, but oh no. This was far more ‘exciting’, and again the heart went into overdrive. She went charging along the jetty, and just launched herself off the end, going straight under, then surfacing closer to the shore as she swam inland and back to us. This little dog seemed totally fearless, enjoying everything about life, but knowing where she belonged, ie. with us. (I should point out that the jetty wasn’t all that long and the water not known for any undercurrents, phew! Breathe girl, breathe!)
Out on one of our New Forest walks years ago, there were several log piles of varying heights. Without thinking, she climbed them, padded across the top, and came down the other side. She did this one afternoon as a man was walking towards us with a boxer on a lead. Without any instruction, Maggie did her bit on the log pile and back again, and the guy laughed, saying ‘Show Off!’. The log piles in our local woods here (see Woods Massacre) are twice the height of those she scaled as a puppy, and she has made no attempt whatsoever to explore them. She’s a bit more ploddy now, after all in doggy years she’s in her sixties, and more often than not when she sees a rabbit or a squirrel these days she stops, looks but doesn’t give chase. I suppose the attitude is Been there, Done that, BORING. She may walk a little ahead, but she always looks back to make sure we’re not far away. If she goes off in the bushes, you’ll see a little head pop up every now and again, so she always knows where we are. Her recall is still 99% (but then we never expected perfection).
She still has her puppy moments though, and recently has been very playful in the evenings. Toys are brought to us and placed gently on our laps, then big brown eyes bore into us until we stop what we’re doing and give her our full attention. I still have my armchair cuddles after our evening meal, and bedtime will find her curled up behind my knees to start with and more often than not stretched out between us by morning.