I was 8 years old. Our family lived in a rented farm house on about 50 acres of land at the intersection of Donges Bay and River Road in rural Wisconsin.
At that time, it was no longer an operating farm, but it held the lure of open spaces, a pristine river nearby, and countless daily adventures for a young boy. With my scarred face and little self confidence, I tended to shy away from people and more toward books, birds, and animals; specifically, our Springer Spaniel, Maggie.
The way I picture it now, Maggie was never in-doors, always outdoors. Her favorite pastime was rousting pheasants up from the cornstalks in the field adjacent to our house. My father would sit on the porch – waiting – with his .22 caliber rifle trying to bring down the evening meal.
I wish I could remember more of my actual experience with Maggie, but I have to be honest; one of the few experiences I do recall is watching her sprint from the yard to the road attempting to ambush a car.
I can’t recall much beyond that until one bone-chilling winter day we found her lying curled up in the window well in the front of the house with bloodied hindquarters. We will never know for sure, but we assumed she had been hit by a car. Naturally, we wanted to gather her up, rescue her, get her some medical attention, but, sadly, any attempt to move her triggered a fierce snarl. She was having none of it.
It’s one of my most vivid childhood memories. The look in Maggie’s eyes immediately following that snarl. Her eyes were wide and a brilliant brown, almost pleading; telling us to leave her in peace. We did.
In 2008, with the family business having been recently sold, and my wife and I mostly retired, I had the opportunity to do something special for my wife’s August Birthday. With the help of my daughter Nikki, I found Maggie on the internet in South Carolina. Nikki made the drive to pick her up. It was to be a surprise for my wife.
The big reveal was set up on August 20th, 2008. We set Maggie in a basket adorned with ribbons, placed it on the front porch, and had Nikki sneak around the outside of the house to ring the doorbell. Inside, Joan, as usual, told me to answer the door. I had to insist, in my most authoritarian voice, that she do it. She finally relented and opened the door to see Maggie, waiting for her. Yes, of course, Maggie was every bit as much for me as for Joan. This nearly all black miniature Schnauzer puppy, bearded, about the size of a 12 oz. soft drink can, was irresistible.
And, here again, were the brilliant opaque eyes — this time saying “looking for a good home”.
She had found it.
For the first 8 years of her life she was full of energy and always ready to chase down the tennis ball. She was easy to train and eager to please. All too often, her keen sense of smell led her to stray into the woods behind our home. Indoors she stayed close to my wife and I. She ignored the “doggie” beds we offered her.
A large part of the bound between us and Maggie happened when she joined us every day for lunch and dinner using that intense stare to trigger a hand out. That’s what I miss most about her — sharing all those meals.
It’s now June 19th, 2022. Maggie is no longer with us. She’s been gone for 5 years, but recently, as I reminisce alone out on the screened porch, I feel compelled to complete her story.
In Summer of 2017, the time had come. Suffering from diabetes, Maggie was in constant pain. The shots that I gave twice per day no longer had any effect. It was time to end her misery.
We grieved right there in the Vet’s office as he completed the procedure, both of us weeping convulsively for several minutes. There are no physical remembrances of her beyond a few pictures. No grave, plaque, or urn.
Her legacy is the joy that she brought us, which still lives in our hearts today.
While in the process of performing the final edit of this article, I came across a fascinating article, “All About Your Dog’s Eyes.” It turns out that there are physiological features and functions unique to dog’s eyes which can both convey stress as in the “Maggie” from my boyhood, and a 2015 study compared our eye contact with dogs to parent-infant bonding. The article is a “must read” for all dog lovers.
Bob (and Joan) Loved your story about Maggie. I must share with you a Chris Stapleton song…a favorite of mine. Enjoy:
Sending greetings from NH
Thanks for the song. I found the song with the lyrics on the screen. Yes, “dogs have a soul”.
I’m trying to find a list of my current followers on my site. Could you please send me an e-mail on this and let me know if you’ve been receiving my blogs. Thanks
I would love to stay on your mail list, Bob.