The Trouble With Maggie
By Sara Bloom
Maggie is a terrific dog. A perfect dog — well, nearly. Maggie is gentle, kind and loving. She’s patient with children, never even flinching when the baby crawls over her, steps on her, or lies down on top of her. She barks only when she hears a noise she perceives as threatening to the family. She doesn’t beg at the table (mostly), and eats up her dog biscuits with gusto, wagging her tail appreciatively when offered a few Milk-Bone treats. She’ll go anywhere you want, or stay home and nap if that’s the program. On walks, her prancing style, long hair bouncing in rhythm, always attracts attention. Maggie is tops. Everyone loves her.
So when our daughter asked if Maggie could stay with us for a few weeks one summer, of course I agreed. It would be fun to have Maggie in the house — a welcome companion, an animal that gives so much and asks so little. Maggie would fit right in.
As summer approached, I looked forward eagerly to a respite from work. I’d put a sign on the door: Home Office Closed for Vacation. Think of it — time to nose around the nautical knick-knacks atPreston’s Marine Supply, and meander up and down the aisles at the Arcade Department Store, a relic of a place from whaling days on theNorth Forkthat stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the 21st century. We’d see who was exhibiting at the Rich Fiedler Gallery, and prowl at leisure through the housewares at Complement the Chef, Rothman’s Department Store, and Hart’s Hardware.
We would frequent the farm stands, tour the wineries, browse for bargains atTangerOutletCenter, pig out on King Kullen’s great sunflower seed bread. We’d gorge ourselves on fresh fish from Braun’s or maybe take ourselves to the Birchwood on Ladies’ Night for half-price drinks and dinner specials. We’d pile in our boat and follow the birds out to Plum Gut and Pigeon Rip, hoping to net a few blues, or head to The Ruins at Gardiner’sIslandfor fluke.
And we’d have Maggie to take along, to accompany us on walks to the beach, to play with, tossing her a ball in the backyard, watching her attack squeaky toys with glee. What a vacation!
At the appointed time, Maggie and her belongings arrived — her own special food and water bowls, a can of tennis balls, her leash, brush, medical history and veterinarian’s phone number, a large snap-and-seal bag of flavor treats, and a three-week supply of Purina Fit & Trim.
But on her first night with us, curled up on the floor at the foot of our bed, we suddenly became acutely award of something else about Maggie — her smell. Maggie is a solid, 85-pound cross between aNewfoundlandand a springer spaniel, and her jet-black coat of floppy hair makes her seem all the more imposing. She’s a lot of dog and, as we learned, when she gives off an odor, it’s a big one.
“Maybe she needs a bath,” I offered as a solution, although unwilling to try out the theory at3 a.m.And frankly, I couldn’t imagine our daughter going off on vacation with her family and bringing us an unclean dog. In the morning, I hosed her off in the backyard, soaped her up, rinsed her, and towel-dried her — a process repeated regularly throughout her stay. Good dog that she is, Maggie never resisted, just stood stoically, her head down, but her tail up — a sign, I like to think anyway, that it was okay with her as long as she got a few flavor snacks as a reward for good behavior.
In all fairness, Maggie’s smell is not entirely Maggie’s fault. She’s a fun-loving dog and, baths aside, she is persistently wet. And let’s face it: wet dogs stink.
Take Maggie for a walk, and she runs through all the neighbors’ lawn sprinklers. After a rain, she spread-eagles in the puddles, head down in the water like some dozing alligator. And every day, Maggie swims.
Early every the morning, we’d walk down to the foot ofGoose Creek, where it meetsSoutholdBay. Maggie would make a dash for the water’s edge, tail wagging, head alert for the tennis ball to come. At splashdown, she’d clamber into the bay to retrieve, her powerful legs paddling through the current and back again to the beach, where she’d drop the prize at my feet, ready for the next go-around. Over and over, toss and retrieve, as long as my arm could take it.