My Great-grandmother Lane, who first came to the Northern Neck by steamboat in 1884, was a strong proponent of everyone having a dog. I learned early in life her oft-repeated adage, “Every boy should have a dog.” In more contemporary terms, I think the phraseology should be “Every child.”
Growing up, I was the beneficiary of her legacy with several English springer spaniels, which breed became my dog of choice. They are versatile dogs, excellent with children, alert to their surroundings, and for hunters, they are the ideal partners in the field. When the B.E.s were small my Good Wife and I adopted an English springer from a friend. She was a lovable pet, but our chickens and geese became her obsession, causing us to arrange her transfer to a family without any fowl, where she found true happiness.
After seeing the movie, “The Queen”, the Elder B.E. changed our lot to Pembroke Welsh corgis, which for me introduced a herding breed into our family for the first time. Springers are sporting dogs, but corgis are, to speak mildly, of a different character. Our first corgi, Lily, who died last year, was concerned with keeping every member of our family in order, that is, as she envisioned the order to be. She was willing to let the goats follow their own pursuits, and she viewed the fowl as unworthy of her attention, happily. In short, she was a people dog.
Ten years ago, Lily produced her first, and only, offspring, whom we named Maggie. Somewhat in her mother’s shadow in her early years, Maggie has blossomed into a full-blown authority in her own right. Until our last goat died three years ago, she was eager to get in the barnyard to tell her what to do or not do. She would stand barking commands from the gate into the barnyard, and she was frustrated that the goats kept on following their own pursuits, rather than obeying her directives. She showed no sympathy for their wishes, and she craved getting into the pen to nip at their heels, thinking that would show them who was boss.
Domestically, Maggie sees the world order in hierarchical terms. For some unknown reason she is more attentive to me, always assuming an ancillary role when we are together. She never barks at me, but she constantly shouts demands at my Good Wife, who takes her different reactions in stride. She willingly lets us, in the form of my Good Wife, bathe her, and she shows no angst towards any of us.
Unless we are playing catch, we do not let her run in the unfenced part of the yard as we are too close to the road, and cars might not stop merely because she barked for them to halt. She is an obedient companion while on a leash, and at other times as well, but she considers every venture outside to be an opportunity to meet some new blades of previously uneaten grass. Telling her “No”, is efficacious for about three to five minutes. She is especially fond of rye grass in the spring; she also enjoys snapping up a few leaves from the bough of a wisteria vine.
As I have been writing this column, Maggie has been resting by my side, ready to accompany me to the next project, and affording me the honor of her subservience, perhaps because she knows on which side her bread is buttered; in other words, I am her chef, waiter, clean-up crew and all-round factotum. Whoever first expressed the adage that a dog would never bite the hand that feeds it, would be pleased to know that Maggie is a devoted practitioner of that message.