This I Believe

Julia - Damascus, Oregon
Entered on March 28, 2009
Age Group: 50 - 65
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I believe in giving up . . . .

Maggie strayed into my life in September of 1998. She was three years old, hungry, tired and scared….she had been living on the streets for days. Maggie is my mixed-breed, mid-size, long-haired black dog. My partner Deb, our neighbor Jennifer, and I seduced her with the offer of cat food to stop running. We could tell it was a difficult decision for her but she finally succumbed. Then, without hesitation, she walked over to me and did a full body press against my leg. She had claimed me as her own.

Maggie is a runner by nature. Her first year with me was spent in dog school and playing in fenced public tennis courts so she’d learn not to run away. After two years, she was safe off-leash in the neighborhood dog park and only occasionally dug her way out of our fenced yard. She had evolved into a beautiful dog with endless enthusiasm for chasing birds and abundant patience for the hours I spent on the computer working at home.

Despite her changes she was still unable to make eye contact with anyone and a veneer of sadness enveloped her. I continued to work with her, continued to try to build the bridge, continued to strive for change. Walks, rides in the car, visits to friends were opportunities for teaching and bonding. But there was a barrier that could not be breached.

Then one day, I gave up. We were on a walk and I looked at her and realized she was who she was. She might never leap with joy at the sight of me. She might always feel distant and have her eye on leaving. She might always be afraid.

At that moment, we changed. I let her be and allowed myself to enjoy her with abandon. I decided to stop struggling. What came from this simple act of surrender? Nothing more than a dog who makes eye contact and leaps with joy at the sight of me.