Thursday, November 15, 2007

Maggie of "Maggie's Farm"

This is Maggie, our farm namesake.
It's HER fault (And our good fortune) that we are here at all.

It's a rainy, rainy day here. Not much is doing, so I guess I'll share the story of Maggie's Farm-- the relatively quick version anyway.

You see, before the three kids, Dan or anything of true importance :) there was Maggie, the intense little Border Collie puppy. Maggie, a bundle of nerves, full speed in whatever direction she was headed. She began "working" the very day I brought her home to my Boston apartment, fetching a tennis ball within minutes of arriving. Fortunately, I had a lot more time on my hands back then. I'd take her for an hour long romp in the park before work, bring her to work with me, take her for a two hour long walk after work.

And did she care to play the way a lab or golden retriever (or just about any self-respecting dog) might? Nooooooo! It was always work. Work, work, work for her. Playing was for sissies. Frolicking was for pups with less dignity and purpose. She only had eyes for tennis balls, sticks, anything that could be fetched. This was serious business! Also, she would circle around the other (foolishly playing) dogs in an effort to keep them in line.

"Type A" doesn't begin to cover it. This pup would need something serious to do! We took puppy kindergarten, then "Canine Good Citizen", beginning agility. And we might have gone on with all that. (I might also have gone CRAZY trying to meet Maggie's needs and still have some sort of life of my own.)

But then I met Dan and very quickly, we were "serious". I also got a teaching assistantship at the University of Colorado. So the three of us packed up and headed out west. Things went swimmingly. But again, there was Maggie, cooped up in our Longmont apartment while Dan wrote his dissertation and I went to class and taught class and graded papers and wrote poems. Our walls were soon covered in tennis ball shaped spots, evidence of Maggie's incredible persistence. (She'd stand beside us as we worked, nudging her tennis ball at our feet until we finally-- finally!-- gave in tossed the thing.) If we hid the tennis balls, she'd bring something else, ANYTHING else, a piece of couch fluff, a twig, a pencil. Walks around town or in the park didn't cut it. She needed to work!

So, out of consideration-- and desperation!-- we poured our minescule disposable income into sheepherding lessons. There really was no other choice. It was clearly what Maggie needed to DO and also we were sort of fascinated by the idea. Of course, Maggie took to sheep right away. And, the really surprising thing is that we did too. We loved those Saturday lessons. We pestered our teacher, Susan, with all sorts of questions... not about herding so much as haying and shepherding and starting out, and we eased a step down the road.

But then, we got pregnant and moved back to the east coast and into an upstairs apartment and put it all on hold. It remained on hold through three babies and a house (also in the suburbs) and busy jobs and the whole, usual, trajectory. During this time, Maggie made do with her backyard and tennis balls, lot of tennis balls.

Things were good, okay, just fine and dandy. But we didn't want to live that life. We longed for our kids to experience a different sort of childhood, a more "connected" childhood. This became clear when we went for a walk in the Blue Hills and scared up a deer. The kids were absolutely terrified of this alien creature. Would it hurt them? Why wasn't it inside some sort of enclosure like the animals at the zoo or petting farm?That may have been he last straw for me, that and the hours sitting in traffic and drinking Dunkin Donuts coffee out of a styrofoam cup. Also, there wasn't any sort of "community" in our community. We were a nuclear family, isolated in all sorts of ways and from all sorts of things-- family, community, nature, food. And we didn't want to continue that way.

We remembered the old dream we'd had in Colorado and also there was Maggie, still waiting patiently for the life for which she was born. We began to research the possibility of a move-- real estate, sheep breeds, chickens. We (Well, I) dove into all this stuff head first. This is the general way we operate around here-- head first and heedless. We try things out and suffer or revel in the consequences.

Long story short: Here we are on Maggie's Farm. We don't look back, can't imagine any other life. There were glitches along the way, MANY glitches. There are many glitches now. But the, that's the way of the world, ain't it?

And Maggie? She moves the sheep, sort of (They are big, tough, Icelandic sheep after all) and always and forever she keeps an eye on them. She circles around, helps with feeding and hoof trimming and every other kind of farm activity. With the same intensity she had as a pup.

So word of caution for all you prospective pet owners out there: Watch out! If you take on some cute little working dog, you might end up in the same boat, head over heels for a whole new lifestyle, one that looks good on your pet. (Guess this is about as polar opposite as you can get from the whole "dogs as fashion accessories" thing.)

Anyway, here she is, at ten years old, doing exactly what she loves best:

(And yes, "Maggie's Farm" is also a Dylan song. One we aspire to!)

1 comment:

Christy said...

This is such a great story! I'm happy for Maggie that she finally got her sheep.