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Maggie was Craig's family's dog when I first knew him. Craig's father picked her out as a puppy from the dog pound.
She was a fine, fox-like mixed-breed dog, about 18 inches and 35 pounds. Her coat was long and thick and red as the autumn leaves.
Craig's family lived on seven wooded acres in Pennsylvania, and Maggie ran loose in the day. You could get away with that in those days, in that place. She came in the house, too, and slept in the cellar at night.
Maggie was an all-around family dog, but she was mainly Craig's youngest sister's companion. Erin and her friend Donna dressed Maggie up and taught her tricks and chased her and played with her all day long.
Maggie was an awful prankster, much too smart for her own good. A lot of the time, she had to stay out of reach, because she'd make everybody so mad. The pay-off for her was that she also made us laugh. That's how I remember Maggie: you'd be so mad at her, you'd want to get your hands on her so you could make her stop whatever she was doing, but you couldn't catch her and you couldn't stop laughing either.
Right before we came to Texas, we spent the summer with Craig's family. We played badminton all through the sunny afternoons. No sooner would the birdie hit the ground than Maggie was on it and the game fell apart as we tried to get it back. We finally trained her to carry a little stick (we called it her cigar). As long as she had a stick, we were able to keep the birdie. Maggie ran back and forth under the net with her cigar, following the birdie.
One night, Craig and I decided to camp out. We set up a tent at the top of the hill, next to the woods, and carried out two sleeping bags. Then Erin said, "Something's wrong with Maggie. I think she has rabies."
At first, we couldn't find her. "There she is," Donna cried. We saw a flash of red in the woods. She wouldn't come to us. She was dodging around just out of sight, looking very furtive. She was watching us, but trying to hide. No amount of coaxing brought her out. In the end, we gave up. We knew she was nearby.
Darkness fell, and Maggie's purpose was revealed. She had somehow divined that we were going to sleep out in that tent, and she was afraid she'd be put up in the house as usual after dinner. No way was she going to miss this adventure outside by the woods in the night.
Sure enough, as soon as the house was dark and we were settled in our tent, Maggie showed up. At first we just invited her in to sleep with us. But she kept jumping up and dashing out to bark at sounds in the night.
We tried to tell her to stop it, but she wouldn't. She heard things in the woods that we couldn't hear. And of course by now we couldn't catch her, because we would have put her in the house and she knew it. Her idea was to guard us, and she did, all night long. She ran around the tent in fits and starts, barking at every sign of life in the universe. We did not get a minute's sleep.
But the worst time was in the winter. We were visiting from Texas, and it snowed about a foot. Craig's family's house is near the bottom of a great big hill. I'd been walking in the woods alone with Maggie, and as we started down the hill, it was getting dark and very cold. My feet felt like solid ice, my nose was cold and runny, and I was anxious for the warm, dry kitchen and a cup of hot tea.
Maggie had an idea. This was in the seventies, and I was wearing bell-bottomed jeans. Maggie grabbed the flapping pant leg on one side and gave a yank. Whoops! My feet slipped out from under me on the icy snow, and I slid about ten feet into a snowdrift. How funny! She thought.
I yelled at Maggie in surprise and indignation. "Maggie! What are you doing? Stop that!" I got up, dusted myself off, and started back down the hill. In a flash of red, my pants got yanked again, and down I went, sliding into a bush that exploded with powdery snow. This was even funnier! Maggie did a happy little war dance in the snow, just out of reach.
I couldn't believe what was happening! How could a dog have the nerve to trip a human in the snow, on purpose???
I got up again, breathing big puffs of cold air, and kept Maggie in sight this time. She was cavorting in circles around me, so I was trying to walk downhill in deep icy snow while turning ever backwards to keep her from getting behind me. My progress was now very slow and uncertain. I felt like a Russian in the forest surrounded by a pack of wolves. I fell on my own at least once, to Maggie's further delight.
I got tired of turning in place. I said as fiercely as I could, "Maggie, don't you DARE do that again." I turned around and, assuming what I hoped was a forbidding posture, marched toward the house. Bam! My pant leg was yanked from behind and down I went. Maggie flung herself in the bushes, rolling joyfully in the snow, as I slid down the track we'd been sledding on just that morning. I rode it all the way to the driveway. Why not?
Craig and Erin came out of the house to look for me. It was dark now, and the yellow light from the kitchen looked so inviting. I got up and said, "You wouldn't believe what that Maggie has been doing to me--" Bam! Maggie yanked my pant leg, and this time she held on and dragged me the last way down the hill.
I struggled awkwardly, reaching down my own leg to try and stop her from tugging at my pants, but I couldn't. Craig and Erin didn't help -- they were laughing! I was furious, but I couldn't stop laughing either. Maggie scampered off and wisely waited on the porch until I was well settled down before she came in the house and ventured close enough to make up.
What a crazy dog. She lived to be sixteen. The last time I saw her, we were once again visiting from Texas, only this time, it had been more than two years. I wondered whether Maggie, white-faced now, really knew me. I think she wasn't sure at first. But after everybody turned in for the night, she snuck upstairs from the basement. Craig and I were camping out on the livingroom floor. Maggie touched my cheek with her nose and snuggled up next to me. I stroked her smooth head until we both fell asleep.
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