MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life
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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Beyond Words: Scent or Telepathy?

I am happy to share with you this Chapter 3 excerpt from my book, MAGGIE the dog who changed my life.  Please enjoy.

Beyond Words: Scent or Telepathy?
 Chapter Three, MAGGIE the Dog Who Changed My Life

© By Dawn Kairns

It’s April again and we drive the twenty two hours to South Padre Island—a funky little spit of land at the tip of Texas between the Laguna Madre and the Gulf of Mexico—for our nearly annual group windsurfing trip. It’s Maggie’s first long road trip with us.

What a delight to watch Maggie bursting at the seams at her first sight of the ocean. She is in heaven. She plunges in and out of the Gulf waves, face bright and alive, and fetches the tennis ball repeatedly. Then she bolts full speed up and down the sandy beach. Deliriously happy. Smiles appear on the faces of many beach
walkers. Following her ocean romp, I reach for her collar to place her leash on. But her unbridled enthusiasm is a step ahead of me. She spots a small boy. Before I can catch her, Maggie plants her paws on his small shoulders. He loses his balance and lands on his back in the sand with Maggie joyfully licking his face. Tom and I are mortified. I apologize profusely. Lucky for us, his father takes it well and the bewildered child breaks into a smile instead of bawling.

I put the leash on. Rather than me walking her, however, Maggie has a different idea. She grabs the leash in her mouth, and runs sideways and backwards down the beach, with occasional leaps into the air. Her whole being seems to say, “Come on! Let’s make leash walking fun, not boring!” Her practice of dancing home
in like manner following regular swims in our neighborhood lake resume upon our return, which comes sooner than expect.

Our house sitter calls. It’s Shanna. She is very ill and at a veterinary clinic. She is too weak to stand or support her head. It’s a form of kidney disease. Her kidneys are dumping too much potassium.

We fear the worst. But when we finally get to the clinic after two days of driving, she purrs the moment she sees us.

“She should be fine with this potassium supplement,” her vet informs us. I am thrilled to be taking her home because I thought this was the end. I’m impressed with these vets who brought Shanna back from the brink of death. But her comeback is slow.

Up to this point, Shanna kept her distance from Maggie. But now my kitty is weak and unable to run from her. My sweet Maggie appears to understand that Shanna is ill. She sniffs, nibbles, and licks our feline with utmost gentleness, like a mother nurtures her sick child. I am deeply touched by the love Maggie exudes, and how tuned in to Shana she is. My little princess lies next to Shanna and grooms her, and saves her from exerting energy to do it herself. My cat thrives on Maggie’s doting.  Their relationship transforms and a great friendship is born.

“She’s not just your run-of-the-mill lab,” Tom offers. “There’s more to her.  She’s got the whole package. She’s a lover of people and other animals. She’s playful, exuberant, and so devoted to us, including the cat. She’s just a hell of a dog.”

After Shanna recovers, Maggie pokes and nibbles her into play and then jumps back from her quick-moving claws. The two new friends frolic daily with each other for nearly two years. They are often side-by-side outdoors, so I never worry about a fox or coyote grabbing Shanna.

In February, 1993 we lose Shanna just before her sixteenth birthday. What an empty space she leaves in our home and hearts. Maggie mourns her as much as we do. When we leave her home alone now, there is a new look on her face.  Sadness. She misses her buddy.

Three months pass. We aren’t ready for another cat. But Maggie is. Our neighbor, Madonna, is fostering a litter of kittens in her home for the local humane society. We choose the one that prances over and swats Madonna’s St. Bernard on the paw and runs. And so it is that one spicy little ball of fire comes home to be
Maggie’s kitty. It is love at first sight for both of them.

Maggie dotes upon Cinnamon—who is no bigger than the palm of my hand—as though she is her own puppy. It’s not unusual to find Maggie’s front legs up on our bed, wrapped around our kitten as they both sleep.

Maggie is clearly Cinnamon’s main connection. Our little orange Siamese-Tabby mix seldom finds her way into our bed, but sleeps cuddled against her best buddy. Once again, Maggie has a little pal to protect outdoors. They often explore side-by-side amidst the scrub oak and pine trees, a déjà vu of Maggie and Shanna.

As Cinnamon grows, she decides it’s her job to groom our shiny seventy-two pound black canine. Each day
Maggie tolerates cat claws hooked into her jowls while Cinnamon ceremoniously bathes eyelids, inner ears and eventually her entire head with purpose. Maggie returns the favor, and nibbles Cinnamon’s entire body.

In time, Maggie’s motherly guarding, licking, and cuddling gives way to nudging and nosing our little orange dart into play. Maggie stalks, then dashes in front of Cinnamon, and entices her with play bows. Quick moves to dodge the claws follow. Then Cinnamon struts coyly by our willing lab, with that “come and get me” look. She seems to signal, “Let’s play, Mags!” And play they do, for many happy years.

Our mischievous fluffy feline ignores her scratch posts and creates her own out of our dining room chairs. This is becoming a daily ritual and I’m not pleased.

“Cinnamon, no! Stop clawing the chairs!” I yelled. Then a curious thing happens. Maggie decides to help me out. The moment she sees or hears Cinnamon clawing the chairs, Maggie springs towards her and nips her in good-natured fashion. She succeeds in chasing Cinnamon away from the chairs. My sensitive best friend knows exactly what I want after she hears me reprimand Cinnamon a few times. Maggie takes the action that the situation demands. She takes over my job to stop Cinnamon from ruining our furniture.

I do talk to Maggie continually, as though I expect her to understand and respond to my wishes.

“Excuse me,” I say if she is in my way. She moves aside to let me pass.

When I open her food cabinet, she sticks her head in to search for goodies. Of course, I can’t get my hands into it with half of her body inside of it.

“Back up, Mags.” Backwards she steps.

Maggie loves to park in the middle of our tiny kitchen floor. She likes being close to the food source. But it makes cooking space a bit too cozy and tight.

“Move, Maggie.” She gets up, sulks into the dining room and positions herself where she can keep her eye on me.

Not until I stop and realize what she is doing does her level of responsiveness begin to awaken me to a bigger picture. It’s known that dogs can be trained to understand and respond to many words. But I didn’t teach Maggie these words. What can explain this? I begin to wonder if animals rise to the occasion and respond according to the potential their guardians’ see in them just as humans tend to perform according to what’s expected of them. Through Maggie I am learning that if I respectfully expect her to be intelligent and understand what I want, she will respond to that expectation. Is that true of all dogs?

I am the student here, realizing that many humans, including myself, may have underestimated what animals are capable of figuring out and tuning in to. A sixteen month old toddler may not be developmentally capable of saying the word shoe yet, but will point to his foot when you ask him where his shoes are. He knows
exactly what you mean. Is it possible that our dogs and other animals understand our words or the gist of our conversations but we think they don’t simply because they can’t speak? The more I see Maggie as an intelligent, emotional being, and the deeper our bond becomes, the more she seems to manifest these qualities.

When I dress for work, Maggie examines my skirt or slacks by flipping them up with her nose. She sulks away in disgust and flops onto the bedroom carpet with a great sigh, and rests her head on her paws. She avoids my eyes except for an occasional raised eyebrow. There she lay even as I walk out the door in obvious disappointment. My casual clothes evoke a very different response. After one sniff, the tail starts its swing. She pushes her nose deeper into my clothes as though drinking in the scent of us hanging out and playing together. My Black Beauty Queen prances, her eyes twinkle and she exudes excitement. Of course her nose informs her of my plans.

But an amazing thing happens when I have a short workday. I stand in the bathroom in my dress clothes and apply my make-up. I consider the pros and cons of taking Maggie and letting her wait for me in the car. Without my saying a word, she appears and looks up at me with expectant, hopeful eyes that say, “Can I? Can I please?”

Her relentless stare bores straight into my heart. If I’m leaning towards leaving her home but am still wavering, she follows me down the stairs to the front door. She senses my incongruence; and uses it to sway me. Her imploring expression is impossible to resist. Maggie usually wins.

On warm days I take Maggie swimming. During cooler weather we often hike together. The time we leave varies from day to day. When I merely start thinking about leaving for the lake or the trail, up she jumps from her nap and trots into the room I’m in. Ears perk up. Her expectant expression says, “Let’s go. I’m ready!”

How does Maggie know when I am planning to leave even before I engage in getting ready behaviors? This is far from an occasional occurrence. She demonstrates an apparent awareness of my intentions on a regular basis. I didn’t know this was possible. I can’t attribute it to training or habit. I don’t know how to explain our communication. We are on the same wavelength, but how?

J. Allen Boone speaks of a similar experience with Strongheart, the famous Hollywood dog who played leading roles in the movies, The Silent Call, Brawn of the North, The Love Master, and Jack London’s White Fang. Mr. Boone cared for Strongheart in his home when Strongheart’s owner was temporarily called away from California. One day he sat at his typewriter wondering if he should finish his writing job or take Strongheart for a walk in the hills for the day. He decided on the walk. He states, “Within a few seconds after this decision had been made, the back door was knocked violently open and in a rushed Strongheart in a frenzy of excitement. Skidding to where I was sitting he gave the back of one of my hands a brief dab with his tongue, raced into the bedroom and came out almost immediately with the old sweater I always wore on our outings. Then into the bedroom again and back with my blue jeans. Then came one of my walking boots.
Then its mate. Then my Irish walking stick. All of these things he carefully placed at my feet… How did the dog know that I had changed my plans and was going to take him on an outing? There had been no outward communication between us at all… In the supposed privacy of my own mind I had suddenly changed intention, and then he appeared on the scene knowing all about it."

As Strongheart did, Maggie seems to know my intentions and wishes. We landscape our front walkway. I just finish planting flower terraces bordering both sides of the new flagstone steps. Up to now Maggie has spent years cutting across what had been weeds to get up the small hill into the yard. Now this is my flower
garden. How am I ever going to keep her out of my flowers? Three narrow stairs between the planter and the terraces lead up to the yard.

I walk down the main steps with Maggie on my heels. I point to my tender new flowers on each side, “These are Mom’s flowers, Baby Girl. You need to stay out of them.” I lead her to the narrow rock steps and point. “This is where you can go, Mags.” She follows me up the steps. “Good girl.”

The hose spool blocks Maggie’s easy passage from the porch to the steps when I water my flowers. She sits on the porch patiently and watches me until I move the spool or she gingerly steps around it. Her paws land on flagstone, not dirt. Maggie honors my wish and my love of my flowers; she never steps in them. Is it the enormous amount of time we spend together, more time than I spend with any human that allows her inherent ability to read me to grow through the years?

There are reports of epileptics whose dogs alert them to an impending seizure. One theory is that these dogs can smell the chemical changes that occur in their guardians’ brains prior to the seizure. Do chemical changes occur in my body with each different thought and emotion that Maggie can smell? The field of psychoneuroimunology has demonstrated that our thoughts create chemicals in our bodies. Perhaps through their incredible sense of smell, our canine companions can detect our thoughts and intentions at a sopshisticated level that we have not considered before.

Likewise, the Santa Maria Times reported on a woman (Jill Meza) with diabetes and a heart arrhythmia. Her dog, Cinnamon, consistently alerted her prior to drops in blood sugar and her irregular heart rhythm by whining and pacing anxiously, unable to be consoled. The dog was later trained more specifically to push on Jill’s left leg prior to the occurrence of her heart problem, and on her right leg if her blood sugar was getting too low. When Jill was on a trip to Cuba without her dog, she dreamed that Cinnamon, was pushing persistently on her right leg and then going to sit by the refrigerator. Jill got up and checked her blood sugar, and it was dangerously low. Upon Jill’s return, the friend that kept Cinnamon reported that the dog did fine except for Tuesday night when she became very agitated and woke everyone up in the house. They were unable to comfort her. Cinnamon’s agitation coincided with Jill’s hypoglycemia attack in Cuba!iii Scent can’t account for her dog’s alerting behavior in this case. There seems to be an extra-sensory, telepathic connection at work here.

These invisible, unexplainable connections fascinate me. As do dreams. My intrigue with dreams began when I was in my twenties, after my grandmother (Nanny) died. We’d had a very close relationship. I didn’t get back to Indiana in time to say good-bye, so I remained unsettled and incomplete because I didn’t have closure with her. Four months later Nanny appeared to me in radiance in a dream—although it seemed more like a vision than any dream I’d ever had. We expressed our love for each other and said our goodbyes—without uttering a word—telepathically. My unrest and regret faded into peaceful acceptance after

Now I keep a dream journal. I pen them as soon as I wake up, or whatever fragments I remember. The more I record, the more I remember. Disillusioned with organized religion, spirituality is still a vital force in my life. I have come to believe dreams are communications from our souls, our individual pipelines to Divine
Intelligence, like guiding beacons that point to personal lessons we need to learn and grow from.

According to Jungian dream analysis the soul is thought to have the ability to transcend the physical world and travel in the realm of the collective unconscious in our dreams. The collective unconscious is where we come from, we return to it when we can and we ultimately return to it when we die. Dreams are an
exceptional source of information, inspiration and enlightenment that can lead to a fuller life. As you attempt to comprehend their messages, you may gain insight into your daily life and into your soul. “The unconscious mind may have the power to connect us to other levels, or dimensions, of ourselves and eventually to everyone and everything else, including Divinity.”

Most religions believe that humans are all connected spiritually. Native Americans extend that belief to all living things. Can any being communicate with us spirit to spirit through our dreams? Even our dogs, as Jill’s did?

Does an energetic link exist between Maggie’s soul and mine, and between Jill and her dog Cinnamon that is born out of the deep love and spiritual bond between us, and that allows for communication to pass between us telepathically?  The communication that occurs between Maggie and me and the others mentioned
above can’t be explained by the sensory world. If anyone had told me before my relationship with Maggie that animals have the potential for telepathic communication, I would have laughed. Not anymore. I now suspect our deep bonds with our animals foster telepathy between us.

Why do some dogs exhibit alerting abilities and others, like Maggie and Strongheart, appear to read our thoughts? Certain Eastern religions believe that some humans are advanced souls. Might the same be true of dogs and other animals?

Boone, Kinship With All Life, 35.
Chopra, Creating Health, 85-86.
Santa Maria Times
Ivin-Amar, Carl Gustav Jung on Dreams. From Dreams to Self Understanding.

© By Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life: A Story of Love