Maggie recently celebrated her first birthday, but people often assume that she is much older. While most 1-year-olds will work themselves in a lather every time someone tosses a ball, Maggie is restrained in her enthusiasms (except when it comes to food) and quiet in her affections. An outsider might mistake her reserve for snobbery, but Maggie’s careful composure masks the fact that she is terribly shy—a challenge trainers have been working on. They say that her confidence has improved considerably.
“When Maggie started here, she was extremely timid,” her trainer noted. “Those insecurities can make life hard for a dog.”
The manager nodded happily. “That’s my favorite part of working here,” he said. “Being able to see dogs like that break out of their shells.”
At a little after noon, Maggie had a midday walk, giving us the opportunity for a more personal interview. She was alert but dignified as she came into the lobby with her walker, Steve McNalley.
“I like the one-on-one walks the most,” he said as we sauntered toward the park. He stopped to let Maggie sniff at a tree pit. “Some people get annoyed with a dog sniffing, but to them it’s like telegraphing messages. They think the dog wants to get to the park, but this is often their favorite part of the walk.”
Maggie is most in her element when walking on West End Avenue—both Bebe and Mr. McNalley say that she is “adored” in the neighborhood, partly owing to her unique coloring. Maggie has a white body with a splattering of black spots that would look more appropriate on a Dalmatian. Technically, this type of marking is called piebald, a recessive trait in dachshunds. Practically, this means that Maggie is a rare sight on the sidewalks and is fawned over accordingly. She is often stopped by German tourists who ask to take her picture.
Of course, she also loves the Park, but as we entered the greensward she seemed distracted. She strolled, sniffed a patch clover somewhat mechanically, then coming to a sunny expanse of grass sat down for a moment, regarding the scene calmly.
Under the influence of the warm sun and the gentle breeze, something seemed to loosen inside of her and she rolled over onto her back and gave herself over to several minutes of delighted wriggling. She finally righted herself and at Mr. McNalley’s urging, they chased a squirrel together. But Maggie’s heart wasn’t in it and as soon as the squirrel went up a tree, she gave up the charade.
One may be under the impression that Maggie lives a charmed life. And yet it is not without its difficulties. Chief among them is grooming. Lifted onto the metal table in Spot’s salon, Maggie’s confidence abandoned her and she began to shake. She shook as her nails were clipped. She shook as her ears were cleaned, and she shook as her short hair was lathered with hypoallergenic oatmeal shampoo. And of course she shook as her anal glands were expressed (one of the groomer’s less savory tasks). The quivering continued as Maggie’s short hair was blow-dried and brushed, but, by the time her dried fur started whirling in the air, Maggie seemed to sense that the end was near.
When it was finally over, Maggie was left to collect herself and wait for Bebe’s arrival, which, due to traffic delays, came slightly later than expected. But when Maggie saw Bebe standing in the lobby, she nearly tripped over her leash running to her. Bebe laughed, and Maggie let out an excited bark that caused at least two staff members to turn in alarm. Bebe said Maggie’s name in a stern tone that carried with it an undertone of indulgent delight. Maggie took advantage of the implied permissiveness to push her luck a bit more, barking again and straining toward the bowl of beef snacks.
As for Maggie’s evening plans, Bebe thought that it would most likely be a quiet night at home.
“She’s tired, so we’ll just chill,” she said. “There are some neighborhood dogs we might play with, but most likely we’ll just go straight home.”