Here’s the slightly longer version:
I’ve bitched before about off-leash dogs. Wyvern Oaks back to a greenbelt where we often go trail riding, or ride to a few grassy “arena” areas where we can work. We’ve encountered off-leash dogs before, and we have a pretty standard protocol – we keep the horses standing still, facing the dogs, ask the owner to get their dog, and if it escalates, yell “NO BAD DOG” at the dog until the owner can contain the dog. Two times we didn’t see the dogs coming and our horses were chased; both times we all managed to stay on despite some rather harrowing moments.
Last night, Paddy and I were walking home, and met up with a nice guy who told me his dog was up ahead. I pulled Paddy off to the side of the trail and faced the direction the guy had indicated. Sure enough, his dog came bouncing down the trail, and he called the dog to him. The dog started heading toward its owner… and then it noticed Paddy.
Then next 30 seconds are very much a blur. The dog approached, growled, and began to bark. I asked the guy to call off his dog, and to his credit, he tried. As the dog got closer and more serious about Paddy, I did my usual “NO BAD DOG” yelling at the dog. At this point the dog began circling us, trying to get behind Paddy. Dogs are what’s known as “brave cowards” and will often only go after a horse from behind, so I circled Paddy to keep him facing the dog. The dog got closer, and the barking and growling turned from half-hearted into full-on serious. Paddy kept circling, facing the dog. I want to say we made 4 or 5 complete circles… enough so that I started to wonder WTF the damn dog owner was doing, because the dog wasn’t playing any more. The dog finally managed to dart behind Paddy and went for his hind legs, mouth wide, teeth bared. Paddy swung his butt around at the last moment and we managed to face the dog again, and he lunged for Paddy’s nose. At this point I think I yelled something pretty rude to the dog owner (probably “Get your fucking dog off my horse!”) while still trying to maneuver poor Paddy, who at this point had had more than enough. Shortly after this, the guy got his hands on his dog, and pinned him to the ground.
The guy, to his credit, apologized profusely. He asked if we were OK – I couldn’t see any blood on Paddy, and I didn’t think the dog had made contact, so I said we were. Poor Paddy was trembling and wanted very much to leave the scene, and I scratched his withers and told him what an awesome amazing horse he was and what a good boy he was. Eventually the guy put a leash on his dog and headed off in the other direction, and we went home where I stuffed Paddy full of cookies and called the police to report the incident (interestingly enough, the officer who responded knew the dog and owner from the local dog park – said the guy was really nice and the dog was super well trained).
We’re dog owners, and I totally understand wanting to allow your dog to run free and get some energy out. But I am also a big fan of leashes and dog parks and exercising your dog properly and safely. Blogland knows how dangerous off-leash dogs are to horses – one of our own lost her heart horse all too soon. I also know I’m preaching to the choir here, so here’s what I’d like to ask each of you to do. If you have friends who allow their dogs off leash in a public area (not a dog park), ask them to reconsider. Tell them what can happen. It doesn’t have to be about dogs vs. horses, it could be a big dog vs. a smaller dog, dog vs. children, or elderly individual, whatever. Help get the message out. I want to believe that most dog owners are responsible people, they just don’t think that THEIR dog could possibly do that. But any dog can, given the right circumstances.
Be careful out there, y’all. Not every horse is like Paddy, who kept me safe.
He deserves ALL THE COOKIES. Yes he does.