My View of the New Dog Management Plan

by Avalon, Suzanne’s horse

Seems like she hasn’t taken the dog out on the trail with us for a while now. Good dog, though. A long time ago, she used to yell at him occasionally when he’d chase a squirrel up a tree, until he heard her yelling and stopped. Now the dog stays right by us. Fortunately, he never makes that awful dog-noise either, and he doesn’t ever jump up on small people or other dogs. I actually kind of like having him along on a ride with me, because he’s so fearless he makes me realize that things like rocks and wind and cows aren’t all that scary…. and I know how much she likes having the dog come with us — he’s her friend too.

So what’s this? Last week she brushes all the winter’s mud out of my coat (aahhh!), tacks me up, tells me we were going to be part of an experiment — we’re going on a trail where dogs have to be leashed. She whistles to the dog to come with us, attaches a string to his collar, and gets on me! First thing the dog does is to step some of his feet through the string and then check out something on the far side of the trail — so the string goes right across my chest. Whew. I stop to let them figure things out. She gets us untangled, and then the dog decides he has to relieve himself. I almost drag him along in media res, but she realizes what’s happening and makes me stop until he’s finished. Then she gets off me and puts the little doggy pile in a little bag she’s brought along just for that purpose. We get under way again, trot a bit, and even a little canter (it’s a bit scary because it feels like the dog’s chasing me, and he’s really close! …good thing I’m pretty mellow). If this is the new rule, we’ll work it out, I tell her.

When it’s my turn to “go,” she gets off me again to kick the pile off the trail so nobody else has to step in it. Not part of the new rules, she tells me, just a courtesy to other trail users so we can all get along better.

Next time we all go out for a ride I see she’s got a different kind of leash for the dog — it’s kind of like a coiled spring in a can. This time he can range out a bit farther to do his thing, and then he comes right along with us again, out and back, out and back. Works really well until the dog goes on one side of a clump of tall grass and I go on the other — and SWOOSH! the clump snaps back toward me. Yikes! Then we go around a corner and meet a BOOGEY MAN!! and I spook, not thinking about the dog, and we get all turned around and tangled in the leash. I’m afraid I’ll step on the dog. Fortunately, she drops the whole spring thing until I can regain my composure — but then she has to get off and retrieve the contraption, which of course is still attached to the dog. We’ll work it out, I tell her.

Yesterday we all went out on a trail she calls a “voice and sight control” trail. The newfangled rule is she has to carry a leash for the dog at all times, so she puts my heavy cotton lead line around my neck and ties it back to my halter, to double as a leash for the dog in case she needs one. (The rest of the time the dog gets to tag along at his own pace. She trusts him to come immediately when she calls him).

This is better! After a while we get to a place where she and I both see a deer, but the dog hasn’t seen it yet. She gets off and attaches the clip end of the lead line to the dog, then gets back on me. The heavy lead line and clip near the dog’s neck hang down nicely, away from my legs but not so far it could get tangled up in my feet if somebody does something unexpected. She holds the thick part of the far end of the rope, which she says is easier to keep track of. As for me, I’m learning to neck rein, so she can hold the dog’s leash in one hand and the reins in the other hand. When we get past the deer (the dog never even sees it), she lets him off the leash again, tells him to “heel” and he stays right by us for the rest of the ride.

As I’ve said, we’ll work it out. Meanwhile, if anybody has any better ideas, please let me know. Thanks! —Avalon