Thursday, April 16, 2009

Little Barn Dog

(I keep bringing my camera with me to the Little Valley, and then forget to take it to the barn with me.  You'll just have to use your imagination here, ok?)

My mornings this week have been kind of rough, in other words, I'm feeling especially lazy.  I could just lie in bed all day and not really give a crap.  Except that eventually I'd have to get up and then the dog gives me that look.  You know the look I mean.  He's a pug... he gives me the expectant pug face and it's so pathetic I almost can't stand it.  Like, are we going now?  yes?  Walk time?  Now?  What are we doing?  Are we walking?  Awwww c'mon, pleeeeease?

Then I've got a problem.  I want to get out to the Little Valley and ride a horse.  The owner of those horses wants me to ride them to keep them tuned up for lessons.  She might need a few jobs done around the barn while she's in the house with her very active toddler son.  I need to get out there.  BUT I'm getting that look from my dog.  

On Tuesday, I shoved him into the truck and took him with me.  (I kinda feel sorry for him in the truck.  He can't see out the window without setting his front paws on the armrest, which he can't really do if we're moving.  I tried running the seat belt though his harness to keep him safe but he gets himself all twisted up which could be worse.  Eventually he lies down and rests his little puggy chin on my thigh.  Awww.)

He's been out at the Little Valley many times, but not so much in the winter.  He really isn't a winter dog.  He loves the snow but only as long as he keeps moving.  Standing around in the barn waiting for me to tack up isn't his thing.  A shivering pug is a very sad sight. 

With better weather this week, and glorious sunshine, he was happy.  I let him out of the truck and went to the house to say hi and get Seven the border collie.  That's been my routine since Seven joined the family in January.  That dog would rather be outside any day.  He's got six acres of forest and pasture and he's got to check every inch of it!

I must take a video some day... those two dogs running circles around each other is indescribable.  You have to see it to believe it.

Dobby and Seven go spiraling down the path to the barn, stopping to pee on things of course, and then Dobby comes into the barn with me.  Seven has to go herd stuff; it's what he does.  

My pug has consumed more horse hair this week than ever in his life.  You don't wanna know what else he's eaten.  Trust me, it was even more disgusting when it came up at 4 am.  Believe me, I yell at him pretty hard when he's eating something he shouldn't.  

I used to always tie him up in the barn, but he needs to learn how to stay out from under a horse's hooves.  It's not easy to teach him.  I'm afraid the most effective way would be for him to get hoofed but he might not live through that, so it's just more yelling.  He usually listens. 

The horses are pretty good.  I'm lucky.  

Once I've got my horse saddled, I put the leash on my dog and take him outside, where I tie him to a fence post at the end of the sand ring.  He's got a nice little corner where he's behind the railroad tie that marks the riding area, but still has room to sniff around and watch the other horses on the other side of the fence.  He's safely out of the way of hooves.  Plus, he's in the sunshine!

Then I bridle my horse and go out to the sand ring to ride.  The most important thing for Dobby is being able to see me.  I check on him when we ride past that corner, and he's a happy dude.  He can see me and relax, knowing that I'm not far away.

So, why do I tie him up if he'd likely stay near me?

I believe that freedom and the responsibilities that come with it have to be rationed out in chunks.  He used to be leashed everywhere out there but now I know I can trust him to follow me off leash. I used to always tie him up inside the barn, but now I know I can trust him to not get his skull crushed under a hoof.  When I first started letting him off leash, he'd run into the corrals, but now he not only comes back when called, he often won't even go in if I catch him at it and yell first.  

Soon, if we keep doing this, he'll earn his next bit of freedom.  He'll test me, I know.  But I'd like it if he could be trusted to hang around by the sand ring fence and not R-U-N-N-O-F-T.

Seven had to learn all those lessons as well, but at least he's a bigger dog... a pug blends into the brown dormant grass and dead leaves... he'd be easier to hit on the road if he ever got out...

Oh the stress.  

I'll tell you what though: any dog would love to be there.  Oh, the SMELLS!  I catch them both just lying there with their noses up in the air, sniffing joyfully.  I think my chunky little pug gets as much exercise racing from the truck to the barn as he does on a 40 minute walk in town.  Keep in mind that running down the hill to the barn is never a straight line.  

Seven has the run of the place now, and often comes leaping through a rail fence to come say hi to Dobby.  They roll around and pretend to be vicious for a few minutes before Seven has to go chase a shadow somewhere and Dobby goes back to guarding me.  You know that's what he's really doing, tied there in the corner, right?

It'd be nice if he could learn to be a good barn dog.  Like, stay out of the manure, stay out of the horse corrals, don't come into the sand ring when we're riding.  If the Border collie puppy can learn it, can the Pug learn too?  Susan and I keep debating whether they are super-intelligent, these two dogs, or seriously stupid.  It's really hard to tell.

As long as I'm not there when there's a lesson going on, I'll continue to bring my little dog with me. He seems to enjoy it.  

Besides, I'm really hoping this is good practice for the future, when he'll be a real farm dog!  **

**Okay, maybe not the traditional farm dog who follows the tractor and sleeps in the barn... once you let a pug sleep on your bed there's no going back!  Let's just say by "farm dog" I mean, "dog who lives on a farm and knows not to chase the livestock or go on the road and get killed."  I'd settle for that definition.  Oh and also important:  "Dog who knows he's not allowed to play in manure."  What with the sleeping on the bed and all.  Geez, this is going to be quite a project, getting him all farm dog converted...


natasha the exile on Mom Street said...

I love reading your vivid descriptions of a life so different from my own city-based-with-cats one.

Heidi the Hick said...

Oh thank you!

Actually, I love to write these things... makes me feel better about everything in general.

One Red Horse said...

My two dogs live to go the the ranch (and the beach). Lena, my aussie/kelpie is born to it and is fearless. Stella, my pittieX is such a ginormous softie. The horses frighten her but she loves finding and rolling in/consuming all disgusting things in their pasture. To be a pug and to be near a horse = courage.

mugwump said...

I have two small dogs. A rat terrier and a corgi/jack russel. They are both quite small. They have been barn dogs their entire life. They came to work with me every day until I quit training and started writing for the paper.
They learned the rules and were my best company in a pretty lonely job. They were also vermin murdering beasts. Voles, ground squirrels, rabbits,prairie dogs, mice, rats and pigeons. None were safe from my dangerous duo.
I can't say anymore, it just occurred to me what a great post this could be!
Now they are learning to be house dogs.It's going OK. Charlie, the rat is having a tougher time than Dinah. But she's 10 and likes the regular walks and a couch potato life.
Charlie just deals.He's a country boy at heart.

Heidi said...

your so totally making me drool for another dog!

JKB said...


But has he rolled in the horse poo yet?

Heidi the Hick said...

No, because I've been yelling at him when he goes near it! Seven rolled in it nonstop when he first got there and it was disgusting. All that long fur....

Although Dobby did take a run through the corral once at my mom's farm, and I ordered the kids to go into the house and start filling the tub. I carried that dog in at arm's length and dunked him right away. Then I disinfected the tub. I mean, that's no way to visit your family... "Hi mom, y'mind if my crappy dog lies on your couch thanks."


Heidi, you should get another dog- look at all the fun!!!

Mugwump, from what I've heard you've got two highly intelligent little hunters there! I think dogs like to have jobs. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what job the Pug should have, although he is a championship cuddler. He likes to think he's a vicious guard dog and I'm just going to let him think that!

One Red Horse- yeah, I'll tell the Pug he's courageous. Like I said, I honestly can't tell if he's a genius or... just foolish! I think it's funny how all the little dogs think they're huge and big dogs think they belong in our laps.