Archie had been feeling fab. Finally over the Great Poop Dilemma, which eventually culminated in Evidence of a Virus and Upset Tummy (Arch is now consuming shot glasses of papaya juice daily), and Rain Rot on the Run; he'd been cheerful. He agreed to learn to canter on both leads, jump small fences with enthusiasm, and showed a deep and profound love for trotting poles. Autumn brought a respite from flies, and we took to the trails as Archie is as enthusiastic about exploring as I. We had a nice little routine of some ring work, a field gallop, and a wander in the woods. Life was sweet.
The dogs appeared a few weeks ago, barking and growling, yanking their tenuous tethers at the barn at the very end of the galloping field. They greeted us with hysteria whenever Archie and I showed up, and were tied far too closely to the cart path neighborhood horses and walkers take to reach the road. The dogs must have been seriously thwarted every day when they rushed to capture a passing horse, dog, deer or human being--so close yet, (snap goes the chain yanking them back) --so far.
I spoke briefly to Rose, the dogs' caretaker one sunny day when Archie, ears forward, tiptoed up to make canine peace. Like so many of us, (sigh) she was stuck with her son's dogs while he went elsewhere. These ones were too- big city dogs, just past puppyhood and wildly thrilled by creatures on four legs--especially Archie. I kept my eye on the medium sized, super muscled cross bred pit bull ---and hoped very much we never met him off leash.
Last week, Archie and I headed off for open space. Edging up past the field, blowing kisses at the pastured ponies who sashayed up to say howdy, we navigated the plowed field at walk and hit gallop as it opened into soft meadow. Blue sky, warm late fall sun, I asked Archie to go, go, go. When we looked up--we saw the crossbred pitbull joyfully running to meet us, his broken tie chain dragging behind him.
Things move in slow motion when crisis is on the horizon. Archie and I watched quitely as the dog approached, barking with the thrill of it. I asked Arch to stand, so that we wouldn't further excite the dog, and hoped very much that Rose would show up--soon. The dog circled Archie, ecstatically nipping his legs, trying to get past my dressage whip to his belly. I whalloped him a few unsympathetic times with the whip, but he ran to Archie's hind legs. Archie ran, too, until I asked him to stand--and he did, dancing to get away from his tormentor, but doing as I asked. I thought about getting off, but Archie was moving around so unpredictably, that seemed not such a good idea, and the dog was so mad with delight at this point, that I was pretty sure he would take to chomping on me, as well.
What to do? I had absolutely nothing to draw on from any store of What To Do When A Dog Attacks Your Horse inside my brain. My experience with horses and dogs is collies who gamble along behind the pony as we trot through fields, packs of hounds who heed fine notes of a huntsman's horn, and the occasional maddened dog who barks insanely as it drives by, safely contained in the front seat of a pickup.
It was clear that this dog had gone past nips to bites and more definitive action was needed. Archie suggested Plan A: a fast exit-now. If I let Arch run back to the barn, the dog would come too. I thought about this plan for moment, knowing there would be help there, but Archie might well be injured running through the deeply plowed fields and little kids having lessons, didn't need our drama. Archie accepted that logic, but was insistent that I come up with Plan B--now.
Plan B: Let Archie at him. Who knows how much a super smart quarter horse understands humans when we jabber, but when I backed Archie into the dog and said, " Archie-get him" --he did. Archie, who is very fond of dogs, and has never been known to do anything aggressive to anyone, other than laying his ears back at Heather's gray event horse when he gets overly annoying-- kicked that dog sky high into the next field, sending him kiyiying home.
We rode together to the end of the field, calmly assured the dog was gone. I hopped off, hugged my champion pony, and we walked home together. Archie was dead lame for several days, but hot soaks, some bute, betadine spray and a rabies booster, coupled with the enormous relief that although he'd suffered numerous bites, his tendons and ligaments were fine, if sore, meant he was up and at 'em within a week. The dog's owner was dubious about his dog ever doing something so aggressive (" But he's so good with people?"), but did own up to the hefty vet bill and a few benign visits from the dog warden.
Today when we went out to the galloping field, the dogs were waiting for us, already snapping at the ends of their tethers. Archie and I worked a few circles at a half hearted canter, then shuffled home--no gallop, no sense of flying down the field, no feeling of winter in our manes. Phooey. Rose says the dogs will be moving to Pennsylvania by spring. I allow as how that is none too soon, and she says it looks like a long winter. I nod, and say,look out Pennsylvania.