If you cannot train your dog to stay on your property no matter what, find a way to confine it. Period. Because if you don't, someone could get killed. On Saturday, that someone could have been me. And I do not appreciate it.
Take responsiblity before irresponsibility takes a life.
And everybody said Amen,
Consolation and I had a nice ride on Saturday. It was sunny out. Light breeze. Cheerful farm workers waving from the fields as we trotted by. Hawks balanced like tight-rope walkers on threads of sky. Perfect.
Early in the ride, we had a little scare when a merle mixed breed ran across the road to bark at us. Consolation whirled and ran a few strides, but a deep seat, calm voice, and tug on the reins brought her back under control.
We turned around and continued down the road. The dog, which had retreated across its yard, came at us again. This time, Consolation stood her ground while I ordered it it back. It stopped. That dog got a good scare off me when it was a puppy, and it knows my voice. We carried on.
Two miles later, our geriatric friend the laborador lumbered along the edge of his lawn, woofing warning. "It's just us again, Black Dog," I called. His cloudy eyes blinked and tail wagged. We carried on.
Half a mile up the road, the rottweiler stud hit the wall of his chain-link kennel with the force of a charging bull, all bared fangs and hackles with spiked collar between. Consolation flinched, but she's nearly convinced by now that this predator can't reach her. We carried on.
At the end of our sixth mile, we passed the farm where lives the dog I hate most: a Border Collie with irresponsible owners. This dog isn't the run-bark-and-back-off sort. He's a herder, and not a polite one. He can't be yelled down. Even Aaruba, who is very responsive to me and brave about dogs, has a hard time facing up to him because he's so quick and focused on getting around to a horse's hind end.
Fortunately, the whole front side of the farm is free of concealing bushes, so I typically have time to see the collie coming and dismount. Normally, there follows a period of trying to keep my horse calm and handwalk her out of range while the dog's owner limps out, red-faced with impotent shouting, to retrieve his beast. We've talked before, that owner and I, about the danger his dog poses to me, my horse, and itself. But no fence has been erected, no stake and chain installed.
On Saturday, I was pleased that the collie didn't seem to be home. Consolation and I walked briskly past and were half a field away when I pulled her off the road to let a couple large, white utility trucks roar by. Sane as Consolation normally is about traffic, I was surprised when she spooked as the second truck passed. She leaped forward, and I shifted again into calming mode. Molassas voice, "Easy-easy, Lady, I've got you." Deep seat, low reins.
But this time, she didn't stop. She sped up. Her head and back rose. Not the truck, then. Something else. That dog.
Sure enough, I glanced back to see a flash of black and white snapping around Consolation's near flank. It must have nearly been hit by the truck in its haste to ambush us.
Great. Now what? The three of us were flying across a plowed field -- far too fast to attempt a single-rein-stop -- at an angle that would force us either over a 12-foot dropoff into the irrigation canal or out onto the road. I tried circling left, away from danger, but the dog was on that side and Consolation wouldn't turn.
I could, of course, try to ride it out in the hope the collie would stop before we hit the edge of the field...but I know that dog. He doesn't stop.
So, Plan B. B as in Bail and try to keep hold of the rein. Not ideal, but better than the alternative. I was just preparing to act when Consolation rendered my efforts unnecessary. She let loose a twisting, double-barrel kick that unseated me and would have sent that dog to the seventh circle of hell, had she connected.
It's hard to say what happened next. I don't remember falling, but the landing is pretty clear. I came down on Consolation's off side, directly on my back with my right leg still in the stirrup. My head slammed down into the back of my helmet. My first thought was, thank God for that helmet. I'm okay. And then, where's Consolation?
I scrambled to my feet. Oh, [insert expletive of choice]! Leg pain. Bad.
On the bright side, my fall seemed to have scared the collie off. Consolation stood forty feet away, facing me, her great black eyes full of questions...and trust. She wanted her leader. After all the bonding issues we've had, it was almost worth the tumble to see that face looking back at me.
She stood calmly while I retrieved her and checked her over. No apparent damage. I wasn't so lucky. As I led her back toward the road and the adreneline drained away, my leg demanded an increasing amount of attention. So, I ignored the imbecilic owner's belated attempt to recall his dog. He was a quarter mile away, in the wrong direction. I needed to get myself and my horse home.
Back on the road, I mounted gingerly. Half a mile's ride was enough. The damage to my leg seemed to be concentrated on the lower, rear inside of my right thigh. Already swelling, it made sitting astride both uncomfortable and unsafe. I dismounted, but walking wasn't much better. Cell phone time.
I called Travis. No answer. Called again. Left a message: "I'm okay, but I need you to call me right away." Walked on. Called a friend who lives nearby. He got in his truck and headed my way.
Meanwhile, I tried riding again but got off when swirls of distortion began swimming like soap bubbles across my vision. So I gimped another mile, using Milady's neck as a crutch, before help arrived.
Being only on more mile from home, I sent my friend to fetch Travis. He led Consolation the rest of the way and put her up while I hitched a ride in the truck and headed straight for the ice and ibuprofen. My vision had cleared and I experienced no further symptoms of head injury, so I decided against a trip to the ER.
By Sunday morning, my head was back to normal (well, as normal as it ever was -- which is to say, not very), but my leg was clearly not. I haven't figured out yet how much damage is done. I'm hoping it's just a massive bruise rather than a stretched or torn hamstring. My knee may or may not be affected. We'll see.
Either way, it could have been worse. Had those trucks not come along to boost us off the shoulder, Consolation and I would likely have been chased down the road instead of across a field. The same fall on pavement instead of freshly-plowed soil could have been fatal -- even with a helmet. It could also have broken any number of bones from hip to shoulder and given me one hell of a road rash. We could have been struck by a car. We could have been killed.
Travis is all for shooting the dog.
Me? I'd rather set my sights on the owner.
Shot in the Dark: Victory
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