What I got for Valentine’s Day

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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The flowers are from Brian. The dog is a bit of a mystery. She appears to be a Border Collie, probably about a year old. I saw her through my office window slinking around our yard. Then she proceeded to head out front into the street, where she was weaving among the parked cars and looking very lost. I saw she had a collar on, so I went to the porch door and called her. She came running and I let her onto the porch. I inspected the collar. No tags. So I called animal control and no one had filed a missing dog report. They asked if I would mind holding onto her for a few days and giving the owner a chance to show up. I said ok…

That was Tuesday. It is now Friday. I had her scanned for a chip. Nothing. No one has called looking for her. She is sweet and mild-mannered and smart and sensitive. We are trying to decide whether or not to keep her. If we do, we have tentatively decided to call her Elsa.

We took her to the barn on Wednesday. We were hoping she and the barn dog, Chase, who is a Blue Heeler/Kelpie cross, would get on fabulously and romp and play a little. Except Elsa does not appear to know how to play. She gives you the most dismissive look if you do something like throw a stick or a ball or wiggle a dog toy at her. At the barn, first she was obsessed with trying to herd the barn’s Papillion, Amber. That was traumatic for everyone involved, so we confined Amber to the stall barn. Then Elsa switched her obsession to one of the newly installed barn cats. She would hardly give Chase the time of day. Finally we just tied her up on a longe line, and once we started riding she just watched us the whole time. She barked at us when we loped, which is definitely not ideal.

Fortunately the horses were totally unruffled by all the excitement. I had some trouble detaching my mind from dog concerns and focusing on Steen, but once we got going things were petty good. It had been 12 days since my last ride, so I was just looking for an easy spin. We did all our basic stuff and then Brian and I tried a new loping exercise. Basically we try to stay a half arena length apart and lope one lap, walk a lap, lope a lap, walk a lap, etc.. This worked really well. I need to work on three major things at the lope. First, picking it up without several steps of fast-trot. Second, keeping Steen relaxed and attentive while running. Third, achieving a quick stop from a lope. So this exercise worked on all three of these things without throwing too much excitement into the mix. I think it worked really well. We loped about five laps in each direction. Steen was tired, but honestly I think it was as much from the mental challenge as the physical.

We’ll probably spend a lot more time at the barn with the dog this weekend. Brian and I feel like we should at least keep her for a week in order to give the “having a dog” idea a fair chance. The biggest deciding factor may be how well she adjusts to the horses. I do like dogs, but horses are far more important to me and always will be. Still, Brian and I have been having the “what if we got a dog?” talk somewhat regularly lately. And truthfully, Elsa is really close to the exact dog we’d get if we were choosing.

But a dog is an expense and a responsibility. We won’t be able to come and go with the same freedom if we keep her. Our house, yard and neighborhood and not ideal for a dog-ownership perspective, but they could be worse. So we are both pretty torn on what to do. So far she is proving to be highly trainable and already inclined to bond with us. I’d feel bad handing her over to someone else at this point. But I also only want to keep her if we come to believe it really is the best thing for all of us.

Ride Time: 1:00
Horseback hours YTD: 8:25

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