I’m the kind of person who has big dogs. I always have been, not that my dogs care. I have no excuse for my current condition. I was trying to remember the last time I picked out a dog. That’s the thing about making friends with rescuers. Dogs just arrive somehow. Sure, you said yes in the past, that’s how they got your contact information. After that first time, the dogs kinda show up wearing tags with your name and address on them. They have a certain glint in their eyes, and they need a safe place. Why repeat the rescue horror stories? They’re my dogs now. They don’t care.
In this photo, we’re in the conference room. We go there when we don’t want the Dude Rancher and his cats to hear us.
Back when I still thought I was a big dog person, I swore I’d never own a terrier. I just thought I was better suited to herding dogs. I’m not picking favorites; just saying they mirrored my idiosyncrasies and dysfunctions well. Perhaps I was being a bit over-controlling. Or maybe if you have dogs long enough, a terrier is inevitable. Lucky that didn’t happen here. Jack, on the right, managed to pass himself off to the rescue as a corgi-mix.
Preacher Man, on the left, has never missed a staff meeting once in the six and a half years he’s been here. You have to respect his commitment if not his level of consciousness. We have these meetings several times a day. Despite the long work hours, he was not promoted for merit. Attrition played a part. And he isn’t sleeping; just resting his eyes. Some of you who have known Preach for a while and are impressed that I’ve managed a photo when he isn’t yodeling his staccato bark, yipping and yapping the high lonesome notes, his shrieks ricocheting off the walls, audible in a thousand-mile radius. Preacher feels vindicated because I used to get lost all the time, often gone for weeks at a time, coming home smelling of strange horses and airport bars. But these last weeks of stay-at-home pandemic lockdown, he hasn’t let me out of his sight once. It’s a herding dog’s dream come true.
Preacher Man would be sounding the alarm now if he knew Jack was looking at me. Preach is the jealous type, so this counts as a very intimate moment for me and Jack. We’re cheating. That’s why his ears are folded up, but he isn’t air-licking yet, so we have another five seconds to gaze into each other’s eyes before he explodes, bouncing up and down in the air, and scaring Preacher into a panic-bark fit. I sit back, not quite smiling, not exactly comfortable, but knowing it’ll be worse in a minute. Understanding calming signals means you can see the meltdown coming, like cows flying in a tornado. Don’t even try to outrun it.
On the top of the list of things my dogs don’t care about: Anything that happens past the mailbox. No pesky news about viruses or elections, which contribute to him being able to nap at least twelve hours a day. Horses are wrecks because they sleep less than three hours a day, says the dog who sleeps the sweet sleep of an over-fed predator. Preacher doesn’t vote, he thinks insomnia is a conspiracy theory, and most of all, he doesn’t care about horses. Especially yours. Image that.
The dogs don’t know that I’m supposed to be giving horse clinics instead of canceling flights. The suitcases should be lurking by the door instead of being stashed in the closet. They pride their herding skills for this improvement and then sleep some more. City dogs and farm dogs alike think their human not going to work looks like a job promotion. Dogs do not care about money. But in a short-sighted and well-meaning way.
The only problem horse people have with dogs is that they fall asleep when we drone on about our horses. Dogs sleep through our google searches for ulcer remedies. Dogs are no help with questions about calming signals and hoof care. Dogs are willing to help with training a canter depart, but they don’t do it the way that allows for a relaxed poll. We care about working with our horses, not that the dogs care.
I’m giving lessons and teaching online courses now. How did I end up with a desk job? Luckily, horses like technology more than we do. They think social distancing and working in their home arena is wonderful. I can tell it works because the horses give me the usual messages, right through the camera. So, I try to corral the technology and then convince horse people it’s workable. I spend hours on lesson plans for online courses while Preacher sleeps under my office chair. I roll over him a few times an hour. He looks at me disparagingly, waiting for an apology. He will not move. He doesn’t care. Besides, attention is attention and he plans on staying between me and the luggage.
Go figure. I’ve become an equine executive in Zoom meetings. My computer screen looks like the old Hollywood Squares show; people comfortable in their homes, cats lounging in the background. Classes end up being international, which means among other things, someone is always sipping wine while talking about training issues. Meetings screech to a halt if anyone’s dog has something to say. I worry about my professionalism, whether the Dude Rancher will flush the toilet, or if people can hear my dog’s toenails clicking a play bow warning, just before they get the zoomies. Every day is Take Your Dog to Work Day now.
You could start to wonder, dare I say it, if maybe you’re spending a little too much time with your dogs? Or maybe you’re just lonely for something beyond your mailbox? Clinics and events are canceled; it’s time to try something new. The Barn School will offer a new range of courses on July 1st, open to the public. Dogs allowed.
In the meantime, you should join The Barn, our online group. There are benefits and discounts. The people there are just like you. We have too many horses, some un-rideable. We are old-timers and newbies. We train affirmatively with a profound concern for the horse’s mental and physical welfare. We speak the language of Calming Signals. Sometimes we dance all by ourselves in the horse pen. Naysayers and dogs might think we’re crazy. We’re proud to admit we care too much for horses. Joining us is giving yourself a circle of like-minded friends who share the passion for horses. Joining The Barn is actively creating a better world for horses.
And I know this for a fact. Your dog won’t care.
Anna Blake for Relaxed & Forward
Want more? Visit annablake.com to see our class schedule, online courses available on a revolving basis on Calming Signals, Affirmative Training, and More. You can book a live consultation or lesson, subscribe for email delivery of this blog, or ask a question about the art and science of working with horses. Join us in The Barn, our online training group with video sharing, audio blogs, live chats with Anna, and so much more.