|Rip and Til playing, "Ring Around the Pony"|
Remembering a ride on the Island:
It's Cliffy's turn to run free and I've saddled Trudy up. We are enjoying a lively trot down the road toward the shore. Til the border collie has taken it upon himself to do some sort of ad-lib herding thing, which consists of blasting ahead at top speed, coming back and circling behind both horses.
Clifford is lagging behind to eat grass and then periodically galloping to catch up. On one trip back, Til sees him coming and hits the brakes. Most horses would slow down upon seeing a dog directly in their path. Clifford speeds up. He comes flying past Trudy, straight at the little dog.
My heart is in my throat, but I say nothing because Clifford is clearly trying to scare me again. Til sees him coming, does a quick double back, and runs for his life with Clifford pounding along behind him. Cliffy leaps into the air and flings his back feet high, clearly ecstatic that he has had the desired effect. Til runs off up the road and Clifford stops, looking after him, and lets out a huge snort. "Take that!" Then he looks back at me to make sure I've caught the whole thing.
We go out to the shore and hang out for a bit, so the horses can drink lake water, lick the rocks and eat some of the harsh tufted grass which they clearly love. Clifford has had no interest in dogs since his surrogate mother Reva died in 2001. But I see that Til is not the least bit afraid of either horse and they seem to have some sort of arrangement. On the way back, it is the same, with the dog circling and racing and Cliffy nibbling grass. Then Clifford trots past us with his tail up, and I start yelling. "Git him, Clifford! Get that bad dog!"
More than happy to oblige, Clifford takes off, chasing the white dog madly up the road, shooting out his front legs and arching his neck and shaking his head. He has that same old suspension, floating above ground like he did when he was two years old. It is all a game, and the whole group of us, Trudy, Ms. Rip, Cliffy and Til and me, whoop and holler and run and ride like mad, all the way back to camp.
It's just like old times. It seems we just needed the right influence.
|Dozing backstage at the Pet Expo|
There is no question that the two species communicate very clearly to one another.
I remember an incident at the 2011 Horse and Pet Expo in Secaucus New Jersey. A lady stopped me in the aisle. She had a big boxer dog straining on the leash. She was smiling. "Could he meet your horse?"
I was frazzled between shows, still had to take the dogs outside, fetch water and about a thousand other things. "Sure," I told her. "I'll have him out here shortly."
I ran back by a few minutes later and she was still waiting with this big snorting dog. I grinned at her but I was thinking, "Good grief, why is this such a big deal?"
I went backstage, got Clifford and led him over to his painting table. He was instantly mobbed as usual. He signed a couple of books but then, to my surprise, he singled out this big sloppy dog, walked over to him and went nose-to-nose. The two of them conferred for awhile with bobbing heads; the boxer with his grinning, gaping maw and Clifford with an interested spark. It was one of the sweetest things I've ever seen. Finally, the dog broke off and went back to his lady. She stood there with her eyes welling up. "Thank you."
As they left, I made a note to myself that I should always remember to be kind. I still don't know exactly what had happened there. I do know that when I stay out of the way, Clifford can do some wonderful things.