But I can’t say the same for Spur. Although, to be fair, she wasn’t so much dragged by the donkeys as she was carried away by her genetics.
Our neighbors have a cute, noisy little burro, who reminds us all of his little presence by bellowing out his bray (which sounds like something dying). We’ve all gotten used to him, though, including the horses, who were really worked up by their Equidae cousin at first. They apparently made friends with him across the fence when they were turned out. He managed to houdini his way onto our property a few months ago on a day when my horses were in the barn, and Mom and my brother had pretty easily corralled him in our roundpen until his owners could come for him later that day. (We had the opportunity to meet them shortly after they moved in when a little trash fire had run amok and made a break for their property line. They’re nice folks.)
This afternoon, Spur was in the house (so that our other two dogs would stay out of trouble). She started barking her plaintiff, “Let me out!” bark–the one that means something exciting is going on outside. Since the horses were turned out, I decided to check it out myself, and to my surprise I found my three horses running around excitedly, chasing a donkey. And as amusing as that was to watch, I thought that they were all likely to injure themselves if allowed to persist. You see, it’s a known truth in the world that the faster a horse’s feet move, the slower its brain functions, or maybe it’s just that their brains can only operate at one speed and therefore can’t always keep up with their feet; either way, it’s trouble. And it seems a fair assumption that donkeys are the same way.
Outfitted in sunglasses, steel-toed boots, and a dog leash (because I didn’t want to walk all the way to the barn for horse tools), I headed out to catch my horses and put them in their stalls before any emergency vet trips became necessary. I left Spur in the yard for this excursion because I foresaw that her particular brand of helping wouldn’t actually be helpful today. By this time, the horses had lost interest in their little friends, and I had no trouble getting them into the barn.
[By the way, that’s friends, plural. That’s right. Two donkeys were on our property. They seemed to be multiplying rapidly. Our neighbor, when they came to get their burro, explained that she had mentioned the little jack to a client of hers, who had gushed that she also had a miniature donkey and she should bring it out to meet theirs. Despite objections, she had done just that, dropping her (actually full-sized) jenny off while our neighbors were away at work. Who does that? I am fairly certain that, were there any such thing as country sitcoms, this day would worth its weight in gold.]
With the horses safely tucked away, we let Spur out of the backyard, feeling like the crisis had passed. It was only moments until the donkeys came running by and Spur and Sugar (my mom’s puppy) decided to chase them. The two dogs pretty much egged each other on, Spur the cattle dog nipping at heels and playing “Pull the Tail on the Donkey,” and Sugar the bird dog (who is currently in an Elizabethan collar because of a stitched leg wound) bounding behind, her hood comically flopping about as she barked a little too shrilly to be taken seriously but clearly confident in her own herding abilities nonetheless. (Regrettably, my iPhone was in the house, so we will not be the next winner on America’s Funniest Home Videos.)
Of course, it wasn’t funny at the time. Visions of wrecked barbed wire fences and torn donkey flesh danced in my head alongside stray kicks to the dogs’ heads or ribs. The chase went on for awhile, in spite of our shouted and unheeded commands. Finally, I was able to throw a small branch close enough to Spur’s face to snap her out of herding mode. As soon as she looked toward me, I told her to sit and stay, which she did.
I clipped the leash I still had in my hand onto her collar and as we started walking toward the house, she stopped to lick her right hind leg, up near where it connects to her body. At first I thought it was cactus, but when she did it again, I reached down to feel the spot and found a strange spot that seemed almost like it could be a separation in the bone. So I carried her back to the house, at least most of the way, and thanked my lucky stars that she turned out to be a small, 30-pound heeler and not a mammoth mutant like our Australian Shepherd is (60 lbs!).
She was willing to put a little weight on the leg, but very gingerly, and she didn’t cry any but was clearly sensitive to the touch. My Uncle Jerry, our vet, was in Bangs all day doing a Rabies clinic, so we had to wait until he got back to town for our emergency visit. Well, at least it wasn’t one of the horses–emergency trips with them involve hitching up a trailer, convincing a 1,000 lb animal to get into said trailer when it would really rather not, driving to Buffalo Gap to see our horse vet, and a considerably larger financial investment.
When we did go in, we took a few x-rays that came back clean and Jerry determined that the bump we were feeling was a knot in the muscle, and that she had likely torn or strained a tendon or ligament, causing a hematoma (hence, the bump). He prescribed some pain meds and a couple of weeks’ confinement. That’ll be fun for an active, intelligent, high-energy dog. Even more fun for her human caretakers. (Note the irony dripping from those statements.)
Today, Spur’s genetics overruled her obedience. It’s been a long time since she’s gotten carried away like that, and the consequences this time are more severe than simply being disciplined for her inattentiveness. Next time she feels the need to chase strange livestock around our property, I’ll try to patiently remind her of the moral of our donkey tale:
Chasing donkeys is all fun and games until someone tears a ligament.