I’ve never met a barn dog I didn’t like.
No, not the weekend warrior type that is never let off-leash and barks while you’re trying to jump a tricky combination, but rather the dirty, stinky, muddy-pawed happy as a pig in… well, you know what… dog that roams the barn as if he owns the place.
Because let’s be honest – he does.
I have one of these fabulous canines, and his name is Bones. He’s a wonderful co-pilot that has been with me through so many ups and downs over the past 7+ years. He goes to horse shows, waits in the car while I ride, and begs everyone he meets for a quick pet and perhaps a shared carrot. He refuses to wear a coat in the winter and he drinks off the wash stall floor in the summer. He isn’t sure that he adores his current horse as much as he loved his last one, but he’s still more than happy to sit under the grain bucket at dinner time and clean up any scraps. But just having him around, gleefully greeting people with a paw print on their clean breeches, makes me smile.
He’s the unsung hero in my life.
I’m sure you all know a good barn dog when you see one. Here are some of the more important traits I believe they possess —
A good barn dog knows which horse is yours and which one kicks when you run behind it.
A good barn dog knows exactly what you mean when you say, “ready to go to the barn?” and jumps eagerly into your dirty hair-filled car. A car so smelly and filled with horse laundry that you would be embarrassed to give normal people a ride home – if you cared what they thought!
A good barn dog never lets you leave for a work meeting without some reminder – via coating of fur – that you need to hurry home to pick him up so you can both do something more fun like go to the barn.
A good barn dog is always covered in dirt but you don’t mind because he runs up to you smiling while showing off his latest treasure, a piece of hoof the farrier left behind.
A good barn dog sometimes chases the barn cats, but doesn’t really care when he gets yelled at – it was all for show anyway.
A good barn dog eats only the choicest manure and then does not throw up in the car or on your bed later that night.
A good barn dog disappears the minute you get to a horse show, runs wild with a Tasmanian devil cloud pack of other barn dogs all week long, and then magically reappears when it time for a meal or to go home.
With that, a good barn dog knows that you really really cannot bark when being snuck into a hotel that does not allow dogs during a horse show and happily hides in your saddle bag as you drag it through the lobby in plain sight.
A smelly barn dog jumps into bed with you at night, crawling all over your white duvet cover, and you lift the blanket while he dives under the covers for a good night’s sleep. Being in charge at the barn is hard work!
A good barn dog has as many personalities as Cybil – he will growl and bark like a maniac when you’re trying to enjoy a walk through the local city park but the moment you let him loose with a herd of other barn dogs he’s Prince Charming.
A savvy barn dog can steal a hot dog right out of your hand and make you think it was your fault.
A good barn dog listens to you complain about a bad ride or gush about a great ride on your drive home. He lays quietly when you had a bad show and pushes his nose out the window when you sing at the top of your lungs after winning the Derby.
A fashionable barn dog has a Baker blanket, a Weatherbeeta fleece and any number of rain sheets, winter coats, collars and sweaters that match his equine companion’s wardrobe.
A good barn dog has nasty breath. Enough said.
Having a good barn dog means that your tack trunk also contains poop bags, an extra leash and probably his collar since he just got hosed down after rolling in the manure pile.
And for me, a great barn dog loves a leisurely Sunday trail ride with your other four legged bestie.
I cannot imagine life without my barn dog, or barn dogs in general. They can be a nuisance, especially to non-horse people who don’t understand why they are so dirty all the time. But they are the happiest, healthiest and most loved dogs on the planet. A barn without barn dogs is just… boring!
So the next time you are at the barn, or a horse show, hug a barn dog. Give him an extra carrot. Yell at him for sneaking a “snack” out of a stall. Take him for a gallop around the field. Show your favorite barn dog some appreciation, please.
Because if it weren’t for barn dogs we’d need to pay our therapists a whole lot more!