Sunday, August 5, 2012

Something Nasty

                                                by Laura Crum

            I mentioned in my last post that I had one negative experience on our otherwise delightful mountain camping trip with our horses. I don’t want to emphasize this experience too much, because it was maybe two yucky minutes among many days of good times. But…I do think this encounter merits a blog post, if only so that those who read it can share their thoughts on what I might have done differently.
            We spent most of our vacation time riding in the Glass Mountains, where we met no other folks. But on one day we hauled our horses to a Sierra trailhead, in order to ride in to a mountain lake. For a description and photos of this ride, see my last post “Ride the High Country.” We arrived at the trail head at 8:30 in the morning, so no people were about as we started down the trail. But I could see the fresh tracks of a mountain bike in the trail dust, and assumed we’d eventually meet the biker.
            This didn’t worry me overmuch, as our horses are not scared of bikes. I just hoped that we’d meet the bike in a convenient spot and that it wouldn’t be going too fast. My first warning that the bike was ahead came when a large white dog (standard poodle type) came around a corner and barked at my horse. Sunny spooked slightly (merely because he was startled), I said whoa and pulled him up, and the mountain bike appeared right behind the dog. Fortunately the trail was level, there was plenty of room and the bike, warned by the dog, wasn’t moving fast. The mountain biker called his dog, laid his bike down by the side of the trail, gave me what I could only describe as a shame-faced look, and said, “Sorry.” (I later found out that mountain bikes were not permitted on this trail.)
            I smiled, said, “Don’t worry, they’re not scared of bikes or dogs”, wished him a good day, and rode on. No problem.
            We never saw another soul after that, all the way to the lake and at the lake. It was on the way back that the second encounter occurred.
            The photo below was taken less than a minute before another dog ran barking up to my horse.

            This dog was large and black and much more aggressive appearing than the white dog. Again, I halted my horse and waited for a hiker to appear, or to call the dog. But nothing happened. The dog barked energetically at Sunny, who wasn’t bothered. Maybe thirty seconds went by. I didn’t want to ride on and give the dog a chance to attack from the rear, or give it a chance to run up to my son’s horse. None of our horses are scared of barking dogs, and I wasn’t scared of this one, but it just makes sense to be careful. Also, to be frank, I was a little annoyed at whatever hiker had let his/her dog run ahead and bark at strangers and wasn’t doing anything about it. So I yelled (loudly), “Call your dog!”
            And sure enough, someone not too far ahead (but out of my sight) whistled for the dog. They must have heard the dog barking, mind you, but did not call it until I shouted.
            I rode on and coming around the next bend, saw a youngish, fit-looking guy with an older dog and the dog who had run up on us. The guy had the dogs off to the side of the trail and was busy telling them what good dogs they were.
            I was torn. Part of me wanted to tell this guy that he shouldn’t let his dog run up and bark at other parties like that. If our horses had been spooky, someone could have gotten hurt. Its certainly happened before—though not to me. But the other part of me said, oh, just keep quiet. It’s a nice day, nobody was bothered, let it go.
            I listened to the second voice, and kept my mouth shut. When I rode past the guy and his dogs, I kind of expected him to say “sorry,” as the mountain biker had done, but he didn’t, just kept talking to his dogs. I was still mildly miffed at his trail etiquette (or lack thereof), so I didn’t greet him as I normally would do. I just nodded (I think civilly) and rode quietly by. My son and Wally did the same. It wasn’t until all three of us were completely past him and headed down the trail that the guy hollered something.
            I couldn’t understand him, so I pulled my horse up and called “What?” (I am at least fifty feet from the guy by this point.)
            The guy yells back, “Say please.”
            I am completely puzzled, but I can hear an aggressive tone in his voice.
            “What do you mean?” I yell back.
            “Next time, say Please call your dog.”
            It takes me a second to process this. Mister rude hiker is telling me he thinks I was rude to him. And at this I get a touch (OK more than a touch) annoyed.
            “You were totally in the wrong,” I respond. “Your dog could have got us hurt or killed. Don’t let him run up and bark at strangers next time.”
            At this, the guy comes unglued and starts screaming at me. How I need to share the trail, and maybe I should get my fat ass off the horse and walk…etc.
            Wally, who is riding last and thus is closest to the screaming hiker, wheels his horse around and rides back to him. Oh oh, I think. Wally, at 79 years old, has never shied off from conflict. He’s a tough old bird. But the hiker is young and fit.
            Wally says something to the hiker. I can’t hear it. Now the hiker is yelling at Wally. (Wally later tells me that he said, “Is that dog dangerous?” The hiker replied—very loud and angry—that of course the dog wasn’t dangerous. Wally then said, “We had no way of knowing that. If I was riding first and I’d had a gun, I would have shot him.” At this, more angry yelling came from the hiker.)
            I turned my horse and trotted back to back Wally up, though I’m not sure what my game plan was. The hiker immediately began telling me to get my fat ass off the horse. Wally and I looked at each other and both said the same thing. “Lets go.”
            I rode away with my middle finger raised and the guy screaming after us, as I said loudly and clearly “You are the rudest hiker I have ever met.” Quite true.
            This encounter, as you might imagine, left a very bad taste in my mouth. My son said it almost ruined his day. “Why did the guy act like that?” he said.
            “Probably because he didn’t like horses on the trail,” was the best reply I could come up with. But inwardly I felt stymied. I hike with my dogs all the time. I’m very careful that they don’t run up and bark at strangers, whether the others are on foot or on horseback (and my dogs are not all scary looking, as this dog definitely was). But if my dogs had barked at someone, and that someone had hollered at me to call my dog, the first words out of my mouth would have been, “I’m sorry.” If this guy had said sorry, I’d have responded just as I did to the mountain bike guy. But how in the world this hiker managed to decide that WE were somehow in the wrong boggled my mind. I was supposed to ask him “nicely” to call off his aggressively barking dog? For all he knew (he couldn’t see me), I had been coping with a leaping, plunging horse that was terrified of the dog.
            It was a very frustrating and upsetting experience, so now I want to put it out there to the rest of you. What should I have done differently (if anything)? For those who would say not to engage or argue with him, I might agree, but I didn’t really know what he was saying to me to begin with, and by the time I’d sorted it out, we were already engaging, so to speak. And yes, I’m not one to let others walk on me. If you treat me poorly, I am going to stand up for my point of view. I don’t know if this is a strength or a weakness.
            Either way, I’m open to hearing how the rest of you would have handled this. For me, I spent the next half hour feeling as if I’d stepped on something nasty and it was stuck to the bottom of my shoe. After that I was able to let it go. But the whole thing made my son sad, and that made me sad.
 Some people are just rude, and we have to accept this. We can’t always change them. On the other hand, we don’t have to lie down like doormats to be walked on by the overly aggressive, rude folks of this world—or for that matter, the covertly malicious folks. (This is also what I told my son.) I don’t think I did anything wrong here, but I wish I knew a way to change the above story so that it wasn’t so ugly. Any thoughts?

PS—For those who would like to read something lighter and more playful, here is my husband’s post on his “Begonias in the Mist” blog, talking about names for fog. I think he is both amusing and poetic, but then, I’m prejudiced.



Anonymous said...

Like you, I ride my horse on the same trails that I sometimes hike with my dogs, this area is specified for both uses, and prohibits motorized vehicles and bikes. I've seen crazy rudeness from both sides. It seems that some people don't understand the concept of sharing. Please, go back to kindergarten.

The second guy you ran into seems to have problems even beyond rudeness. I would suspect him of being one of those animal rights people who believes that riding horses is cruel, and that whatever his beliefs are he has an absolute right to express them, and you should be bullied in to being politically correct per his beliefs. It is more than a little hypocritical to demand that you use the word "please" and then make a comment about your "fat ass." I think you were both right to stand up to him. Too many of those people are taking over.

Deep breath, it sounds like you were in a beautiful area and I hope the rest of your trip was enjoyable.

Laura Crum said...

redhorse--yes--the whole trip was great--and I did not let this one negative experience change my view of a lovely time. I agree--I think the guy was irrationally anti-horse. He had to have known he was following horses by the hoofprints on the trail, he probably suspected his dog was barking at the horses and did not call the dog off purposely, and I'm betting he was disappointed when I didn't say anything to him about the dog--so he had to pick a fight with me, since I didn't pick one with him. No other explanation for his truly weird behavior seems to fit.

And yes, both horses and dogs were permitted on that trail--we had every right to be there--as did the dog. I still think it is terrible trail etiquette to let your dog run out of your sight and bark at unsuspecting strangers, whether they are mounted or on foot.

And yeah, I took a deep breath about half an hour later and gave up worrying about it--but I did think it would make a good subject for a blog post. One of the fun things about blogging--even negative experiences make good blog fodder (!)

Val said...

Good job describing the event. I think that you reported the situation fairly.

There is a strict law in our township and area that requires all dogs to be on leases at all times. Unfortunately, I see this law broken frequently. My husband and I enjoy running at a local park and have come across loose dogs are several occasions: friendly, boisterous dogs, aloft dogs that won't be bothered to look up from whatever they are sniffing, and one time a very scary, aggressive dog that ran at us. This happened to me once on my horse and it scared the living daylights out of me. My horse kept his head, but still did a fancy dance as the snarling dog reluctantly returned to its family. I have carried a dressage whip on trails ever since.

So what I have found is that, in general, people who break the lease rule react very rudely and even aggressively if confronted. Once I mentioned that the person was supposed to have a lease and the dog owner snidely held up a lease coiled in her hand and said, "I do have a lease."

Since then, I do not confront people. I consider them "crazy and potentially dangerous" if they let their animals run free at the possible expense of others. My new plan of action is to report the offender to the park officials. This actually works and the officials will act immediately and they do forbid people from returning, at least with their animal.

I do not like being walked on either, but you just can't fight crazy and people are the most dangerous animals I have come across.

Laura Crum said...

Val--I agree. This was exactly why I chose to say nothing to the guy with the aggressive dog when I rode by him. And again, by the time I'd sorted out that he was trying to pick a fight with me, we were already more or less IN an argument. If I had it to do over again, now knowing that he was trying to provoke me, I think I would have just kept riding and ignored him.

Also, we were in national forest land. I'm not sure that the dog was required to be on a leash. But again, whatever the rules, I consider it very bad manners (also dangerous) to let a dog run out of your sight and bark aggressively at strangers on the trail. By the way, my husband was hiking behind us, and reported that the same dog ran up to him and barked so aggressively that he (my husband) raised his walking stick to defend himself, and again, the hiker did not call the dog off.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

Oh, I can completely relate to unintentionally getting drawn into a confrontation. I most likely would have responded exactly as you guys did. What I have learned to do is whip out my phone or camera and take pictures of people (or their license plates) and absolutely report them, with the photographic evidence.

One of my best retributions was a biker who came unhinged on me for not yielding to him when he was illegally trying to merge on my left. I couldn't yield to him anyway, there were cars on the other side of my horse trailer that he couldn't see. At the next stoplight, he was screaming at me and flipping me off. It was not his day. My husband and his biker friends happened to be just down the road. I took the guy's picture, sent it to my husband and they scoured the area until they found him. No blood was shed, but I think it will be a long time before that guy flips out on another driver. ;-) LOL

Laura Crum said...

BEC--that comment made me grin. Poetic justice for sure. And, I, too, have been flipped off and screamed at by cyclists when I didn't "yield the road" while hauling horses. I didn't because I couldn't. Not without putting my trailer wheels in the ditch. It just makes you mad.

Gayle Carline said...

You did all you could do, Laura. I suppose if the guy's dog ran out of sight and got bitten by a rattlesnake or killed by a bear, the guy would sue the park. Personally, I like my dogs too much to let them out of my sight on a trail.

In the immortal words of Charles Barkley (former NBA star): "Some people are f*ing idiots, and some people are f*ing idiots."

Laura Crum said...

Gayle--I suppose that is the bottom line after all. Thanks for reminding makes it easier to let it go.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

So sorry your vacation was marred by someone else's personal problems. I choose to disengage anymore these days...

Lowering themselves to spewing personal insults is generally an indication that the other member of a confrontation is aware they are in the wrong.

Ask me how I know... ;D

Laura Crum said...

CFS--Yes. I was aware of that. Very perceptive of you. When my son asked why the guy was so very angry, I said, "Probably because he knew he was wrong."

So, did you learn this? Does it make a good story?

jenj said...

Laura, what an awful experience. I'm glad that nobody got hurt - horses and unfamiliar dogs don't mix well.

We often come across off-leash dogs where we ride. Owners are legally allowed to have dogs off leash, and we're legally allowed to be on the trail with horses. We've come across aggressive dogs with no owners around, and what we usually do is stop, facing the dog, and yell "Please call your dog! We're on horses!" When the dogs are secured, we make a point of telling people how nice it is that they call their dogs, because not all dogs know how to behave if they're not familiar with horses. There are a couple of times when I've been inwardly seething, but I try to be nice. Usually the person will make a comment about how pretty the horses are, and we can stop to talk for a moment. I try to educate them a bit about handling their dogs around horses, and make the point that it's dangerous for their dogs to be loose - I mean, the dog could always get kicked, right?

It IS hard to be civil when you feel that someone else is in the wrong, or if they have an agenda. It sounds like you did the best you could with a really bad situation. I'm glad the rest of your vacation was more pleasant!

Laura Crum said...

jenj--Yep--it would have been smarter for me to say "please call your dog". But I was ticked off. When I have met "nice" dog people, I often say. "Be careful--your dog could get kicked." The thing is, I often hike with my dogs off leash, so I'm not hostile to this practice. I'm just offended by folks who allow their dog to get out of their sight and bark aggressively at strangers. I would have been just as annoyed had I been on foot with my own dogs.

Nikker said...

Great post and comments.
I ride my horses and run my dogs in the same area because it's convenient for me. It's a well used trail/logging road that sees hikers, joggers, motor bikers, 4-wheel riders, and horseman.
I unfortunately have been the dingus with the dog interfering with someone else's enjoyment. She is young and thinks that everyone wants to meet her. There are times she doesn't come when I first call her. It sucks, I am always hot on her heals apologizing profusely while rounding up my dog and handing her a little discipline when necessarily. I always introduce myself while apologizing, so people know I'm serious. It is my biggest fear that an old cowboy, or hot head will decide she's dangerous and shoot her...because honestly, any dog on the loose could be a threat, and I believe everyone has a right to protect themselves from said threat. (I'm in North Idaho and EVERYONE packs a weapon..)
That hiker needs to take a few manners classes and get a spine. If he wanted to whine about how you addressed him, the adult thing to do was look you in the eye...and show some class in front of a child and his elders...
I have also been on my horse and been accosted by someone else's dog...It's ended well every time but once. And that one time, the dog got aggressive and I was on my old mare. The dog circled us up a few times (we were standing while the owner attempted to retrieve his dog) it then moved in to bite... Quota nailed it, twice. Knocked out the dogs teeth in front of it's owner. I felt awful, but was glad it the dog and wasn't my horse injured.
Glad you were able to enjoy the rest of your ride!

irish horse said...

I hate how that kind of encounter just sticks with you and festers, while you had a lovely trip. I have encountered too many people like that, including one with 3 agressive off leash dogs who yelled at me (when I told him the dogs needed to be leashed after they ran at my horse) to "f-word control that f-ing horse, you shouldn't be here." etc. I was so shaken I just continued on my way, on my controlled horse. Jerks are jerks.

We recently had a situation in my area similar to your story, but the dog scared the horse, the rider later had to be air-flighted out of the remote location. I'm all for sharing the trails, but a few ruin it for all of us. No solutions, just sympathy! And frustration...

Joyce Reynolds-Ward said...

Laura, you didn't do anything wrong. There are dog owners (and bikers as well) who feel entirely justified and that it's All About Them. I've encountered similar types on line when regulation of dogs on trails have been proposed...these folks go ballistic. There wasn't anything you could do.

Unknown said...

I suppose a response of "hon, I just rather not have my horse kick the shit out of your dog" might have come out of me. He needs to know the danger he is putting his dogs in.

Seriously though, sounds like a person with a rage disorder. Best to ride away, and not respond to goading in any way. Those people are simply looking for targets to get their negative energy out on.

That way they remain in their own little drama vortex - alone.

Laura Crum said...

Nikker--great comment. Believe me, if the guy had said he was sorry or seemed friendly, I would have been cordial. I wasn't really upset about the dog--just about his attitude.

irish horse--That's exactly what went through my mind. What if our horses HAD been scared of dogs? I knew one rider who was hurt when her horse bolted after being attacked by a dog.

joyce--I'm not sure why so many dog people go ballistic when its suggested that they should control their dogs enough to protect the space/rights of others--I think its weird.

Breathe--That is a great response. And Wally's horse, Twister, WOULD kick a dog. Sunny and Henry are both quite tolerant. But still, I will remember your line for the future.

horsegenes said...

I never make comments to the idiots that let their dogs run loose that they are putting ME in danger... cuz they just don't give a crap. I let them know they are putting the dogs in danger. Not that my horses would do anything. It makes it about their safety and not about me - which the self centered ass hats can understand. And sometimes depending on the dog... and to prove a point, I will chase the dog back towards the owner. The dogs always turn and run towards the owner and the horses really do enjoy the little chase. I watched Chris Cox at Horse Expo and that was a little tip he dished out. He said dogs will always run away from the horses and so far it has worked.

Joyce Reynolds-Ward said...

Horsegenes, I had a horse as a kid who *would* stomp dogs. All I had to do was turn her toward the dog charging at her and tell her to "git 'em!" and she'd go for it. The dogs always retreated, but she'd also pin her ears while doing it.

I suspect my current horse would get into the concept as well. She's familiar with big dogs and I've taught her to face up to barking dogs rather than run. Safer that way.

Laura Crum said...

kel--good tip. I have to say that I started out feeling not too bothered (since my horse is not afraid of dogs). It just didn't occur to me to be "aggressive" toward the dog. But yeah, Sunny would have chased it if I told him to. I spent the first 30 seconds being barked at and waiting patiently for whoever owned the dog to call it--I wasn't even upset. It was the lack of anybody calling the dog off and then the guy's subsequent behavior that got to me.

Anonymous said...

I would have done the exact same thing you did Laura. However my husband probably would have taken him up on his offer to get off the horse, especially if he had the balls to call me a fat ass! Now I don't agree with this, but maybe the guy needed to learn to keep his mouth shut.

I love the idea of reporting people with unleashed dogs. We have the same law in my area and no one follows it. I am going to start taking pictures and sending away! Our law is actually that the dog has to be in control, so off leash in a heel is ok, but running loose is not. I had some bad expereiences with loose dogs as a kid, and used to be petrified. Those experiences have made me much more curtious of who my own dogs are allowed to approach.

whitehorsepilgrim said...

What an unpleasant experience. This is just the kind of thing one sees in Europe where - as my Californian ex-wife pointed out - no-one carries a firearm so way too little respect is shown. She had a concealed weapon permit in the US and had on at least one occasion when threatened both drawn her weapon and discharged it. (She was a poor shot and missed, however shooting did the trick.) It sounds like you should complement your helmet with a firearm and the training to use it.

My elderly dog was attacked by a pack of terriers whilst out walking. Turned out these canine hooligans belonged to a snooty middle-aged woman who joined in kicking my dog then began screaming abuse. Had I more time I'd have followed her back to her car, taken photos, and had her prosecuted for breach of the peace as a minimum. As it was, she left knowing precisely what I thought of her behaviour. She's not been seen again on the trails around here. Unfortunately there are jerks about. When they don't fear consequences it's worse.

Laura Crum said...

whp--I do have a firearm and know how to shoot. My horses wouldn't be likely to tolerate my shooting from their backs, though--not without a little training. I think that carrying the gun openly MIGHT deter some folks from being rude and obnoxious...

And I get totally ticked off by those who let their dogs run loose and accost other dogs. That would actually have been a much bigger problem for me than the dog barking at my horse. My dogs are smallish and not fighters, and to have them attacked by aggressive, loose dogs would definitely cause me to go after the attacker--dog and owner--in a vigorous way.