If you stop to visit us here at Red Roof Acres and are received with a growl from 10 pounds of attitude with an overbite, please know it’s not his fault (and that no teeth will follow).
The critter in question is a Toy Poodle/Jack Russell terrier mix named Bear whose only mission in life has been to protect me, whether from cancer, humans or horses. So even when you try to assure him you mean no harm, he will still regard you with suspicion. Please don’t take it personally.
Bear came to us two years ago when he was six weeks old.
I was at the same age of breast cancer treatment, with all the ensuing baldness, barfiness and boniness. Despite being at the prime puppy-wiggle stage, Bear would somehow contain himself and be motionless when I needed to nap.
We tried to socialize him as much as possible, but cancer treatment is not conducive to getting out much. So Bear’s perception of the world became skewed, and even now, two years later, although my hair and energy have both returned, my wellbeing apparently remains his raison d’être.
This became more apparent than ever once we moved to the farm.
When we first arrived, we had just the dogs and cats with us. Vincent and Piper, the felines, were quarantined to the house for a full month while birds mocked them through the windows.
Bear and Chiko, our 10-year-old Australian Terrier, discovered that deer (so plentiful on this
island! but that’s another blog) amble into the back yard every morning and every evening, and of course deserved to be chased away at full speed. The deer spring effortlessly over the fence and afterward, the dogs crash in the house with the surety of a job well done.
Then we brought the horses home, a wonderful venture as we had always boarded them before and were looking forward to having them live just steps from our door.
Bear, who had never spent time with the horses before, was not pleased at all, especially since his relationship with them got off to a very bad start.
You see, when the horses first arrived, we would bring them out of their pen in order to feed them their supplements (vitamins), and one day Matt had pulled my mare, Neela, and her colt, Quill, out first. That left Yukon, Matt’s gelding, alone in the pen, and to a horse, alone means death. So Yukon, a tall, heavily-built Friesian cross, became very anxious, trotting up and down the pen with long, pounding strides.
Halter in hand, I stepped into the pen to bring the gelding out, and stood my ground as he began to trot quickly toward me. Yukon is a giant teddy bear, and I knew he’d stop. Yet before he did I heard a low growl to my right, and turned my head just in time to see Bear spring between the boards of the fence to the horse’s pen and plant himself directly in front of me and in Yukon’s path, barking and snarling ferociously, bravely pitting himself against 1,500 pounds of horse in order to protect his mom.
I was deeply touched. Yukon was unconcerned. Bear was evicted from the horse pen, from which he has been banned. To this day, he loathes Yukon, to the point where I have to give Bear the firm instruction of “leave it!” for his own protection. We’re working on him being more agreeable. He’s making progress.
Meanwhile, if he does happen to bark at you, please know there’s no bite that accompanies it, and that it’s only done for love.