SOPHIE AT THE HORSE CAMP

by Gene Titus ©1993

Reprinted here by permission of the author.

During spring break, one of my daughters went to a horse camp in the afternoons. Friday was the big finale with a show put on by the kids. I took Friday afternoon off and thought this would be a great place to take Sophie. New smells! New sights! A real feast for her puppy senses.

We've been working on our "Sophie on a leash" for a couple of weeks now. For a five-month-old, Sophie does a respectable heel, stop, sit and stay. We walk about a mile through the neighborhood with 5 or 6 mini classes thrown in between the interesting smells and ominous sounds. It was time she met the real world.

I gave Sophie a good brushing and a thorough check for any non-white entities hiding in her snow-white fluff. She looked great. I brought a thermos of cold water and a bowl in case she got thirsty. I packed her in the car and off we went.

When we got to the stables, Sophie was all eyes. There were horses everywhere and cars driving by and strange people. This was going to be a lot of fun. I parked the car and got Sophie on leash and we were on our way.

Did I forget to mention that it was a humid, sunny day of about 87 degrees? One degree short of a record. This was the hottest day we've had since we've had Sophie. And while I'm at it, have you ever been to a stable? A bunch of one-room horse apartments, a big arena with soft dirt for the horses to run on, a horse-bathing area, water troughs, sweat scrapers, brushes, saddles, boots, oats, hay, and a generous supply of dust and dirt everywhere. Did you know they don't have plastic bags for all that stuff horses leave behind?

We headed toward the stands, picking our way between horses and kids and found a place on the front row. I got Sophie to lie down in the dirt in front of me so I could get a bearing on what was going on. I was prepared for the show to come to a complete halt when everyone realized Sophie was there. As I was looking around, a couple of kids came up to Sophie and were going to pet her. Finally, someone noticed that gorgeous, white, just-brushed, almost show quality Great Pyrenees I had brought. I looked down at Sophie just as she looked up from the dirt she was sniffing.

I'm sure the breeder mentioned this to me at some point. It must have been after she put a puppy or two in my lap and I just wasn't listening. Or maybe the other Pyrs were barking and I just missed a few word. For whatever reason, I was now face to face with a dirt-soaked, dust-laden, hot, "DROOLING" Pyr.

I panicked! "What happened to Sophie's lips? They're gone!" All I could see was a muddy, drool-soaked muzzle. Wasn't she white just a minute ago? "No Sophie, don't roll over...."

The two kids took one look at Sophie's mouth, then simultaneously made noises representing the sound that drool would make if it could, and moved on - each trying to beat the other's interpretation of a good drooling noise.

I knew what we had to do. I was glad we'd worked on "heel" because we were getting ready to high-heel-it back to the car.

Sophie, on the other hand, had different plans. She had caught on to the fact that the horses didn't have to sit or heel. This place promised to provide more fun than Sophie's ever had in her entire five months of life! Going back to the car was not on Sophie's list.

I got up and attempted to drag Sophie away from the stands mumbling "heel" the whole time. Just as we cleared the stands, we were met by the local stable dog come to make Miss Sophie's acquaintance. I'm not sure what kind of dog he was, but I was sure he had just had a dandy roll in the runoff from the horses' bathing area.

Before I could think of a polite way to rid us of this wet, muddy local, Sophie and this dog are side by side, sniffing and tail wagging and getting to know one another. He was a very friendly dog, and I know I'm supposed to encourage Sophie to meet nice dogs so she can get socialized and all, but this was not what I had in mind.

Before I could get Sophie and the tramp away from each other (he followed us), my daughter's part of the show was ready to start. Great! Now we had to stay. I lead, well, dragged Sophie toward a secluded part of the arena in hopes of avoiding contact with anything or anybody else. The stable mutt finally saw through the dirt and realized Sophie probably had papers and was well above his caste in life. He departed to go mark a saddle or something.

Sophie was now covered in stable dirt. Stable dirt! Do you know what all the ingredients are in stable dirt? (I don't want to know!) That beautiful, white, almost show quality Great Pyrenees puppy I had owned not 15 minutes before was gone. In its place was a dirty, drooling, happy as could be, almost show quality Great Pyrenees puppy. Well, at least Sophie was having a good time, and that was the original idea.

She did sit during my daughter's part of the show. She knew she had won and was willing to wait before we continued exploring this wondrous place. After the show, I gave in and let Sophie lead me on a complete tour of the stable compound.

For the next 30 minutes, Sophie saw, smelled, felt, rubbed against, stuck her nose in, sat on, leaned against, dug in, licked, pawed, jumped up on, stared at, listened to, tripped over, and ingested everything she possibly could.

When we finally got back to the car, I put out the water bowl under a shade tree. Sophie laid down with the bowl between her front paws and watched the cars go by while she drank. Sometimes you can just tell when a dog is smiling. This had been one of the best days Sophie had every had.

Return to Library