Every time I get on a horse I have to face the likelihood that a dog, or pack of dogs, will have me off.
This issue of idiot dog owners walking their dogs for the first time now they are working from home is a situation that has developed since Covid but as far as I’m aware, no government guidelines have been issued to deal with it.
Traditionally, dog owners in the idiot class don’t walk their dogs themselves, delegating that to a dog walker who collects the dog in a van and drives it to a place where it is walked with a load of other dogs.
Either that, or the dog is driven to a place known to idiots as doggy day care. Here, it is put in a paddock with other dogs to bark and whine at the gate until they are all put back inside the van and driven home again.
In Surrey, we have a lot of these doggy day care centres and I don’t think the idiot dog owners can have visited them.
There used to be one that every time I drove past had a van full of dogs parked in its gateway. One day, the barking coming from the van made me stop and enquire of the fag-smoking harridan who was supposed to be in charge whether or not she ever got them out.
‘Yeah, they been out today,’ she said, fag in mouth. ‘They just gone back in the van to be dropped off home again.’ Unconvinced, I stopped by again a few days later at a completely different time and her answer was the same.
The place got shut down but not until a lot of mutts had sat in a van for a lot of hours.
Not all these centres are disreputable, of course. Some are ethical enough to open the van doors and empty the dogs into the pens to mill about wondering why they are in a field with a set of miniature plastic jumps.
These are for the idiot owners. They like to see pictures of their dogs surrounded by dog agility equipment because that is swhat they suppose a dog would like to do.
A dog-walker who used to work for one of these reputable centres told me the dogs spent so long in a van being driven around London as they were all picked up that by the time they got to Surrey they only had half an hour out of the van before it was time to be loaded up again.
But this is what passes for acceptable to an idiot who bought a dog even though they are at work all day.
Now it’s all change for the poor latchkey dogs because the idiots are not going back to their offices, no matter how much Boris begs them to.
Working from home means they can save on doggy day care fees, which are considerable — locking a dog in a van all day doesn’t come cheap.
So the idiot owners are attempting to walk their own dogs, with terrible consequences.
It’s always the same, every time I ride out. The other day I rode along the main bridleway on Ockham Common and three cockapoos flew at Darcy’s back legs. It doesn’t matter that they’re cockapoos. The horse doesn’t know she can’t be brought down and eaten by a pack of cockapoos. She reared and span as if they were wolves. I screamed and shouted for the owner to come.
And the owner slowly appeared, ambling towards us calling cheerfully: ‘Whisky! Minty! Dido! Come here! Come here!’
I clung on to the rearing horse, my life flashing before me. Then I made the decision to bale, meaning I leapt off the side before she had me off and I landed badly. And as I clung on to the reins of the rearing horse with one hand, while waving my crop at the dogs to frighten them away with the other, the owner called cheerfully: ‘Whisky! Minty! Dido! Come here!’
I had to stumble away pulling the rearing horse after me.
As we staggered down the bridleway, I had barely got my breath back when a great slobbering boxer loomed on the horizon.
I could see its owners wandering aimlessly behind, smiling at the scenery. At which point I lost it. I fell to my knees, still clutching Darcy’s reins, and cried out: ‘Please! Stop! We can’t take any more!’
At which point the owners walked slowly up to the boxer and attempted to persuade him to please allow himself to be put on a lead.
The expression on the boxer’s face was one of emotional exhaustion. ‘What the hell are you on about now?’ his droopy eyes said. ‘I’m starting to think I was better off in that van.’