This is a true story about walking a dog. I used a bit of fictional licence regarding the owners of the dog. They weren’t like that at all. It was a friend’s dog. However, the rest is accurate. It’s a story about anxiety. One reading is that the horse is a metaphor for a panic attack. The story is published in Surprising Stories.
The dog pulled on its lead, and the owners pulled back. They said I shouldn’t hang around. I was making things worse. The dog was hard to control. It was my fault it got angry. They pulled, and the dog pulled back. They shouted, and the dog barked. I smiled.
“Why don’t you try a little understanding?”
They looked at each other. I backed away. They let go of the lead.
“You’re such an expert, try walking our dog.”
The dog’s paws landed on my chest. They laughed.
“We’ve got to go. See you here at six, with the dog.”
And off they went, laughing. I looked at the dog. I’d never walked a dog before. The dog looked at me. I took hold of the lead, and set off into the wood. It led me through the wood, but I noticed something in its mouth. A bone was sticking out of its mouth. I never saw it swallow a bone. The dog was coughing and shaking its head. It wanted rid of the bone. A dog might choke on a bone.
I grabbed the foot, and pulled, but the dog took a mean kind of defensive stance, and growled. It was terribly good at the fight for food. I stood on the foot. The dog backed away. The bone came out of the dog. The dog looked up at me. I wanted to leave the woods. In the woods, a dog could pull tricks using its extensive knowledge. It had an unfair advantage.
We came to a wall. There was a ladder over the wall. The dog stopped at the ladder. It spun in circles under the lead, and I pulled. It dug in. It didn’t want to go into the field. I gave it lots of leadership, no contradictions, and no double meanings. I was half way up the ladder, showing it the way.
But it dragged me off the ladder. I heard hooves. I stood up, and looked into the field. A horse was crossing the field trying to kick off its saddle which had slipped. The horse didn’t have eyes in the back of its head. The horse didn’t thrive on excitement. The saddle resembled a tiger, intent on killing. No one told the horse there was no tiger.
The dog stopped spinning, and put its head on its side. It considered the danger had passed. The dog had known about the horse before I did. I was glad I hadn’t got in the way of a runaway horse. It was ready to go, but I watched because I wanted to know what happened so I could learn some human anxiety. The horse ran into the road. A car headed towards the horse. It hit the brake, and missed the horse.
I didn’t stick around. I was up the ladder after the dog. We reached the top of the field, and a man in riding gear ran towards us. He was red-faced, and out-of-breath. He asked me if I’d seen the horse that threw him. I said I’d seen the shadow of a horse, and they ran in the direction I pointed.
We completed a circle, back to the car. We waited by the car. I was sure they’d abandoned their dog. It lay on its side, ears and nostrils active as though it feared the arrival of a dinosaur at any moment. Nobody told the dog there was no dinosaur.
It sat up, and sure enough, an SUV arrived. The dog’s owners. They stopped in front of us. They wound down the window, and asked me if I’d seen a horse. They said there was a full scale search for a runaway horse. I shrugged. They asked me if I’d be there tomorrow. I said I’d require a fee. They laughed. The dog jumped in the back. They slammed the doors, and left.
I unlocked my car, and heard a noise. I looked round. In the corner, by the fence, was the horse. The horse wanted to run some more. You see, nobody told the horse. Nobody was going to tell the horse. The horse was going to have to find out for itself.