A little canine courtesy, please

Tony Vagner

“Watch out for my dog. He’s crazier than all get out – I hope he’s chained to the truck.”You hope, huh? Helping his friend back a pull-behind camper into a too-small space, in an area designated “No Motor Vehicles,” was taking all his attention, and his dog at that moment was only an afterthought.Fifty yards away, we rode up on said creature and truck. I was riding my main horse, Drifter, who is used to traveling with three or four good working cow dogs, dogs that run around and under horses, and who make occasional odd noises in the brush as they move the cattle up the trail. Well-trained horses and dogs are partners in the job of moving cattle, so they are far from strangers. But this odd-behaving dog, a blue-colored pit bull, fighting the chain that held him in the pickup bed, made Drifter shift uneasily under me as we approached. We had no dogs with us.It’s a good thing the mutt was chained, for he was straining with all he was worth to bolt the pickup bed and take us on. He’d have been no match for my gun, but Drifter might have dumped my butt on the ground before we’d had a chance to reasonably assess that move. A couple of skittish jumps, one 360, and we got by the truck without incident, glad to do so.No sooner had I unsaddled Drifter at the horse trailer (another quarter-mile away) than the same dog showed up, obviously turned loose, and tried to run over me to get into the horse trailer tack room. He wouldn’t take “no,” “get” or any amount of cussing for a command, so I quickly gave him a swift kick behind the shoulder, which got his attention long enough to get him out of the tack room. It took another couple of kicks to get him away from my horse, who was beginning to severely test the strength of his tie rope. Not a bad-looking cur, all things considered, but without any training or manners, it was all for naught. The owner was apparently quite distracted, busy parking his camper in an illegal, well-signed spot, and had no time to manage his dog. Finally, tired of getting kicked and cussed at, the dog moved on.I was snowshoeing along the Rio Grande right of way in an area designated off-limits to dogs when I spotted a woman and a dog resembling a German shepherd coming toward me. About 100 yards away, the dog ran straight toward me, as though I might be an old friend he wanted to sniff. From about 20 yards out, it was clear the fast-moving canine had no intention of stopping or going around me, so I braced for what I expected to be a substantial hit. That big, burly dog gave me a broadside that would have impressed any Broncos coach (and probably would have taken out my knee had I not seen it coming) and, after recovering, came back at me for another round. Not in the mood, I hollered at the dog to “git, you SOB,” and he ran back to his owner. As soon as the woman approached, she asked if her dog had growled at me, volunteering that she’d been having a problem with that. “No,” he hadn’t growled, I told her, but thought he might have some other problems, such as imitating a linebacker, wasn’t on his leash, and most particularly, was in an area totally off-limits to dogs. All this enlightenment somehow pissed her off.If you go to Arches National Park and want to hike in the Fiery Furnace, the rangers request you watch a video first (or take a guided tour) so that you learn some basics about the fragile landscape and don’t do something stupid while you’re in there. I can’t imagine human education could be good for dogs, but it might.Tony Vagneur salutes those who take care of their dogs in a responsible manner. Read him here every Saturday and send comments to


Asher on Aspen: Find your church

On a recent September Saturday morning, I awoke with an intense yearning to lose myself in the mountains, disconnect from cell service, and rediscover why I decided to call Aspen home in the first place. Standing there, at the Cathedral Lake trailhead, I knew I was right where I needed to be.

See more