Well, OK. So that might be a bit of a mischaracterization. Toby the pomeranian is a dog, but at 2,000 pounds Jake the Percheron is hardly a pony. But they are now my two newest animal friends and the subject of an article I wrote earlier this week.
I spent Saturday with Jake, Toby and their human companion Terry. A week earlier I'd had to venture into the neighboring farm town and what I saw as I passed through made me slam on brakes in the middle of the road. It was Terry driving Jake right down Main Street. And sitting on top of Jake's broad back was Toby.
I jumped out of the car and ran over to them. I know a story when I see one and wasn't about to let this one get away. I introduced myself as a writer and asked Terry if I could do a feature on him and his unusual couples.
"Sure," he said, so last Saturday I went out and spent the morning riding around town with Terry, Toby and Jake. I took about 200 pictures; I sold some along with the story and so I'm posting a few others here.
Even though it was frickin' freezing outside, I had a great time. Toby is a tiny showman who seems to know people are watching. He literally struck poses on the horse's back whenever someone came by. Jake is intimidating, even to a longtime horse-owner like me. At one point during our ride he became skittish of a van being off-loaded from a car carrier. All I could think was "God, if this horse decides to take off we are just so screwed." But Terry just gave Jake a little slack and let him trot on by. Later, after we got back to his farm, he showed me a special trick he uses to help keep Jake calm; he stuffs pieces of foam in Jake's ears to muffle the loud sounds that might spook him.
As for Terry, he's just the nicest guy I've ever met, and very easy to talk to. We discussed all kinds of things - our pets and families, books we've read, society, philosophy, God, parenthood... Even if he hadn't had a giant horse and a tiny dog I would have enjoyed hanging out with him.
Terry, who's had Jake for about five years said about two years ago he just decided to put Toby up on his back to see how the horse would react. When Jake didn't appear to mind, he started putting the dog up on the horse in the pasture. When he was sure the little dog was surefooted enough to stay on board he started taking Toby out on trips through town.
Terry enjoys taking the pair out because he loves the reactions of onlookers, especially children. There are a lot of disadvantaged kids in the area, and his visits never fail to put smiles on those little faces.
Unfortunately, the area is also rapidly developing due the recent addition of a gated community on the outskirts of town. Businesses are moving in. A super Wal Mart is slated to be built right across the street from his little farm.
With it will come more traffic, more motorists on cell phones, more motorists in a hurry to get from here to there, perhaps too much in a hurry to slow down - even for a dog on a horse. Terry worries that it won't be long before it may not be safe to drive Jake on the roads.
That will be a sad day when it comes. It's characters like Terry who give little towns their soul. You can see a Wal-Mart just about anwyhere. But really, how often do you see a dog riding a horse?
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