Barn Dogs, dressage, dressage barns

Barn Dog Gone Bad

Skittles, my 14 year old Standard Poodle, has been on a bit of a crime spree lately, targeting our barn. Like many a ‘good dog gone bad’ story, things started will small misdemeanors: dumpster diving for old pizza crusts and begging for apple-flavored treats from unsuspecting barn buddies. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning.

Skittles, looking deceptively innocent. Portrait by Sarah Davis Baker.

Skittles, looking deceptively innocent. Portrait by Sarah Davis Baker (

While Skittles normally likes little to do with all things toddler, she’s made an exception of Jessie’s two-year old son, Knox. In Skittles’ eyes, Knox is a walking/talking treat dispenser. His string cheese snacks are in constant danger.
Last week, while no one was looking, Skittles stole and ate Knox’s peanut butter and Nutella sandwich from the top of a tack trunk. “It’s my fault, I had it down pretty low where she could reach it,” Jessie said, taking the blame. The next morning Skittles threw up the sandwich, which seemed fair punishment for petty theft. Unfortunately, I was stuck with the clean up.
This week, I noticed Skittles skulking around the far end of the barn with a guilty look in her tail. I was suspicious but saw no immediate evidence of criminal behavior.
I took a closer look as I led Micah out to the pasture. “Why are things so messy?” I wondered. There were bits and scraps of paper lying about the barn aisle. Highly unusual.
Upon closer inspection, I found a folded check written out to clinician Tina Steward and a $100 bill. The check was damp and there were suspicious tooth marks in one corner. Hmmmmm. I noticed a small bag on the ground, which was most likely left by a rider who’d hauled in for the clinic. If the rider had brought a lunch, it was long gone.
I took the contraband into the arena, where Tina was just starting a lesson. I hated to interrupt, but explained the situation and turned over the goods.
“I thought I’d put that in my bag!” the rider said.
“You probably did,” I told her, explaining my dog’s habit of snacking between meals at the expense of barn inhabitants.
The money situation was righted, although I suspect the rider went hungry.
Most importantly, the cash and check didn’t get blown out of the barn aisle and across the county. Imagine the distrust and suspicion that could have arisen, undermining our peaceful barn life. That possibility made me sad.
Should my dog’s errant behavior escalate (perhaps into credit card theft), we’ll have to reconsider her barn privileges. She adores coming to the barn, warmly greeting her barn cat and her human and dog friends. It is truly her home away from home — as it is for so many of us.
Until we get things worked out with Skittles’ probation officer, please protect your valuables by storing them separately from your lunch — or keep them locked safely above poodle-nose-height. My canine mastermind works quickly and quietly, under the cover of extreme cuteness.