I used to be a lawyer. Truth. I’m not anymore, but I figure having once done the whole law school and licensure thing grants me certain retained privileges, including the right to blatantly misuse legal terms for the rest of my natural life, without censure. So here I go.
Attractive nuisance is a doctrine of tort law. It is actually a defense that can be used against you, a property owner in proud possession of some item that is both an irresistible lure and potential danger to the uninformed and ignorant, especially children. The classic example is a swimming pool. They will come on their own accord. They will jump in and drown. It will be your fault. Bad deal. The defense to the defense is to fence them out, lock them out, post warnings; show that you have made an effort to keep them from the thing that is otherwise so irresistible and attractive to them.
Irresistible and attractive are Boo and Belle’s middle names. The pond is also pretty appealing. Gosh, and the dogs — six of them, big and little. Have I mentioned the donkeys? Wait, the horses, too. Whatever case I may make for keeping those beauties under lock and key is rendered utterly useless when Emily, Brooke, and Sarah — the neighbor’s grandchildren — hang over the fence and call to me, beg me to come to the fence and swing them over for a visit. What lives on this side of the fence is undeniably attractive to them and the only nuisance is how hard it is to swing them over the fencing, clad as it is with no-climb wire. Their grandpa Jim and I have joined forces to solve that problem; we cleared a path between the two gates separating our property.
Now that getting over here is a breeze, we can get right down to the proper business of learning about horses and dogs and such things. No uninformed and ignorant children allowed here, no ma’am. This last visit, we were ready to tackle the complexities of being in the space of a big, big animal when you are a wee kid. The horses were in the open pasture and all the while we made our way over to them, I explained how to greet a horse, how to hold your space, that you should stick with me because I know what I am doing, little grasshoppers. The thing is, I’m not the only teacher here. Actually, I’m not even the best teacher. Those horses are. Loosa was first to consider the possibilities tangled up in the meandering, skipping march of our approach. He figured Brooke was a good target and he practically charged her.
Okay, I’m kidding. He gave his big and spotted head over to her sweet and loving touch and asked her what had taken her so long to come into his life.
So much for holding your space.
Loosa is good at this. He knows vulnerability and has a way of making a person feel safe within that vulnerable place. He has a way of being personable — if that is an attribute you are willing to accept can come from the inside of a horse. He is good at this when you are the kind of person who has no worries about sharing space and he is also good at this when you are the kind of person who doesn’t know if this realness can be trusted. Especially then, he is good at this, keeping his bigness away, not moving his feet, giving the gentlest part of him over to you — his lovely soft, sweet-smelling muzzle.
Having warmed up our skills on the spotted one, we started our venturing over to the rest of the herd. I know that Sarah wanted to participate in the whole of this experience. I also know that she was being brave through her uncertainty about the situation. I asked her if she wanted to hold my hand, to stick with me when we approached the herd. Nope, she told me. I think I’m okay. I think I know why. I feel safe and whole in the world when he is with me, too.
I love this picture beyond words. I love how they are all moving forward and how Sarah rests her hand on Marco’s big and fluffy back. I do that. When we are walking home, though the other pups are running and tumbling about, Marco and I walk like this; like we are holding hands. Like our path could never lead anywhere but home.
The rest of the horses were as happy and curious about the encounter as had been Loosa. Brooke knelt before Andante (don’t we all?) and hand fed her grass and I wondered how she knew Andante was exactly the one deserving of that form of worship.
I attempted to continue my teachings about sharing space with horses and the need for them to respect your boundaries. Brooke said, because a person only has two hands, right?
So, of course, you can see that the attraction is mutual and I wonder whether I will wake up one morning to find dogs or horses on the other side of the fence seeking the children they find so endearing. In the meantime, we must settle for a good-bye hug at the gate.
There is a post script to this story. We have been delighted to share space these last few days with our most beloved sister/sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Kate and Bill. Now, Kate and Bill are dog people, no doubt about it, but the horse and donkey thing is a bit foreign to them. I suppose I should have locked the gate, put up a sign to save them from their own lack of knowledge. Ha! Fat chance.
The second night they were here, Andante had a gas colic (translation for non-horse people — a really, really bad tummy ache) and the emergency vet was called, completely interrupting dinner. No worries. Kate and Bill brought the appetizers and wine down to the barn and kept us company as the vet (who, I believe, was humored by all of this as well) passed a nasogastric tube down Andante’s nose, pumped her with fluids and oil, and otherwise tended to getting her feeling better again. Bill said it was almost as exciting as when they visited friends on the coast and an abandoned sailboat washed up on the beach. Almost? I have a hard time believing this wasn’t the winning experience.
Kate was on a first name basis with all the four-hoofers who brushed me aside to share time under her sweet touch.
Bill was Molly’s choice all the way. She frolicked at his side and shared her space on the couch with him like that had always been the deal.
The bottom line is the life we are living is just one big attractive nuisance and I love it. Love. It. I don’t want to use that as a defense for keeping people out. I want them in and right in the middle of it — all the better. Thank you, Kate and Bill, for setting the bar high. Thank you, Grandpa Jim, for letting your precious little ones come over. We are all made better for it.