Guest Ranch Fiasco

I used to tell anyone who would listen that the Flying U Guest Ranch in British Columbia (which I refer to as a dude ranch) was my favorite place on the planet. I have vacationed there, with the girls, at least once a year since 2000. I wrote a travel article about the ranch for Bark because it was so dog-friendly. I was looking forward to going there right after my September dog camp. I was going to write another travel article, for CityDog Magazine.

A mule tried to kill the girls our first day out.

We were riding (well, I was riding Louie, my usual horse; the girls were trotting several feet ahead of him), minding our own business, when out of nowhere, from behind, a mule charged the girls.

If you've seen those photos of a mule stomping, biting and ultimately killing a cougar that made the Internet/email rounds a year or two ago, you'll know what flashed through my mind when I first comprehended what was happening. Very scary, I assure you. My blood still boils when I think of it. This mule was serious, and the danger to the girls was real.

I've come to detest mules. Even before this incident at the dude ranch. Walking the girls, on leash, past neighboring fields of horses and mules, invariably the horses perk up and canter through their field or even alongside the fence to get a closer look at the girls. I often let the girls and the horses sniff noses. But if the field contains mules, they snort and charge the girls, right up to the fence. I can tell from their body language, they hate dogs. Especially dogs that look like wolves. A neighbor joked how her mules like to entice dogs to come close, then try to stomp them.


I've learned to avoid mules at all costs. Why risk it?

In this instance, though, we had no warning. The girls and I had already been out for four hours, and they were tired. Maia was showing signs of stiffness in her shoulders. I was trying to get us back to the barn. Then the mule spotted us.

It's frightening to see a mule running at full speed, thrusting front hooves toward your dog in an effort to stomp her, with ears pinned and teeth bared, trying to bite her.

My girls have become so relaxed around the horses at the dude ranch, having never had the smallest grief from any of them. Indeed, one reason I always ask to ride Louie is that even if one of the girls stops right in front of him on a single track trail, he simply gently nudges them with his nose. He never tries to bite or kick, or even "accidentally" step on them. I've seen Maia casually walk right under his belly, even try to take the carrot I've just fed him from his lips.

So the girls were every bit as startled as I was that suddenly a mule was charging them! I screamed, "Run, girls; RUN!" and, thankfully, they did! When either one stopped running, thinking they were safe, the mule charged again. Finally I gathered my wits and urged Louie to charge the mule. Louie did. I love Louie. The mule's final nasty retort was an attempt to kick Louie in the face with its hind legs.

After making sure we were a safe distance away, I stopped and let the girls rest. Both were breathing hard. The photos accompanying this entry were taken during this break. Notice Meadow's comfort with Louie munching grass just a short distance from where she lies.

The girls did nothing to provoke this attack. Except exist, and walk through a field.

When we returned to the barn, I handed Louie over to one of the ranch owners. I worked hard to hold my temper, saying simply, "Robert, you've got a dog-hating mule out there." His response: "Oh, you found her, huh?" Controlling my desire to hit Robert (or kick or bite him), I growled, "A warning would have been nice." Total silence poisoned the air.

I fumed through my post-ride shower. I decided the girls and I would leave the next morning, two days early. When I asked to have my bill recalculated, Robert's mother Sally asked, "Is there a problem?"

"Yes. Your mule tried to kill my dogs today. We're not staying," I answered.

"Oh," Sally said, "I didn't think she was still doing that."

Unbelievable. No commiseration for the fear I felt, no apology for failing to warn me. This family knows me and my dogs; they knew I intended to write another article for a dog magazine. They didn't give a rip.

All this close on the heels of the skunk incident from last year.

I "get" that we're in the country, that there are natural hazards, like skunks, moose, bear, bulls. What I don't "get" is them bringing onto the ranch a mule that they know hates dogs, then failing to warn their guests. Especially a guest who was there to write an article.

The girls and I won't go back unless and until the current family sells the ranch and new owners take over. If you've listened to me extol the virtues of this place as a dog-friendly vacation destination, please - don't go; know that I've retracted my recommendation. It might still be a fun place to go without dogs, but their total disregard for the safety of their guests, and any dogs they may bring with them, can't be ignored or tolerated.