Monday, July 19, 2010

Turnabout Is Fair Play

A letter to the editor of the State Journal written by Susan Young of Madison makes a really good point: just as dogs, even the best and friendliest dogs, aren’t truly safe to mix and mingle with the crowd at high-attendance events, a dog park is no place for a small child.

Susan concludes her excellent letter by saying that because we have to pass an ordinance to accomplish this, it again demonstrates a need to legislate common sense. Reminds me of another applicable cliché, namely, there’s nothing common about common sense.

I love dogs far more than the next person, and my two Collies are my constant companions. And yes, they ARE family members. Both are purebreds with phenomenal pedigrees, both are from the same breeder, and both were selected by my wife and me for their mellow temperament and their propensity to be affectionate.

Neither of our two dogs has ever had a bad experience with a human being, and neither has ever shown the slightest bit of aggression toward a human. They both LOVE people, and are full of joyful exuberance whenever somebody shows up at the door, whether it’s a tradesman coming to fix an appliance or a package delivery driver who needs a signature. Every new person represents a chance for someone new to play with, I guess.

Because we love this aspect of their behavior, my wife and I have deliberately NOT trained them to stay away from people who come to our door. We keep firm control of them, and if their presence annoys the visitor, we send the dogs outside to patrol the fencelines and leave the visitor in peace.

When we take them to Mounds to pick up food, we keep them on a short leash, because often there are small children in the store, and both dogs would love nothing better than to jump up on the child to put a bunch of wet kisses on their face and find out if this child is going to want to play with them. Instead, we command the dogs to SIT, and if the child wants to make their acquaintance by petting them, they’re trained to sit quietly and be petted. NO jumping up on people in public.

But when we take them to the Badger Prairie Dog Park in Verona, and let them off-leash to run and chase over the vast expanse of the park, and make friends with new dogs and renew acquaintances with regular canine visitors, I get nervous when some thoughtless person appears with a toddler in tow. When our dogs are on-leash my wife has trained them to follow her commands immediately. But when they’re off-leash, although they respond to commands, it’s sometimes not instantaneously.

Susan writes “I have to leash my dog when I see parents entering the dog park with children, not because she is vicious, but because she loves children and may knock them down and, because she is large, can hurt them.” Our 4-year-old Collie weighs 63 pounds and can run about 30 miles an hour and change direction effortlessly while running at top speed. She’s a herding dog; that’s what they do. She and our 2-year-old Collie do it for hours every day on our fenced-in property. And dogs that can run that fast can quickly cover a lot of ground, and may not hear or instantly react to your command.

But I’ll be damned if I’ll put the leash on either while they’re inside the dog park, just because some stupid adult is not bright enough to realize that a small child is not safe at an off-leash dog park. Otherwise, I’m with Susan: go ahead an write an ordinance to ban dogs from public events, and while you’re at it, ban children from off-leash dog parks. Legislate common sense.


  1. well-written...Our vet advised us against taking our dog to dog parks because of the poor decision-making done on a regular basis by a few irresponsible dog owners Many dogs are not vaccinated or "trained" and allowed to run loose, injuring people and other dogs at the dog park. Sadly, a few bad apples can ruin a good thing.

  2. Staten Island is blessed with about 2,800 acres of more or less contiguous wooded land laced with hiking trails. It would have been a collection of spirit-killing four-lane highways had the creature Robert Moses not finally been stopped in his tracks back in the 1970s.

    Add to this treasure the fact that many (I think "most" would not be an exaggeration) New Yorkers are wary, or downright afraid of the woods. So our guys, two Welsh corgis, get to explore the hills and dales and creeks unleashed. No dog parks for us. Too many pit bull owners in this town.