Monday, September 06, 2010

Was this my business?

I live in an area where loose dogs are an ever-present problem.  I moved into this house on the park when The Child was 4 years old, and one of the first events that occurred here was for a large dog to run onto my property and scare the bejesus out of The Child.  Later that summer, The Child, who was bending over to observe a snake in the grass, was bitten on the back of his leg by an off leash dog.  Not long after that, our first dog, a loving little Chihuahua named Chiwee, was killed right in front of our house by another dog.

It's no surprise, then, that I have a problem with off-leash dogs who are not being controlled by their owners.  It bothers me to no end that this city lacks a leash law, and for a while I tried to fight city hall on that issue.  I got nowhere fast, because the dog owners are a very passionate, vocal and well-organized group.  (Mind you, I am a dog owner myself, but I believe that dog owners are responsible for controlling their dogs to the extent that other people can freely enjoy the park and their own residential property.)

A few days ago from inside my house I heard a loud ruckus in the park.  I heard screaming and barking, and I figured there had been yet another incident involving out of control dogs.  I ran outside, and sure enough, I found out that a 4 year old girl had been jumped on by a large Boxer.  I know enough about dogs to know that the Boxer is not a vicious breed, but the fact remained that the dog had terrified the girl and her female caretakers.  A verbal fight was in progress when I arrived on the scene.

There were 2 adult female dog owners and 3 large off leash dogs.  The dog owners were laughing at the upset child and women, which I thought a very strange response.  I jumped in to defend the women with the 4-year-old.  We were all screaming.  I told the women with the child to call the police and asked the owners to stay put until the authorities arrived.  Of course they began walking away very quickly.

Fortunately, the 4-year-old was with 3 adult women, so I advised 2 of them to follow the dog owners, and they kept in touch with us by cell phone so that we could guide the police.  The police called animal control, and the dog owners were dealt with effectively, which is highly unusual since offending dog owners usually escape before they can be caught.  Even though there is no leash law, it is not lawful for dogs to jump on people they don't know, and it turned out that the dogs were unlicensed as well.  The dogs remain with their owners, but maybe, just maybe, they'll think of other people next time they venture out to the park.

If the story ended there, I suppose it would be fairly clear that I acted responsibly and reasonably.  But it didn't.  I made a sign to post at the entrance to the park right outside of my house. The sign refereed to the state revised code which requires that dog owners be in control of their dogs at all times, with the leash being the most effective tool to achieve that end. I listed the offenses which had occurred in the park which were examples of dogs NOT being controlled. The sign was businesslike and unemotional, and looked as if it might have been official, posted by the city or the parks department.

From inside my house I could see people standing in front of the sign of it to read it.  The next day, I was sitting on my patio reading the newspaper when 2 women arrived at the park entrance and started setting up obedience training equipment so that they could work with their dogs.  I didn't particularly want to hear their conversation, but I did.  The women started reading my sign, and then began laughing.  One remarked to the other, "Dogs killing other dogs!" while they both had a good laugh.

I sat there fuming, no longer able to focus on my newspaper.  Finally I marched over to where the women were rehearsing their dog moves, and said, "Excuse me, but I overheard you laughing at the sign over there.  I happen to have owned a dog who was killed by another dog, right here in the park, in front of my house, and I don't understand why you consider that to be funny."

The women obviously were uncomfortable with confrontation and they ignored me as if they couldn't hear me.  So I repeated it, louder.  They continued to ignore me, while I became more exasperated and ended up telling them that I didn't understand them.  (I had already told them that the sign didn't apply to them, since they were clearly taking steps to control their dogs.)  It was pointless; I walked away.

It was then that I decided that the dog fight wasn't worth fighting anymore.  I didn't feel right about being so aggressive, and even though the dog owners who laughed at the Boxer scaring the heck out of a group of people were caught, there are dozens of dog owners who think nothing of letting their dogs ruin the park experience for other people. I have spent years trying to convince dog owners that they are being inconsiderate.  The primary result is nothing but a rise in my own blood pressure. I give up. And I wonder if it was really my business in the first place.



Lynilu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynilu said...

Betty, I think it is the business of every RESPONSIBLE person. One of the problems in our society today is that those without responsibility tend to run over the rights of those who follow guidelines, be they legal guidelines or moral/ethical ones.

That being said, I understand your frustration and willingness to just give up. It's very hard to continually fight against the current, especially when we are alone. Or feel so. It is hard to swim upstream, and I'm not a salmon.

How about collecting a group of people who want to see regulation and enforcement for safety? If you find 4-5, and they each bring 4-5, etc., a formidable front would have more power .... and less stress on you.

Take a rest, but don't give up the fight. You could save a life.

Aurora said...

Good Tuesday morning to you, dear Betty.

This becomes one of those dilemnas - do you care and get upset - or ar you indifferent and remain at peace? I think there is actually another way to see it.

The majority of people you encounter will operate with willful ignorance. That is their choice. They are not interested in learning, and therefore operate in a manner consistent with lack of common sense or decency or reasonable thoughtfulness.

If you KNOW that you are consistently behaving with integrity with respect to your own actions, you can choose to look at someone else who isn't - and simply know that isn't your 'stuff' or your problem.

You are grateful that you do the right thing, are willing to be a silent role model for that, and maintain your peace inside.

Trying to change someone who doesn't want to change, like those women, is a waste of time. You put up the sign, you did the right thing. Now you move on and understand that you are responsible, and that is what matters.

If you want to -- try Lynilu's suggestion about seeing if you can get as many people who want to see regulation and enforcement for safety - see if you can get them to sign a petition about this issue and present it to your city hall INSISTING on a leash law with misdeamenor citation if violated.

B.S. said...

Dear Lynilu,

I forgot to mention in the post that my sign only lasted 2 days- someone removed it, which I totally expected. The dog owners are a large and mighty group who have made themselves known to city council. They number in the thousands. I swear, people move to this city just so they can let their dogs run amok, since most cities do have strict leash laws.

My neighbors hate the loose dogs, but they are all elderly. They have stopped using the park for the sake of safety.

I think what I'll do is either find a way to let go of this issue, or find a way to follow your suggestion, knowing that it would probably take more time and energy than I can afford. But at least I can tell myself that I have a choice. Thanks for your input!


B.S. said...

Dear Aurora,

Your idea brings up an important point about the futility of trying to change people. After all of the run-ins I've had with dog owners, only one woman actually changed, on the spot. She said that she could see I was right. She, however, was one in a million, and I was lucky to have happened to encounter her.

I can't believe that I forgot to mention in the post that my sign was ripped down after less than 2 days! If I choose to fight, I will be up against a formidable opponent- the thousands of dog owners who blindly believe in their dogs' right to run free. (My answer to that is that if they truly believe in that right, then they should live on a large rural property, not smack dab in the middle of one of the largest U.S. cities.)

Thank you for your input!


Big Dave T said...

I say kudos to you. Coming from a town where you're as likely to see an unleashed coyote as you are an unleashed dog, I'm totally amazed at the attitude you're encountering. When walking or on my bike, I frequently encounter dog owners who go out of their way to take their leashed dogs our of my path, even it's obviously not a fearsome mutt.

I have to admit that I'm tempted to make a comment on the civility of our town's residents versus some of the residents in your town, but being that football season has started, it might seem like sour grapes too.

B.S. said...

Big Dave, I envy you. Except for the snow, I'd like your town. And had you gone ahead and made that remark about the civility of the residents here, I would have totally understood.


Annie said...

(going back to my old name - aurora just didn't feel as right as 'annie' does:)

Pathetic that someone ripped down your sign - and yet another remibnder thgat most people prefer ignorance over consideration.

I didn't know that there were thousands of dog owners already as a voice at city hall. Grrrr - no pun intended!

This issue comes into play with where you choose to live. Will the new house in the neighborhood that you like better also encounter dogs running amok when you move ?
And is that trade-off okay, even if aggravating?