Today, I’m kind of pissed off. I’m also bruised, skinned and sore – I feel a rant coming on, but I’m not really sure where to start. So forgive me if this post has something of a rambling quality to it…though I suspect, dear readers, you may expect nothing more of me by now!
Today, I scheduled a run for my running group that included a few laps of the local off-leash dog park. There’s a nice trail through the park, alongside the river, and up towards Lake Sammammish, so I thought it might be nice to kill two birds with one stone – exercise Milo, whilst keeping up my commitment to our “Moms on the Run”.
It was 25 degrees (-4 C) out there this morning, and early enough that I thought it would be pretty quiet in the park.
I guess what I hadn’t counted on was a huge Seahawks game happening today, which meant that every man and his dog (so to speak) were getting their walk over with in time to get home and settled down in front of a large-screen TV with a jumbo bag of chips and a six pack.
We ran three laps of the park, to rack up a 6.4 mile run, and give Milo a good workout of his own. For all his faults, my dog is a great running buddy, off-leash. He runs alongside me for most of the way, occasionally stopping to sniff, play or poop, but never for more than half a minute.
Basically, he’s a gentleman of a dog. He’s not aggressive, he’s not confrontational, and he’s not dominant with other dogs. He’s just a typical Labrador – he likes to play, bounce and say hello, but mainly, he’s just out to have some fun in the fresh air, and escape the demon dog-torturing Pepperlings for an hour.
So why, as we ran laps of the park, minding our own business, did so many dogs lunge aggressively towards Milo when we passed. So many snarling, snapping beasts sending him cowering in the ditch. One particular bull terrier giving him such a hard time, that he leaped out of harms way…and straight into me! Yep, Milo completely floored me. He took my legs clean out from under me, sending me flying straight down to the frozen, rock-solid ground.
After one too many close calls, I’ve decided that we simply can’t run in the dog park any more. Convenient as it is to run with Milo, and get his exercise quota filled at the same time as mine, I just can’t be responsible for bruised backsides, sprained wrists or broken collar bones in my running group.
But….but….this makes me so angry. I have a big dog. and he needs his exercise. He’s a gundog – he’s been bred to run, jump, fetch and retrieve. He shouldn’t spend his life confined to a 5-foot leash. In the UK, most parks are fair game for dog walking. As long as you scoop their poop, and they are “under control”, dogs are allowed off leash in all areas of open parkland (with the exception of children’s play areas and wildlife preserves).
Here in the US, all dogs must be leashed, unless you are in a designated “off leash dog park”. These are few and far between – in fact, Marymoor Park is the biggest dog park in the greater Seattle area by a long way. So much so, that it is affectionately known as “Doggy Disneyland” (despite the fact that a complete lap of the park is less than 1.5 miles). Because of this, everyone exercises their dogs at Marymoor. On any given day, there are half a dozen professional dog walkers (each walking half a dozen dogs, at least) routinely pounding the paths, and at weekends, the two car parks at either end of the park are often full.
The attitude seems to be that if you have a dog, you have a right to bring them to the off-leash areas. Training, obedience, behavioural traits be damned, you and your dog(s) have as much right to the park as anyone else.
To be honest, I just don’t understand the appeal. If you have a dog that clearly dislikes other dogs, why would you bring him to a DOG PARK? It’s not fun for you, it’s clearly not fun for your dog, and it’s definitely not fun for anyone else out for what should be a relaxing Sunday morning stroll with their beloved family pet!
What sort of person takes their aggressive, unsocialised, disobedient hound, and decides to let it loose amongst the general public? In a park full of excitable children, frail grandparents and tiny chihuahuas named “Tiffany” and “Princess Chardonnay”?
Ironically enough, we ended up abandoning the chaos of the dog park, and running on leash along a much more civilised trail, with my civilised dog, to enjoy a fabulously civilised view of the lake.
It’s such a shame that a small number of irresponsible dog owners can ruin such a potentially fantastic facility for so many. I get that your dog needs his exercise too, and I know that the dog park is full of fabulously exciting scents and sounds for your precious pup…. but if they can’t be controlled, and they can’t be trusted with either children or other dogs, then the “off leash” signs do not apply to you!!
Train it, or leash it. It’s that simple.