I took Madison to the little park yesterday. When I say “little park,” I mean little – it’s a tiny little triangular patch of land right next to the major street near where we live. I take her to the little park when we don’t have a ton of time, or if her arthritis is acting up and I don’t think she will want a longer walk.
As we approached the park, I saw a woman with three leashes in her hand and three dogs roaming one side of the park freely. I pulled up and rolled down my window. Madison is 11 1/2 and a pit bull mix. She’s not ferocious – believe me – but given that I have had her since she was 4 months old, she takes very seriously what she sees as her job to protect me. As a pit bull owner, I am always very careful about letting her mix with other dogs. If *anything* goes wrong, I know my dog will be the one blamed, regardless of who started it. She is good with some dogs, but not with others, so I always approach any park situation with an abundance of caution.
So I rolled down my window and very nicely said, “excuse me,” so that the woman could hear me. She turned around towards me. “I’m wondering if you could put your dogs on leashes so that my dog can play at the park as well?” I asked her.
“This is my first day with them,” she responded, “and the woman told me they don’t need to be on a leash.”
Fireworks went off in my head. “What kind of nut are you?” I thought, but did not say. This woman has three new dogs and she is letting them play in a park that is new to them, off leash, with a major street steps away, and no fence?
“Dogs always need to be on a leash at this park,” I said. And I said it nicely, and I didn’t remind her the obvious danger of the park’s location nor the fact that she didn’t know how these new dogs would behave.
“Don’t tell me what to do!” she barked back at me. But she moved towards one of the dogs and started to put a leash on it.
I drove to the other side of the park and parked my car. There was another guy there, with his dog on a leash, and I started to let Madison out of the car, on her leash. The woman on the other side had put one of the dogs in the car, and was having a little bit of trouble leashing the second dog. By the time she got to the third dog, it had jumped on the dog belonging to the guy who had been where we were, as he had moved over to her side. His dog didn’t seem to mind – but I know that Madison would have, if this had happened to her.
We encounter people with dogs off-leash at this park all the time. We have had varying experiences with regard to how nicely they respond to our request to leash their dogs. We have heard many variations of “I know my dog, my dog will come when I call, my dog won’t run out into the street,” and my favorite, “my dog is friendly.”
No matter how much you LOVE your dog, you don’t really know your dog. You don’t know how your dog will react when a squirrel runs up a tree on the other side of the street. You don’t know if it will dash out into traffic or not. And most importantly, you don’t know how MY dog will react when YOUR off-leash dog approaches her.
Everyone got to play at the little park yesterday. I’m sure I didn’t make a new friend, but I’m sure I don’t care. You shouldn’t have to ask people to follow rules – they are there to protect all of us. Sometimes from ourselves.