We took Madison up to a popular hiking area near our house on Thanksgiving morning – and we were clearly not the only ones with this idea. It’s an area that is usually packed with runners and bicyclists on Saturday and Sunday mornings – and most of the time there are just a few dogs accompanying their humans. But on Thanksgiving, there were a bunch of people with their dogs – both on and off-leash.
Now this is not an enclosed area. This is a mountain trail area in a huge state park wildlife refuge. It’s actually a former Cold War missile control site, which has been converted into a recreational area.
There are several signs with a list of requirements of dog owners. While dogs are not required to be leashed at all times, the first item on the list says that dog owners are required to keep their dogs under their immediate control, and to be able at all times to prevent unwanted contact with other people and animals in the area, including wildlife. The list goes on – you must have your dog under voice command control, clean up after it, etc. The sign specifically says that owners must have a leash on them at all times. And while it doesn’t say that dogs have to be on-leash at all times, nowhere does it say it’s an off-leash area. In fact, if you click on the ‘legend’ for the amenities that this park area provides, you will see that it says that dogs are allowed on leashes.
My dog is not always friendly with other dogs. She’s 12, and she’s been with me 11 1/2 years. She thinks her job is to protect me. And being the owner of a pit bull, I learned a long time ago that if ANY altercation occurs with another dog, it doesn’t matter who started it, it’s always the pit bull’s fault.
So I keep her on a leash at all times. I mean always. She doesn’t go out the front door of my house without a leash. She’s faster than me, and you never know when a squirrel will happen by. For me, it’s a safety issue. I know I can guarantee her safety if she is connected to me, and if she’s not, I really can’t.
So we were wandering around the area and we walked up a little hill. As we got to the top, I saw a dog off leash, walking towards us. Not surprisingly, when the dog saw Madison, he started running towards her. The owners were more than 10 feet behind him – in fact when the dog took off running, I couldn’t even see the owners yet.
As my husband put himself between the running-towards-us dog and Madison, I screamed. And thankfully, the running-towards-us dog stopped and socialized with my husband instead of continuing towards us. The owners didn’t really do much as my husband held the other dog by his harness – they just sort of wandered over, wondering why I was screaming.
And then there were words, not nasty ones but not nice ones. And there was much indignance on their part when I accepted the apology that was feebly and defensively offered, as they instructed me that it’s an off-leash area. “No it’s not!” I informed them. “Go read the sign at the bottom of this very hill. The dog was not under your control, and it’s not inappropriate to scream when a dog is running towards you.”
And then they collected their dog and left. And I spent the next half hour calming myself down. Madison didn’t seem to notice or care that anything had happened.
I guess it’s just like everything else – people follow whatever rules they want to follow, and they don’t really care to be told when they aren’t following rules. And indignance seems to be the most common response. People seem to recognize and/or acknowledge that their actions and behavior have an impact others less and less these days. And I guess if I stop expecting the best from people, I’ll stop being disappointed.
At least they wished us Happy Thanksgiving as they walked away.
And yes, I will take this opportunity to shamelessly show you yet another picture of our beautiful (always-leashed-when-outside-the-house) dog!!