Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Leash You Can Do

Your dog is off lead, trotting yards ahead of you, out of your control and sometimes out of your sight as you talk on your cell phone, text message or chat with your walking partner. Maybe you are carrying a plastic bag to pick up his droppings. Maybe you can’t be bothered.

Let me introduce myself:

I am the frail elderly person your “friendly” dog jostled and caused to drop my groceries and walking stick. I know he may not have meant any harm but I was alarmed. If I fall I could break my hip and if I did, not only would I suffer, you would be responsible for my medical bills.

I am the small child your dog cruised up to and began to lick on the face and hands. Perhaps I am enjoying the attention but maybe I’m afraid. I might begin to cry or shriek, causing your dog to become more excited – perhaps knocking me over or nipping me. My parent will not appreciate a mouth that may have recently consumed feces or been under the tail of another dog covering my face with saliva.

I am a small breed dog that was stepped on, mauled or harassed by your loose dog. My owner has grown tired of picking me up in order to rescue me from large loose dogs who rush up at me. Some of them are aggressive and try to get at me in my owner’s arms. Maybe they only want to play but maybe not. My owner has me on a leash and is following the law. I am not bothering anybody else. Why are you?

I am the owner of a people-loving, dog-disliking breed. You are turning our daily walks into a hell . . . an obstacle course . . . causing us to forgo trips to the park because you exercise your dog off lead outside of the off lead dog area. Your dog spots mine and makes a beeline for us. I don’t care if your dog is friendly or wants to fight. My dog does not want anything to do with your dog and the situation is only made worse because she is on a leash and your dog is not. Keep your dog away from us!

I am the jogger in Forest Park who rounded a corner and stepped in a pile of poop left by the off lead dog you did not pick up after because he was so far ahead or behind you that he was out of sight when he did the deed. I’m also the walker who was knocked off the trail by your dog when he charged by me in his rush to chase wildlife.

I am the driver who hit your loose dog. He had spotted something attractive on the other side of the road and all of your whistling and shouting couldn’t prevent him from darting into traffic. I love dogs and my heart is broken. This was so unnecessary. Why couldn’t you keep him on a leash? Most of us don’t live on 40 acres, we live in an urban setting that we share with others.

I am a dog hater. I post venomous messages on Craig’s list and in other forums. Your loose dog makes it easy for me to convince others that companion dogs don’t belong in apartment buildings and shouldn’t be allowed in public parks. Thanks folks, you’re making my job easy.

In truth, I am none of these things. I am only a dog writer who loves dogs and whose heart sinks a little lower every time I see one of the above scenarios occur. Please be responsible. I know it feels “cool” to walk along with your big, loose dog surging happily ahead of you, off lead. I know you think you have “voice control”. I know your dog “just wants to be friends.” I know you think it is cruel to put a dog on a leash and that he “hates it.” Leashing your dog outside of your own home and yard and designated off-lead park areas is not only the law in Portland, it is a kindness to your dog and to your neighbors. It also protects you from the expense and heartache involved in being held financially liable for damage and trauma that occur if your dog injures someone else, whether intentionally or accidentally.

For dog’s sake, leash your canine friend.

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