Friday, January 25, 2008


When I was in college I worked as a Resident Assistant and Head Resident in the freshmen dorm. It was the best job I've ever had, helping the new kids acclimate to school, working with them to resolve conflicts and problems. A lot people tended to look at the RAs as the building police, always on the lookout for someone violating a rule, playing their music too loud, partying outside their rooms, or perhaps so drunk they mistook a hockey bag left in the hall for a urinal. Ah, the good old days. The truth of the matter was we spent a lot of time trying to avoid dealing with those situations and encouraged our residents to manage their lives like mature adults and to deal with the actions of others in a responsible manner. If your neighbor was listening to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" too loudly, politely knock on their door and explain that you were studying for a test. If the sound of someone vomiting in the laundry room was interfering with your sleep, hold their hair back, see them safely to bed, and make sure to turn them on their side to keep them from choking to death in their sleep. I think we were successful in our attempts to get those awkward freshman to participate in and uphold the standards of the community in which they lived and I still subscribe to that line of thinking. If you don't like something, try to change it rather than merely complain about it.

That's why tonight in the park I prepared myself to speak with the owners of the renegade German Shepherds. As Duncan and I crossed the soccer field just after sundown, Duncan merrily sniffing every ounce of goose poop we passed, I kept my eye open for the dogs and their owners.

I did not have long to wait. We were barely halfway to the baseball diamonds when I caught sight of both dogs, in a dead run straight at us. Not a playful romp, not a light and friendly jog, but a steady and solid charge. Their owners were quite far back, at the edge of the fence, and when they noticed the shadowy shapes of their pets streak past them and straight toward us, they screamed out their names and called them back. Both dogs stopped and turned, looking over their shoulders at us, their eyes narrow, their hackles raised. It was only when they'd been safely leashed I realized I'd been holding my breath and every muscle in my body was tense. I exhaled, took a nice long breath and pulled Duncan's leash up. I forced my shoulders down, put a smile on my face and stepped forward.

As we neared them, both dogs became antsy and pulled on their leashes so much so that the man and woman had to hold them by their collars into a sitting position.

"Hey, guys," I said casually. "How's your walk?"

Neither of them responded. I think they were concerned that I was going to let Duncan get too close, which was ridiculous considering what had happened the night before.

When no one spoke I said, "Hey, did you know that Clement Park is an on-leash park?" I tried to make it sound casual, matter-of-fact, like the weather report. Looks like snow. Wind is out of the southwest. So, this this is what they mean by partly cloudy. That sort of thing.

The man stood up straight, letting go of the bigger dog's collar but keeping a tight grip on the leash. He squared his shoulders and puffed out his chest. "Of course we know," he told me defiantly. What he really meant, though, was, We don't don't care and what are you going to do about it? Take your southwest wind and stick it right up your ass.

I bit my bottom lip and nodded. It was obvious this was not going to work and it was easy to see where the dogs had learned their aggression. This was a man who was prepared to fight. I stepped away, still nodding. "Just wanted to make sure. I'd hate for anyone to get a ticket." And with that we moved on. Only once did I look back to see both of them still standing there watching us go and I couldn't help but feel like that man was fantasizing about letting his dogs chase us off. Or worse.

So that's it. I don't feel safe there and I'm going to call animal control, report the incidents and request some sort of presence in the park at the usual walk time. Sure, I won't be able to toss the ball for Duncan (there's always The Glen and the small gated dog park on the property for that), but I don't want to feel like I have to keep my eyes constantly open for any sign of the menacing shepherds. I don't want to think of myself as tattling on anyone, but if something happened, if another dog or person was injured and I hadn't said something, I'd feel even worse.

It's a community park and we all have the right to feel safe there.

1 comment:

Lori said...

We once had a similar situation with (of all things) a Basset Hound. Only this dog lived near the park and was always roaming without even a useless owner nearby. We did call Animal Control, but to my knowledge he was never impounded. Then we had a period of time when we didn't go to the park for a while, and then didn't see the dog anymore. Roaming at large like that, I only hope he didn't get hit by a car. And you know, if your neighborhood Shepherds injure (or worse) someone's little something-poo, or bites someone's kid, the DOGS will pay the ultimate price. The owners will only get more dogs, and make them menaces, too.