Imagine having two four legged furry family members who you love dearly. You put out a lot of money on these family members each week in order to make sure they are well fed and in good health. Between vet bills, dog licenses, shots, expensive specialized food with at least 20% protein, toys, bedding, medications, and anything else they need it all adds up. Why? Because you are a responsible pet owner. You cannot imagine life without your doggies.
Imagine what it would be like living in a mobile home park where you cannot let them out into the yard to run freely. You keep them on a leash and go outside with them 10 times a day rain, snow, sleet or shine so they can take care of business. You take them on daily walks to help them get some exercise and energy out.
Now, imagine living in a wonderful community that has lots of parks and hiking paths. One of those parks even has a closed off area for a dog park. This sounds amazing! It is the perfect spot to let your furry friends have some much-needed off-leash time to run and play. It’s a dream come true, or maybe not.
I do live in such a community. A wonderful small city where the residents all seem friendly and caring. Where we take pride in our town and city officials are taking strides to ‘beautify’ our streets. Lots of new businesses are flowing into town, residential growth is escalating and taxes are quite high to pay for our schools and city services.
We do, however, like any city, have flaws. One of those flaws is our dog park. Some would say we are lucky to have it and should not rock the boat so to speak. Those people fear the Park’s and Recreation Department just taking the dog park away if we ask them to improve the known issues it has. Other’s do not pay any attention to the dog park as they have no use for it and feel it is just something else to spend our tax dollars on. Then there is the group like me, who feel the dog park is a very valuable asset to this thriving community. One’s like me that has dogs and relies on the dog park for the enjoyment of my furry family members.
So what are the known issues you might ask?
- Location, location, location. They tucked it away as far back into the park as they possibly could. This makes it very difficult if not impossible for disabled citizens to utilize with their dogs.
- There is no path leading to the dog park area leaving a grassy and most of the time soggy mushy mess to hike to. Forget taking wheelchairs or crutches out there at all as it is impossible.
- The next issue is that they only used a 4-foot chain link fence on 3 sides. Big dogs can jump that fence in no time flat.
- Both gates in the entrances on either side have huge gaps in them where with little force could be sprung open allowing dogs to escape.
- The side without any fence is open to the river. While this is a great concept that allows the water loving dogs to swim and play in the water and have plenty to drink, it poses a risk as the dogs can swim around the sides of the fence and escape.
As if the difficulty getting to the dog park area were not enough, the last issue of the 4th side being open to the water is what really gets my goat. This poses a risk to everyone, the dog owner, the dog, the people in the park and those traversing the roads within the city. I found this out the hard way today.
Not 3 minutes into my dogs being inside the fence and off-leash, one of my dogs made quick work of joyfully jumping into the water and swimming around the fence into the open park and escaping. Now, I have asthma along with some other health problems which prevent me from running after him to catch him. I was already out of breath from making the hike to get to the dog park and desperately needing my inhaler. Not a good situation. My 15-year-old daughter sprung into action giving chase. He was too fast and she could not catch up. Crying she came back distraught and worried.
I tried to assure her that someone would find him and call the number on his name tag securely left on his collar, as I rummaged through our doggy diaper bag we carry with us for my phone. As if by clockwork my phone rang the minute I pulled it out of the backpack. Indeed someone had found him and offered to bring him back down to the park for us. Still, out of breath, I then had to make the long trek back to the parking lot to get our dog back while my daughter stayed with our other dog and stuff in the fenced in area.
The gentleman who had found our dog and brought him back to the dog park had a heck of a story to tell. It appears that Silas, our boxer had made it all the way to the main 4 lane road going through town and proceeded to bolt across without a care or thought to the cars traveling the road. I mean, he is a dog! It is not like he is going to stop and look both ways and wait till it is clear to cross right. This caused about 7 or 8 cars, including a motorcyclist to slam on their breaks. The guy on the motorcycle ended up sideways in the road but was able to recover without injury. The hero gentleman stopped and opened his car door in which Silas ever so happy to join in a car ride jumped right in. Everyone recovered after having their hearts stop for a few moments and carried on their way.
I want to apologize to each and every one of those people on the road today and thank them so much for their quick reflexes which saved the man on the motorcycle and our dog. I am deeply indebted to every one of them.
But this situation upsets me to no end. It is one that had an accident actually happened caused by my dog bolting across the road, I would have been held responsible for. It was avoidable and did not have to happen. Personally, I hold the City and Director of Parks and Recreation responsible. We as citizens of this great community have been complaining about these issues for years. We have been ignored and cast aside.
I am a very responsible pet owner. I do everything in my power to care for my dogs and make sure they are happy and healthy. It does not matter how much training your dog has, how well behaved he or she is or how good of an owner you are, there will always be moments like these where something happens.
That said, It is not unreasonable for me to have some level of expectation from the City to keep up and maintain the public dog park which they continue to neglect. It would not cost that much to add fencing a little farther out into the water and closing off that 4th side inside the water. This would block off any possibility for the dogs to escape yet allow them to still reach the water. I have done my part with my dogs as their owner following all laws and regulations, they need to do theirs for the benefit of the public. Does the city not realize that in a situation like this one, if a car accident had happened and someone was injured, they could and should be held responsible? It would be a lot more costly for them as well. I truly hope they use this incident today as a wake-up call.