Monday, March 1, 2010

Dog Park Disillusionment

DSC_0174I'm a relatively new dog owner. The deceptively cute fellow you see at right is Jumby, who is a four-and-a-half month old terror. I mean terrier. N. thinks he is the ugliest dog in the world. That guy, ugly? Okay - he's not going to win any dog shows. He looks more like a hyena than a dog, but just look at that face!

His habits include charging full speed into Sully, the other dog, not eating his food until Sully tries to eat it, and destroying everything. Favorite thing to destroy this week: bed sheets. We now have to lock the dogs out of the bedroom, as he has eaten a hole in three sheets in the last two weeks.

Jumby's First Dog Park Excursion

N. took Jumby to the Metro Dog Park at 11th and Park, across from Red Rocks, for the first time on Saturday. The three of us went again on Sunday. I had never been inside this particular dog park before. It's really nice in many ways - plastic dog poop bags are provided, it's well fenced in, and there's plenty of space as well as some chairs and tables.

What was disappointing was the amount of trash and dog crap in the park. While I would like to blame the recent snow for some of the trash buildup, it seemed pretty clear that much of what I was looking at had been there for a long time.

The thing is, dog owners get special dispensations. We need to go out of our way to be good citizens. Anyone who doesn't own a dog probably has little good to say about dog owners. Though most are responsible, from the other perspective, what do dogs add to your life? Dogs left outside at all hours, barking endlessly. Dog crap on the sidewalk to step in. People who let their dogs run off-leash in public parks and even on the sidewalks. Aggressive dogs that can be scary to walk by, even on leash. It really doesn't take many bad eggs to spoil it for everyone. At the end of the day - there are many negatives to dogs from the perspective of people who don't own or like them. So dog owners, as a group, should bend over backwards to be responsible.

So, the Metro Dog Park was a true victory for dog owners. Technically, there is no such thing as a "legal dog park" at all in this city - the law says dogs must be on leash at all times. So when this place was actually handed over to the dog owners as a rare place that was truly set aside only for the dogs, many rejoiced. It was really perfect, since it didn't actually take a usable space away from anyone else. The land is owned by Metro, so was not technically public land, but WMATA agreed to this use.

And this is what we've done with it. Let piles of disgusting dog crap pile up all around the edges. Let trash collect everywhere. While I'm sure the users of the park aren't generally responsible for much of the trash there, how hard would it be for them to pick it up once in a while? Would you let your own yard look like this if someone else's trash blew into it? It's not going to go away by itself.

When someone goes out of their way to make a special dispensation for you, you go out of your way to show that you appreciate it. If anyone reading this also appreciates this park, why don't you show it by picking up some dog poop or some trash. Forget your self-righteous indignation because it's not your trash or your dog's poop and just pick it up. If everyone who uses this park spent even five minutes a week keeping it clean, it would actually be clean.

... and so how was Jumby's first day at the park?

Now that I've gotten my obligitory trash rant out of the way, let me just say that Jumby finally met his match at the dog park. At home he is fearless. From the day he moved into our house, nothing fased him. He has willfully attacked and goaded the much larger Sullivan from when he was 7 pounds. (He probably weighs close to 20 now). He is always anxious to meet people and dogs on the street when we walk him.

But the half-dozen dogs, all larger than him, was too much. He spent most of his time trying to jump up into someone's (anyone's!) arms. Apparently, people are far less threatening than other dogs. He hid between N's legs. It was pretty cute actually. I'm sure it must be tough to be the only small terrier in a field of retrievers and other much bigger dogs. But it was pretty funny to see him actually not be an alpha for the first time.

We're determined to socialize him, though. Sullivan has never been very good with other dogs, and we don't want Jumby to learn the same behavior, so we'll keep coming back.


Cris said...

I completely agree. I am a dog owner myself, and I make sure that I pick up dog waste and trash in dog parks and beaches. I think we need to do more to garner increasing rights for our four legged friends. On another note, Ii have a small dachshund and she reacts the same way at dog parks that Jumby seems to. It is hard when there is a huge dog barreling at them. My dog hates dog parks and always wants to be held.

Jamie said...

Ha ha! Well maybe it's a little dog thing. It was a surprise, though, just because of how fearless he's been with Sully, who's about 35 or so pounds and kind of a curmdgeon, too. I expected him to just go crazy, but instead he hung back mostly. But this weekend was his first experience around other dogs so it's just the beginning.

Anonymous said...

the dog park further down 11th st. has a seperate area for small dogs.

Jamie said...

@Anon- very good to know, where exactly is this dog park? I googled briefly and couldn't figure it out. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

the 2nd 11th st. dog park is at 11 and rhode island ave. on your left hand side going downtown. near the skate park at the corner there. good luck

Alex said...

"The thing is, dog owners get special dispensations. We need to go out of our way to be good citizens."

I sure do wish more dog owners had this attitude...