Monday, January 9, 2012

The Dog Park

So recently the dogs have been making daily appearances at the dog park. It is a relatively new adventure for all of us, but since Artemis only views our short 4-foot chain-link fence as a challenge it seemed better than locking her inside the house at all times.

So after some Googling and some stereotypical government employee hassle we landed ourselves at a very nice very free park. For the past ten days the dogs have really been acclimating to the addition of so many other dogs. For the most part, they do well. Apollo struggles with being a bit of a bully, and between the two of them they bark more than all of the other dogs combined, but they seem to play well, and every day they are more relaxed. Until yesterday...

Ken and I were logging a particularly mild winter day with the dogs yesterday. And they were behaving extremely well. After about an hour they were looking fairly tired, but some of their favorite running mates had just showed up and we were going to stick around a while longer. Enter the problem: a hyper-excited bull terrier with it's owner dragging behind it.

This lady, who's name I do not care to ever know could barely keep her dog on the ground as she got out of the car. The dog was lunging and jumping and making this incredibly odd and abnormal sounding shrieking noise. Every dog in the park (about 15) was at the fence staring. We talked amongst ourselves about "Surely she's not going to bring that dog in here" and "I'm sure she will keep it on leash with it acting like that". And my wise husband suggested we should just leash up and leave then. But as the rest of us were sure this owner wouldn't release the dog, we stayed. Mistake #1. Before the dog was even inside the gate there was a fight. And not a playful, this is fun, get the ball kind of fight. So, bull terrier, owner, and very small toddler about to enter the big-dog dog park retreated a bit. As we tried to wrangle our dogs from the commotion, the bull terrier was again released into the park. She made a beeline for Darby, a 30ish pound collie mix. Now really, there's no strength comparison between the two, and everyone could already see the attitude of the bull terrier was not going to lead anywhere nice. Well almost everyone.

And so the bull terrier lunged at, and successfully pinned the resisting Darby. Amongst the snarling/growling/yelping/barking Ken managed (I have no idea how) to get a grip on the bull terrier. Darby ran for safety under a bench and I realized then that people were talking and yelling. I looked at Ken, who seemed whole, and heard from behind me "You need to get your dog under control! All that barking and chasing is what started this!" Clearly I anticipated someone to be letting the Bull's owner know that we all didn't appreciate her introducing her dog in that manner. But what?!?! No. The Bull's owner is busy yelling at Ken to let her dog go, while Unhelpful Bystander #1 is giving Darby and her owner the what-for! Are you serious! Meanwhile Darby is now leashed so Ken hands the bull over to her owner, who immediately lets her go.

And this time the target is Artemis.

Oh no you didn't. Honestly my first thought was 'If your dog hurts mine I'll kill it'. But then I didn't need to worry. Apparently Apollo lives by the code of "I'm the only one who picks on my sister". So begin fight # 3. After Artemis' second yelp God help me I was going to calm that Bull down. Again, somehow between Ken and I we got the fight broken up, Artemis out of the fray relatively unharmed, and the Bull back to her owner. By this point the Bull isn't even wearing her collar anymore because it was on so loose that when Ken grabbed at it it slipped right off. Wow Lady, just wow.

And now, Unhelpful Bystander #1 is ranting about how my dogs are just as bad as Darby, and how it's their barking that started all of this. Um excuse me? Thank God and my mom for teaching me and giving me the strength to hold my tongue. We leashed the dogs and left. As we were leaving I turned to see the park. Two dogs were left: the Bull, and Unhelpful Bystander #1. Ten dogs were cleared out of that park by one ill-behaved dog. And the best part the Bull was right back at it, lunging and snarling at Unhelpful Bystander #1's dog.

As I was discussing this with my mom yesterday she observed that the dog park is very much like life. There are always people who can work out their differences in peace. Always people who can all get along. And there is always someone who brings the fighting and trouble with them, and leaves wondering why everyone else is always fighting.

What I have learned from this: 1. When the Bull shows up next time we will be leaving pronto, 2. I  will protect my dogs from other people and other dogs without being afraid, 3. The people who are responsible will never see that they are to blame, and I will never convince them, 4. I pray that I am never that person.

So please, if you take your dog to an off leash park, don't ruin the experience for everyone else if your dog can't behave. You don't have to stay away from the park, just keep your dog on a leash.

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