Commentary: A dog’s eye view of ‘dog park’ politics
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following commentary was submitted by John Stifler of Florence on behalf of Buttons, who comments on dog-human relations.
NORTHAMPTON — Lately my owner, John, has been reading me some of the letters in the Gazette on the subject of unleashed dogs walking along the path by the Mill River and on the grounds of the old state hospital. I am impressed by the range of opinions expressed by these human writers, but I confess to some puzzlement over the fact that you have so far published not a single letter by a representative of the other group most concerned here, namely us dogs.
I have listened with particular interest to these letters, not only because John gives me a dog treat if I sit still until he finishes reading but also because I myself have walked on the Mill River path quite a few times ... and I must admit I have been off leash frequently there.
Wait! Wait! I promise I’ve been really, really good about it. I haven’t jumped on anyone, paws muddy or not. Actually, since I’m a pug, even if I did jump on anyone, the highest I’d be able to reach is probably someone’s ankle — but I do not wish to digress.
Well, maybe I’ll digress a little more: pugs are famously good-tempered, we never bite anybody under any circumstances, and so I’m probably not the threat represented by, say, an eager standard poodle — OK, that’s a redundancy; all standard poodles operate on the assumption that humans are delighted to see them any time, anywhere — or retriever or airedale.
Nevertheless, a few years of observation have led me to a further conclusion about the human species: some people really, deep down, just do not like dogs at all and are really uncomfortable around them.
In fact, at the state hospital grounds, even while quite securely on a leash, I seem to have scared one woman so much that she shrieked, “Get that dog away from me!”
I admit I had wrapped my leash around her leg, but it was a total accident and I intended neither disrespect nor aggression. As for “running wild,” as one letter-writer put it, I would like to invite any concerned party to watch me run.
I run in circles around the people I’m with. They call it cute. I don’t see how it’s wild.
As for larger dogs, I am sorry my former housemate, Dweezil, is no longer around to provide lessons for other dogs in correct canine bahavior. Dweezil was one quarter collie, one quarter black labrador, one quarter German shepherd, and one quarter God. He could do anything, including walk off leash under total voice command from his owner.
Which was a good thing, since he was, well, quite large. Actually, John used to walk Dweezil on a leash not because Dweezil would ever do anything without John’s permission but because John figured that other people might be scared of Dweezil if they saw that he wasn’t on leash.
To tell you the truth, he scared me frequently. But he was a great dog. When he went to obedience school — something I am hardly the first to endorse in these pages — he aced every test on the first try and then waited patiently while all the other pooches repeated the exercise several times before getting it.
What I really want to say is that, while any individual dog of course intends to behave in a manner totally acceptable to the most demanding, the most timid, the most gracefully dressed or the most canophobic human being in the solar system, it certainly is true that sometimes we sort of mess up the humans’ ideal vision of how things are, especially how things are on riverside paths and old state hospital grounds.
So, on behalf of all dogs in Northampton, I have dictated this email to John to let you know that it is indeed appropriate to leash dogs when they are in places where they might bother stray human beings.