The Bad Park

There’s a park about four blocks from our house. Inside of that park is a dog park.

We call this “the bad park.” Because of the dog park, local residents treat the whole park as an off-leash area. I can understand why–the dog park is little and the ground cover is hard to walk on. Right next to the sad, pathetic dog park is a huge, grassy field that is perfect for frisbee and such. This park is the perfect vehicle for every kind of bad dog ownership ever.

I have a pattern with this park that goes something like this: Go to the park. Realize how horrible it is. Avoid going for months. Think “Oh, maybe if I go at a different time…” Go to the park. Realize how horrible it is. And so on.

Today I gave in. I wanted Silas to be able to run around, and my husband had a rare weekday off work. The “good park” where Silas can go on his long line is the one that he’s been afraid of lately. Enter the dog park. How bad could the terrible park be, at 11:00 on a weekday morning?

Terrible.

We get there, which is an ordeal thanks to road construction. A lady is in the dog park with three dogs. As we walk up, she’s warning another lady not to bring her little dog in, because her three dogs can’t handle it. She’ll go in just a minute, she says. After 20 minutes, for the entirety of which the three dogs are standing around, looking bored, the lady finally leaves. Both the little dog and Silas have run around enough (on their long leashes) that they’re too tired to enjoy the dog park. Using your aggressive dog to bully everyone else in the park? Check.

We took Silas in for a few minutes anyway, mostly because he needed a drink. In the meantime, a man comes into the non-dog part of the park with his Scottie. The Scottie is off leash, positioned exactly between our car and the dog park gate. We try desperately to walk around, but the Scottie runs right up to Silas. We do our usual amount of allowed sniffing and start to leave. (Sniff-n-go is one of the few public behaviors that Silas does very, very well. When avoidance is difficult, like when the other dog is off leash, I’ll let him sniff for a few seconds and then say, “Okay, let’s go!”) The Scottie follows us. Does his owner make any attempt to call him back? Nope.

And, get this: as we are leaving, a car pulls up. Driver gets out, pops open the back door. Two huge dogs leap out and start charging across the park. The driver still has his head in the car, so that he can get a little dog out, and the big dogs are halfway across the park. Did even he look first, to see if there were other dogs that his charging behemoths might frighten? Nope. Did he have any guarantee that his dogs weren’t going to turn down the sidewalk and into traffic? Nope. Thank goodness we were already in the car.

Now you see why I’m willing to go fifteen minutes away, or more in traffic, to the other park.

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6 thoughts on “The Bad Park

  1. I’ve read dog trainers use very strong language against dog parks in general. Many of them see any off-leash dog area as a disaster waiting to happen.

    I’m not so hard core but I’m so cautious because I hate seeing mindless dog people. For me, the best solution has been going before 9 a.m. on a weekend morning. In my town, most people sleep in.

    The more responsible people are there early and minding their dogs. A few minutes later, it’s a free-for-all with people socializing and drinking coffee while dogs are completely unsupervised.

    For all your irresponsible dog people, it doesn’t sound like anything terrible happened. You’re lucky you have a second option that works better.

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    1. No, nothing bad happened, thank goodness. I think the big dogs would have scared Silas, but he’s less skittish about dogs than people.

      The upside of living in a town this big is that there are lots of options. Even for dog parks, if that was our scene. The downside of living in a town this big is that nothing is ever actually empty. Our experience of going to the dog park “off hours” has actually been the opposite of yours. There weren’t many people, but everyone there was obviously there because their dogs couldn’t handle the crowd.

      Silas is actually good with dogs and did fine in the dog park the two or three times we went, but *I* was an anxious mess. I decided it was really not worth the risk. (The bad park is usually empty, you just have to run the loose dog gauntlet to get in.)

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  2. I totally understand your frustration! Some of our pack are great with other dogs and some aren’t. Not at all. Our Callie is a DINO – Dog In Need Of Space. It is so frustrating to have an off leash dog run towards Callie as the owner yells, “My dog is friendly!” So? Mine isn’t! (just love the dirty look as Callie snaps and snarls at their dog) We are lucky in that there are many places within a 30 – 40 minute drive that are usually deserted.

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    1. Poor Callie.

      Most of the parks here have pretty good leash-law following and very few dogs, so we’re happy about that.

      Silas is still pretty good with other dogs. We’ve had him since he was tiny, and I think we actually did better socializing him with dogs than with people. But, he’s so anxious and high strung that I think even one bad episode would be really hard for him to recover from. Hence my extreme caution.

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  3. I’m reading the above comments and your *I* was an anxious mess, sounds so much like me!

    Irresponsible dog owners irk me to no end, I’m not sure what the solution is, but I would think animal control should have a better handle on it, especially in an area designated a dog park.

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    1. I suspect that animal control unfortunately has their hands full. Our side of town has a few serial leash violators; the other side of town has a massive stray animal problem, dog fighting, etc.

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