Before you start calling me Michael Vick, let it be known that I love dogs. I’ve had them my entire life and currently own two: a 13-year-old Boston Terrier/Beagle I purchased as a puppy and an 11-year-old Puggle I rescued 5 years ago.
Now that you’ve hopefully lowered your pitch-forks, let me tell you why dog parks suck.
It’s because humans attend them.
I don’t have human children, but I imagine there are parallels to dog parks and playgrounds for kids; innocent playful minds basking in freedom and exploration… being impeded by adults with a complete lack of awareness and without the most basic forms of social decorum.
There’s always that person who clearly binge-watches Cesar Milan and thus, declared themselves the park’s bevahioural expert ready to give you endless advice about your dog-parenting methods; that person who brings their un-altered dog who’s somehow always in heat; that person who sits down and buries their face into their phone while their dog defecates, digs holes, and occasionally mauls a Chihuahua; and that person who brings their small children that inevitably get carried away after getting run-over and concussed by a Great Dane.
I used to regularly attend dogs parks in the Hamilton-area.
First, it was the Ancaster Leash-free aka Cinema Dog Park aka Corporal Nathan Cirillo Free Run Area in the Meadowlands. The park is absolutely massive, allowing me the ability to wander without having to engage in tedious small talk with humans. In case I did get caught in a vortex of, “great weather we’re having, eh?”, I made sure to always be wearing headphones. Not because I was listening to anything, but to give the impression that I was listening to something.
I recall my first run-in with a patron and her dog. A Shepherd-mix approached Montana and me on a chilly February afternoon. I put out my glove covered hand to let the pup sniff before it clamped down on my finger. Many dogs don’t react favourably to gloves, so admittedly that was on me.
Only, it turned out that that glove saved me from a trip to the emergency room for a tetanus shot.
“Excuse me!”, I heard from a screeching voice behind me. “Please don’t touch my dog. Can’t you see he’s dragging his leash? That means the dog isn’t to be touched. He doesn’t like people.”
You brought a dog who doesn’t like people to a dog park with people in it and let it roam free, wearing its leash based on some warning system that you invented and no one else is aware of?
Then there was the Facebook group run by regulars of the Ancaster dog park. I joined for reasons I still can’t comprehend and lasted nearly two days before leaving it.
First, there was the woman who posted about her leashes constantly being stolen. She claimed these leashes costed her “hundreds of dollars” (I assumed they were made from gold and dingo fur) and every time she returned to the parking lot after her park visit, the leash was stolen from the fence they had been draped over. This had occurred “multiple times” apparently. If only there was some way to ensure your designer dog leashes would stop getting stolen after leaving them unattended near a busy parking lot for hours at a time…
Then, there were the dog-shaming posts. Accompanied by a photo of the dog and/or owner, they would read something like: “If you see this dog, stay away! They bit my poor little Muffy!”
I don’t know Muffy, but I’m assuming she deserved it.
After moving from the Hamilton mountain to the downtown-area, Hill Street Dog Park became my go-to leash-free.
By this point, Cassy had entered our lives so the three of us would make the short through the liveliness of Locke St and passed the adorable community gardens on Hill St.
This particular park is a lot smaller than the one in Ancaster, but it was offset by the vibrancy of the area and its residents.
Just when I thought my attitudes towards dog parks had changed, Jimmy came along. I don’t actually know his name, but I figured it was probably Jimmy,
He was one of those dog owners who is CONSTANTLY yelling at their dog.
It wasn’t like he would yell, “no!” or “drop it!”. He would put on a show, yelling 50-word monologues about the dog’s behaviour.
“Rex! How many times do I have to tell you?! You’re not supposed to be kicking up dirt! If your paws are full of mud you won’t be allowed back in the truck! Remember what happened last time?!”
Jimmy once even put poor, confused Rex inside his truck on a “time-out”.
Listen, dogs hump each other and very rarely are dogs emulating mating behaviour when they hump during play. Maybe they’re exerting dominance and maybe they’re just letting off steam and relieving a little stress.
Montana is a humper. So much so, that if he were human, his face would be plastered all over every park as a registered sex offender.
One afternoon, though, Montana got a taste of his own medicine. Rex got on Montana’s back and went to town.
Maybe Jimmy wouldn’t have minded so much, but Montana and Rex are both males. So you know what that means, don’t you?
Well, nothing. Not if you’re a reasonable human being, anyway.
Jimmy was not so reasonable.
He grabbed Rex by the collar mid-thrust and dragged him into the back-seat of his pick-up. Then, amazingly, Jimmy returned to the dog park to hang out while Rex sat in the truck and watched!
Jimmy, Muffy’s owner, leash lady, dog shamer, wannabe Cesar… they all suck. And because of them, so do dog parks.