Dogs in Parks, Columnist Barks

Who doesn't love having dogs running unleashed in our public parks? Only one person, I guess.

I hate it when people act arrogantly. Drivers cutting off other drivers in traffic, guys throwing frisbees that end up banging parents in the head while sitting having picnics - you get the idea.

I encountered my worst pet peeve last week while sitting in Blackstone Square, on Washington Street in the South End.

The square is busy most days. Men with bottles hang out there, talking and arguing with one another (and themselves). Mothers with babies mingle about, sunning themselves. And, pet owners bring their dogs there to poop on the lawn and run up on unsuspecting people’s laps.

Previous comments to the contrary notwithstanding, I do like dogs. I love them.

But, the scene here was overwhelming. I mean, like 12-15 dogs off leashes.

Swear words rarely defuse situations

I have a short temper; this, I know. Someday, someone’s gonna wind up and pop me one. But, I gotta be me.

So, I call out one of the dog owners.

“I can’t believe what a total *expletive* you are. I mean, really. This is a public park. Why are you letting your dog run all over the place?”

“Are you talking to me?” asks one.

“No, I wasn’t actually, I was talking to the other one, but you are a *expletive*, too.”

“I’m not even gonna get into it with him, forget it,” one says to the other.

Others in the park take notice.

A woman (with dog and in wheelchair) says, “You must not come here often. I’ve seen humans *expletive* in this park and you’re complaining about this? Do you know what goes on in this place?!”

“I come here all the time, but stopped because of all these dogs!” I shout back.

The dogs continue their frolicking, on the grass, on the pathways, in the fountain.

Finally, their energies exhausted, the owners collect their things, ready to leave. The second one approaches me (oh, oh). “It’s fine to voice a point of view, but you should learn, when you start off with that tone, you completely lose the argument.”

The other comes my way, ready to walk home. He turns at the last second, whispers, “Oh, what the hell,” and comes toward me. Fearing the worst, I remove my glasses.

“You know, you should really be careful what you say to people. You can say what you want, but don’t ever talk to me that way. Didn’t your mother teach you manners?”

I nod in silence. My mother may not have taught me manners but she made sure I knew to back down in a fight I was sure to lose.

Dogs in parks

As a dog lover, I feel guilty complaining. But, this situation has gotten out of hand. Here’s what I see during my daily travels.

Boston Common - owners letting their dogs off leashes with impunity.. Result: The dogs have worn out the (newly-planted) grass on the “Great Lawn”. (They banned cows on the Common, why not dogs?)

Esplanade - owners often let their dogs run free, in and out of the Charles River. A couple days ago, I ran into a dog because its owner had to run off to save his other dog from attacking someone.

Boston Public Garden - Less frequently, thank god, but you’ll see a dog off its leash at least once or twice a day. When I complained to one, a passerby responded, “You obviously don’t know, dogs need wide open spaces to run in.”

A losing fight

It’s a losing fight. Most people seem to like the idea of dogs off leashes.

And, there are benefits to having dogs in the parks - their owners are always there, talking with one another, and socializing. While at Blackstone, I saw people walking in saying, “How are you feeling now?” and “Did you go to that meeting last week, what happened?” Empty parks bring people “hanging out”, which can lead to public drunkenness, vagrancy, and ... .

The way I see it, my complaint notwithstanding, is that if we want to encourage people to live here in the city, then we should make their lives more satisfying.

A possible solution: compromise

Why not face the problem head on?

On the Common, there are a couple sections that are perfect for a fenced-in dog park. Up the hill near the State House, for example. Or, more convenient to those at the bottom of the hill, are patches of grass next to the lower fence, near where the parking garage comes out of the ground.

The Public Garden and Esplanade are off-limits, as far as I’m concerned. Dog owners who ignore the rules should be reprimanded.

Parks such as Blackstone Square are large enough to have spaces segregated for dog owners. It costs little but benefits us greatly to find an amenable solution where dog owners, moms with strollers, drunks and vagrants, and uppity / crotchety middle-aged men can enjoy themselves.

No matter what, though, it will fall upon the dog owners themselves to take control of the situation. They can police themselves, or have the police police them.

The fight between rude dog owners and everyone else is not a new one - it’s been going on years; perhaps it will always exist. Is it a minor quality of life issue? For many, probably. For a few, an inconvenience.

For one of us, a disaster waiting to happen!

Nicole April 18, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Interesting...I agree that the situation in Blackstone Square is out of control. Usually, the dogs really bring a smile to my face to see them frolicking around. It's fun - they're happy, I'm happy. But, I think the owners need to be a BIT more respectful that it is a space for ALL, not just for dogs. And there is a dog park just a few blocks east. I do like the suggestion of a separate area for dogs within the square.
Timothy Crawford April 19, 2012 at 12:56 PM
John, I only let my pooch off his leash if no one is around. My anger arises when I step in a hidden pile as I go to pick my dogs crap up. More poop stations might help a little although those that rely on these as their sole source of bags empty them quickly!
Genine Tillotson April 19, 2012 at 01:28 PM
John and any dog owners reading this: I generally don't swear at people and especially strangers but inside I am in a state of expletive [not deleted] wrath over the whole dog situation, particularly in the South End. Why is it that folks in this uber urban environment feel the need to own not one, but two or three dogs, all of which have almost no place to run free or perform their bodily functions. Mini parks just don't cut it for most canines and leave them crazy with energy. So, of course, the situation is nuts -- there's not enough room or proper exercise space for dogs, who are really meant to run free. The worst is the contingent who pick up their doggie poops (in little plastic bags) but then leave the bags in their own front yards or places they've decided ought to be trash spots but are not. Wish I had a nickle for every plastic poop bag I see on my own residential side street or left behind on Tremont or Columbus. Guess what folks? I don't really want to see your dogs' s%*t staring back at me as I stroll off for dinner or a coffee. The solution is to have fewer, smaller dogs, make the effort to take them to real trails where they can run free, and keep them on leash in the city. And, finally, throw your plastic poop collections away in your own garbage or flush them down the toilet.
Kasey Hariman April 19, 2012 at 06:02 PM
A comment was deleted for violating our terms of service. Just a reminder -- you can talk about dog waste all you want, but you can't threaten anyone with physical violence in Patch forums. Our Terms Of Use has more info on our policies: http://southend.patch.com/terms.
jon April 19, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Im willing to bet that my dog has more class, and is more well behaved than the author of this article. Keep up the great work. There are dozens of people waiting to read your next masterpiece of an article.


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