Friday, March 27, 2009

Dogs in the Tot Lot

I used to like dogs a lot. And I still do. It's their owners who sometimes leave me unhappy. Take, for example, the events of this morning.

We had a fab time at our monthly playgroup at the park today. There was one smallish incident that added some unnecessary excitement, so this is the e-mail I sent to the parks department for clarification. Feel free to comment folks, and even to write your own note to the parks department if you feel so moved.

I was at a neighborhood playgroup at the tot lot at Cahill Park this morning, when an issue with a dog arose. A parent had brought his son to play, but he also brought his dog into the fenced tot lot. Always leashed and well-behaved, but still, a dog in an area designated for children. All of the moms who left their dogs at home were surprised at the dog owner's defensive response to their request that he tether his dog to the fence on the outside of the lot.

The situation degenerated into a group confrontation, and an angry denial by the dog owner that there should be any restriction on his dog being in the tot lot. His kid was there playing, his dog likes to play on the equipment too, he keeps the dog leashed and always picks up poop so he reasoned that he had been unfairly singled out by moms bent on making their own rules regarding playground use. I felt badly that this parent chose to leave rather than simply keep his dog outside of the gate. Given the perpetual issue of out-of-control off-leash dogs in the grass at this park, it doesn't seem an unreasonable request to have one dog-free place at the park for children to play.

It is my understanding that dogs are not permitted inside the gates of fenced tot-lots, but I don't see this posted on the parks website so now I'm wondering just exactly what the policy is. I walk from a bit of a distance for my child to use this beautiful playground, but it's not worth it for me if it is a dog playground too. Thank you in advance for your time and attention to my question.

Heather Steingruebl
The thing that killed me about this whole interaction was that it started out friendly, and only got ugly when the dog-owner decided to make it so. Our little playgroup loves meeting new folks and so the folks who bring snacks share with everyone and people make a point to introduce themselves to anyone they haven't met before. This guy was welcomed even with his dog in tow, but the rest of the people in the rather crowded play lot asked him-nicely I thought-to keep his dog outside the fence. The huffy, "is it a rule or is it an ordinance" questioning was just belligerent and he was probably right to split after behaving that way.

My feeling on this is that the guy loves his dog (a very nice one by the way) and is a bit blinded by that love. He knows he is at the very least pushing the limits of social acceptability by letting his dog run up and down the slides, and didn't want to be called on it. A lot of his bluster seemed to be him trying to convince the universe at large to be the way he wanted it. Probably a losing proposition, but for today it just made him look like a jerk.


Joe said...

I'm curious as to what the Parks department response was.

SWE said...

Thanks for asking! About a week after I wrote to them, a friend of mine (whose townhome faces said park and who walks her dog and her toddler there all of the time) heard from someone at the parks department to find out if my story was true. They told her that signs had been ordered and they are just waiting for staff to be able to put 'em up. The parks department is obscenely understaffed, so I'm not expecting to see them any time soon. They're certainly not up yet!

It's kinda weird they never wrote back to me-maybe I ought to follow up...