We Need a Dog Park

April Op-ed for Bridge River Lillooet News

I’m tempted to write about Rump and Pooh Tin because there’s so much to criticize about those billionaire politicians but let’s talk about dogs of a better kind.

Dogs are by nature social animals who live in packs. Sure, they successfully live with humans but they still need to be among their kind on a regular basis.

When dogs aren’t socialized they develop behaviour problems like neurotic barking or chronic aggression, not to mention destroying a yard by digging holes or harassing anything that moves. There’s a difference between a dog that’s guarding its property and one that’s acting out because it’s desperate to join the activity going on beyond the fence.

For the last six months I’ve been walking my puppy nearly every day. The other walkers I’ve encountered have enthusiastically agreed that we need a dog park. A dog park would be a pretty small investment for the big payoff it would bring to the community. And it wouldn’t take much labour to create and maintain—a few acres, a durable fence with a gate, two benches, a garbage can, and a sign reminding users to pick up and the fine involved if they don’t.

If it’s centrally located people can combine their trip with shopping or other errands. What about allocating a section of the green space across from Cayoosh Elementary? That area seems very under-used.

When we talk about dogs we also have to talk about the people they own. When we get a dog we mean well and we love them to bits but life can get in the way. Family responsibilities, physical injury and work can squeeze out walking time. Many people have mobility limitations, especially the elderly. Many people aren’t outdoorsy hikers. And the weather can prohibit walking, especially in winter where steep, icy grades increase the likelihood that a walker could slip and fall.

For some breeds, unless you’re a long distance runner it doesn’t matter how long the walk is, it’s not enough. There’s just nothing like the all-out dash and tumble among dogs to get them happy, panting and tired. I was lucky enough to meet another dog owner and our schedules lined up so we’ve been arranging doggy playdates. Over time the dogs have learned to play well together. I’ve noticed that when my dog is well exercised he’s calm, relaxed and more ready to obey commands and learn new ones. And it seems to me that just like taking care of our own health, getting our dog regular exercise is insurance against big vet bills later in life.

All communities big and small have dog parks because so many people have dogs. A dog park increases the livability—and civility—of a place. In a dog park you meet people, share knowledge and tips about training and diet. Or you can sit and catch up on texts and emails on your smart phone. Or you can just sit, watch and giggle at all the fun.

 

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