Viewpoint: Mirror in the dog park

I recently had an unpleasant experience in one of the dog parks in town, which managed to combine some of the worst aspects of our society at this time. This viewpoint is, therefore, about the global and the very local.

My partner and I went for a run with our sweet female puppy on New Year’s Day. We decided to go to the dog park for a bit of an extra off-leash run and training session right after we finished our on-leash run in the Penticton Trails. Our puppy is from a running lineage and loves to run, needs to run and does run, and then she is ready to run a bit more soon after.

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Since bringing this puppy into our lives several months ago, I’ve been reticent about taking her to the dog park. Most people are great and responsible. Others aren’t.

In the realm of the dog park, those who are neither great nor responsible threaten the safety and very life of your dog because they bring their aggressive, uncontrollable dogs to the park, which is explicitly and solely created for the purpose of letting dogs that live in town have some time off-leash to run and play in safety and freedom. What a nice idea.

When we arrived at the park, a large, aggressive, male German Shepherd cross was on our puppy the second we opened the gate. He chased her, pushed her down and she ran and tried to get away. And he chased her, pushed her down, got on top of her and bit her. She ran and tried to get away. And he chased her, pushed her down, got on top of her and bit her, more and more aggressively.

I watched the first chase with concern rising. By the second chase my instinct to protect was close to a rolling boil. I began to yell at the attacking dog and trying to catch up as my puppy tried to get away.

The attacking dog’s owner did nothing. He watched as I did everything I could to stop the attack before our puppy could be seriously injured or killed. Ultimately I was successful in getting the dogs apart. In the process of doing so, I shouted and used quite a bit of colourful language. I regret the language but I do not regret doing what was necessary to protect our puppy from violent attack.

The other dog’s owner did nothing, stood still and took photos of me and my partner, which he then put on social media with a distorted and defamatory note that failed to mention the fact that his large, male dog was attacking our small, female puppy.

So, there is a bit of the global. Distorting facts. Engaging in slander and defamation. And playing it all out on social media for reasons that elude me.

Social media can be a great connector. Personally, I deleted my Facebook account quite some time ago, since it is my belief, and the belief of many, that the downsides of Facebook outweigh its upsides. Downsides include such things as debasing our social connections rather than enhancing them and damaging our already badly wounded democratic institutions, including our elections.

The other global link that we saw right here in the dog park? Unnecessary violence borne of ignorance and a lack of respect.

My last job before I moved to Powell River a few years ago was with Oxfam Canada, an organization focused on the rights of women and girls. I learned a lot in that job and my sense of outrage about violence against women and girls deepened profoundly.

I’ve always been protective of my family. Our puppy is a member of my family. Yes, I am aware of the distinction between dogs and humans, although I sometimes think we flatter ourselves when we see ourselves as the superior species.

Our puppy has never done an aggressive thing in her short life and never will. The dog that attacked her was large and male. That dog’s owner, the one who did nothing but watch, take photos and distort the situation, was also large and male. Some part of that awareness was very much alive in my response to the regrettable situation in the dog park.

We won’t be back to the dog park.

John Young is a Powell River resident who lives in Westview.

Copyright © Powell River Peak


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