Well, you're about to get a stomach-full! Below is a letter I wrote this morning to my city council, county board of supervisors, the local newspapers, and the State Dept. of Parks and Recreation.
But today, I'm in full battle-mode about a locals' issue close to my heart: our special park by the sea, called Lighthouse Field, that up 'til now, has had "leash-free" dog walking hours from dawn to 10 am, and 4 pm to dusk. It's the last six hours of civilization left in this town!
There is one hour of my day that has always been the sweet spot. It's about to get the ax.
That hour is our family’s daily dog walk at Lighthouse Field and Its Beach. It is the single most civilized, wholesome, social space in the entire town. It is a unique social climate in this town, a model for decent behavior.
And now it’s being closed down. No more off-leash walks. People who bring their dogs at 6 AM on November 15 are to be given citations. Dog-walkers are now criminals who have been charged with ruining a community asset. How could such a short-sighted decision be allowed to stand?
We all know the ugly social and economic issues this city is up against. The future has looked so dark lately. The “dog walk hours” at the Field have been one of the few bright spots in the midst of our troubles, an oasis of cooperation and generosity.
Every day for five years, our family has been part of the Lighthouse Field dog crowd, in all kinds of weather. We come at dawn or at dusk. We pick up the poop, we talk about the weather, and the changing seasons. We call each other by our dog’s names: I’d be Mrs. Cody, to many who know me there.
The decision to close the park to the ones who enjoy it the most, is unconsciousably cruel. There are many folks for whom this is their only exercise and social connection to our community. What are we supposed to do now?
Dogs familiar with the park cannot simply be “put on a leash,” to follow the new rules. They won’t understand, and will assume they’re being punished. Frankly, that’s exactly how it feels to me.
Before my family adopted a puppy, I was afraid of dogs. I was the type who emitted the “fear” smell that dogs pick up on so quickly. I’d never been to Lighthouse Field, or anywhere where a dog might be around, on leash or not.
But my young daughter was an animal-lover, and had gone to great lengths to prove that she was ready to raise a dog. I decided to get educated, and address my phobia.
What I learned about dog was a revelation. Phrases like “puppy love” and “man’s most loyal companion” took on new significance. I saw that dogs offer something to humans that we don’t consistently give each other: unconditional faithfulness and affection, desire to do good, and putting the group’s interest above all. I'm saying this as a die-hard cat person who finds these traits remarkable in human beings, let alone animals.
These characterisitics seem to be the opposite of the city and state’s recent decision, where bureaucracy and insensitivity rule the roost, letting the bitter chips fall where they may. A handful of well-financed litigants paved the way for this decision, and their agenda is the pinnacle of bullying. The quality of people’s lives has been hurt in a way that won’t go unnoticed, or unpaid for.
What have been the objections to the leash-free hours at the Field?
Of course we hear about abused and neglected animals who are dangerous to themselves and others. The pit bull in Live Oak who’s trying to kill the mailman, or the monstrosity in the San Francisco apartment complex. They’re the headline grabbers— and you’ll notice they’re not part of our park.
Dangerous animals aren’t the kind of pets that get taken for nice walks at Lighthouse Field! People who chain their dog up all day at their meth lab aren’t taking a stroll at Its beach with an extra bottle of water, and cookie treats! "
My dog has never been in a fight at the Field, in five years of daily visits. The worst thing I’ve witnessed was minor orneriness, between people, not dogs, over the disposition of a chewed tennis ball.
The people who oppose leash-free hours are a mystery to me. I never see them in the park. I don’t see them enjoying it during the “non-dog” hours. They certainly don’t come out in the cold or rainy weather. Are they afraid of dogs, as I once was? Are they misanthropes who have adjacent homes and want a view with “no people” in it? I get the feeling they dislike people more than dogs. Without the dogs, they know they’ll get rid of the people. The park is otherwise barren.
The environmental concerns have always been a nonstarter. The butterflies? Well, the first thing you need to know about butterflies is that they are attracted to feces. They would probably like it better if the dog owners of Lighthouse Field weren’t so dedicated to cleaning up things with our plastic bags.
The other flora and fauna? The gophers seem to thrive despite the desperate attempts of the dogs to catch them. It is a city park, not a long-lost wilderness.
The other regular guests to the park? Now that you’ve gotten rid of those goody-two-shoes dog walkers, your main population will be the beer drinkers and pot-tokers— who, up ‘til now, have been on THEIR best behavior because the dog-people created such straighten-up-and-fly-right peer pressure. You take Lassie and Rin Tin Tin out of the equation, and with it, goes the wholesomeness.
Where do we take our dogs who’ve been accustomed to off-leash exercise? What’s the alternative? Without decent exercise, these animals turn on themselves: they chew holes in their fur, worry themselves with bad habits, can’t settle down at home. It makes the family miserable. I have a 80 lb. mutt, not a teacup poodle. He’s a teacup Newfoundland.
This decision is hurting so many people and animals who “never hurt anyone” and only brought social courtesy and comradeship to this city. What cold winter are you looking forward to with an empty Lighthouse Field? Why is the City determined to cannibalize this rare good spirit?
Many of us recently turned out at the Lighthouse to mourn the death of Dan Houston, the beloved city Parks and Rec. ranger who knew every dog and visitor to the Field.
I remember looking at the mourners, and thinking, “I’ve never seen these folks except for our walks; I’ve never seen them without their dogs.” I know very few of them by name, and yet I could have hugged any one of them. We have a kinship and history that is remarkable, and to think it is being destroyed by this Scrooge-like executive order is nothing less than a human sacrifice. What does it take to turn this awful decision around and make it right again?
Photos, from top to bottom: Cody as a puppy; Aretha, Susie, & Cody in front of mural in Pt. Townsend; Ducky Doolittle & Cody; Cody and Xiao Bond, International Meow of Mystery; and Cody and I in the Field.