Volume 18, Number 104, August/September 2015 Walking With The Dogs by Hal Studholme
When the snow has pretty well cleared the pathways, and the sleet is reduced to mini showers of cold rain and the sun peeks over the horizon by 8:00 AM, my wife and I venture out most mornings for a stroll in the local park. This patch of verdant greenery is an oasis of small pond crossed by quaint stone bridges, maturing ash and willow trees and paths that meander, almost on their own whim through the welcoming landscape. The area was once a gigantic land-fill, but wise minds created a haven for walkers after the waste of several decades had finally accumulated to a logical limit. Walkers and the occasional roller-blader and cyclist are respectful of each other’s space and safety and many a pleasant, “Hello, nice day,” is passed.
There is only one thing that mars the scene, DOGS OFF LEASH! Now the planners of Kilcona Park set out two large areas, one - more than five acres in extent with its own parking lot and picnic area - is designated an “OFF-LEASH” area. Dogs of any and all sizes and breeds may wander, romp, play and generally enjoy full freedom of space and expression while owners observe and converse. The other area is the one with the ponds, bridges, paths and groves of lovely trees. It is designated as an “ON-LEASH” area.
Guess what? You guessed it! A significant number of the dog owners ignore the rules and allow their dogs to run freely in the “ONLEASH” area. Those of us who prefer to not have small terriers nip at our heels, or massive mastiffs jump upon our shoulders bringing friendly greetings, are much perturbed to put it mildly. Appeals to the city Parks Authority are largely ignored as policing “is very expensive”. Polite comments or direct confrontations regarding the rules often are met with impolite responses. “He never bites” is the usual description of the terrier that threatens the cuffs of my favourite blue jeans. And a jolly “She just loves people” describes the mastiff who slathers my face liberally with her greeting. There was a brief reprieve recently when park warden did appear and fines of $75.00 were assessed on several violators. The reprieve lasted only one week, however, and the same people returned the next Monday with their frolicking companions. The only thing we can say in their favour is that they all seem to pick up their poop! We are learning to share and cope and wear leather gaiters and chest protectors.
Unfortunately, yesterday we were faced with another confrontation that, if anything, was worse than the four-legged variety. My wife and I came to a particularly beautiful portion of the path as it skirted one of the ponds where young ducklings were just trying their swimming skills with mom and dad. At this point we were met with a crowd of young teens. There were fifteen or so on what appeared to be an outing from school with two teachers. We surmised it was to observe the waterfowl young. Observing, however, was the last thing they were doing. Ignoring the male teacher, who was endeavoring to read something from a text book to the group, the boys were playing catch with a water bottle. At least they were on the grassy verge of the path. The girls, on the other hand, were engaged in deep discussion about whatever teen girls of fourteen or fifteen discuss. They were arranged in three small groups.
My wife and I continued towards the group and noticed that two of the girls were sitting in the middle of the path. Looking up at our approach, the two exchanged some comment or other. They made no sign, however, of granting us passage. As we came up to them I said, “Good morning, ladies, excuse us please.” Their response was for one to give us the now traditional “finger” and the other to mumble what I lip-read as “F... off”. The female teacher was standing beside the girls and made no comment. She merely dropped her eyes and made as if we weren’t present. We skirted the group and walked on, more disappointed than annoyed at the confrontation. “What are they teaching them?” my wife asked.
A few moments later we looked across the field and saw a school bus parked in the lot. “I think I know what this is about,” I remarked. “They’re from the Off-Leash area.”