Thursday, April 05, 2007

Beasts are a burden

"Poor people in my experience have mean dogs and know it. Rich people have mean dogs and refuse to believe it."
—Bill Bryson
The Life and Times of Thunderbolt Kid

A couple of weeks ago, I sort of stepped on a dog owner's toes when a bunch of people were arranging a group ride via a web forum, and the dog guy posted a message asking if he and his critter could come along. I pointed out that we'd be riding in an area where leashes are required and I tried to make it clear—as gently as I could, believe it or not—that I think leash laws should be obeyed.

A few days later, the guy started a new thread on the forum, asking for opinions from other mountain bikers. I was pleased to see that a large number of them—some of them quite adamant—shared my view.

Contrary to what several people think, I don't hate dogs. My wife and I once owned one of the coolest dogs that ever lived. I've had friends and relatives with wonderful dogs that I enjoyed. I just happen to think dogs should be enjoyed by those who choose to spend time with them, and that their owners have a responsibility to keep them out of everyone else's way.

I also believe that more dog owners should recognize that they don't really know how their pets will react when surprised by a mountain biker, a jogger, or a noisy child.

That little misconception is the reason I—like several of my friends—have a leg scarred by the teeth of an unleashed dog whose selfish owner chose to live in denial.

That's also why it's so common to pick up the newspaper and read about a dog mauling some old lady or some little kid, and the owner always claims his dog is a gentle little creature, and he never dreamed the little Cujo was capable of such a thing.

Of course, some of those people are just damned liars who knew all along that their hellish beasts were itchin' to kill something, they were just too lazy or uncaring to do anything about it.

Dog owners like to talk about the law's "gray areas." What gray areas? The law doesn't require you to leash your animal if you feel like it. If the law says leash 'em, then leash the buggers.

The trails will be drying out over the next couple of months, so I've started going through my spring checklist: checking my bike's shocks, cleaning the drivetrain, repacking the hubs ... and loading my pepper spray.


Jerome said...

I must say I agree. I really like dogs, but I don't trust other people’s dogs. I’ve had a dog for more of my life than I haven’t. One morning I was out for a run and dingle nuts was out for an early morning smoke while he let his German Shepard do its duty. He had two other dogs in the house. The German Shepard chased me, and ended up jumping on me and barking 3 inches from my ear. I didn't quite wet my pants but it was close. I was very lucky that the dog never actually bit me. I asked the owner to leash up his dog next time and he gave me the finger. I told him that I was going to shoot his dog. The next day, his dogs were impounded for jumping another runner later that same morning. What do these people think? If it's optional for them to obey a leash law, I think it should certainly be optional for me to obey a gun law right? Both laws being broken have the potential to end in the same tragedy. A little extreme, but that's just how a lot of us feel about dogs running around. I concur, leash em up, and we'll all be happier! I’m glad to say that dingle nuts moved (with his dogs) to who cares where shortly after this incident.

Luke said...

Oh, Tim. You couldn't resist. You knew this would wake me from my slumber...

Can I mace the @#$@# mountain biker who nearly runs me down as I'm striding on the no-bikes path at the Glen Alps trailhead? No argument, there are asshole dog owners like the one Jerome describes. But there are asshole bikers ignoring the law that endanger people too. I've chastised owners who let their dogs chase down young birds in that area; I've not heard any biker chastise those who ride through the creek past the "no bikes" sign.

Beware of generalizations or we'll all -- dog owners AND cyclists -- wind up behind bars. You know full well the prevailing attitude about bikes in Anchorage...riders could be the next ones leashed.

Tim said...

C'mon, Luke. There are jackasses in every user group, and there always will be. But riding a bike is legal. Letting your dog run unleashed is not. It's that simple.

I'm not overgeneralizing. I'm complaining about dog owners who ignore the leash law. That's pretty damned specific.

And even though you might not witness it, yes, mountain bikers do chastise other mountain bikers for doing things that harm the image of the sport.

I've lost riding partners over the years because of disagreements about riding on too-soft trails, etc. If a rider's behavior offends me, I let him know, then I ride with someone else.

Luke said...

In the words of Nick (William Hurt) in "The Big Chill": I was jus' tryin' to keep da conversation lively!"

I'm afraid we're just never gonna see eye-to-eye on this one. Letting your dog run unleashed is illegal because "society" deems it so. Given Anchorage's "society," a similar ban on bikes -- on roadways in winter perhaps? You read the letter in the paper this year -- is possible too. I guess my preference is for handling things myself -- kicking the dog right in the moosh that chased Jerome, for instance -- and getting to enjoy the fun that a well-behaved dog running loose can bring. That way, I can keep riding my bike too, knowing that such a right/luxury/freedom can't be usurped either.

Ah least it ain't boring hereabouts...
My best to everyone.

Tim said...

Letting your dog run unleashed is illegal because "society" deems it so.

You could say the same thing about theft, murder, beating up Girl Scouts, etc.

Illegal is illegal.

daveIT said...

I just finished that new Bill Bryson book this week. I need to take it back to the library. Have you read Carl Hiaasen's new one yet?

I'm reading "Cold Beer and Crocodiles: A Bicycle Journey into Australia" by Roff Smith for the second time. I read it about 7 years ago and remember I liked it, but can't remember any details. Ever read it?

Tim said...

"Cold Beer and Crocodiles" is a good book. I have a copy I read several years ago, and I read the series of National Geographic articles that preceded it. Good stuff. I loved the part where he crashed hard, then went back the next day and found crows picking at the pavement. Mmmm.

I'm also a big fan of Carl Hiassen, but I always wait for the paperback to come out. As good as they are, each of his novels is pretty much a new version of the previous one, so I don't splurge on the hardcover edition.

If you want some quick reading in Hawaii, grab a copy of Kurt Vonnegut's "Man Without a Country." I read it earlier this winter (borrowed a copy from that dog-loving Luke, as a matter of fact) and just picked up my own copy at Costco last week.

Vonnegut is a goddamn genius, and an American treasure. If I could choose one person, living or dead, to meet and share a dinner with, it'd be Vonnegut, hands down.

shawnkielty said...

Just because something is illegal, doesn't really mean any thing. Sometimes in the city it's safer for the bike rider to run the red light.

But I think I am with Tim on this -- your dog -- should be on a leash. Or extremely well behaved. Dogs biting people or acting out -- leashed or not -- are a hazard to anyone else on the trail. There's no larger hazard than a pedestrian with a dog on a leash. They far exceed the width of cars, strollers, shopping carts, even James Bond flying an airplane.

Feel free to mace me for riding on the sidewalk, running red lights, riding through the theatre crowd. I won't forget you. I have that Habenero spray.

daveIT said...

I already read that Vonnegut book. I thought we talked about that one several months ago.

I was surprised when I saw that one at the library. I didn't know he was still alive & writing.

Would reading "Alive" on the airplane be in bad taste? Heh heh!

Michelle said...

I have a very, very well behaved dog, very loyal and he has no interest in other people, other dogs or animals. All he cares about is his people (our family), his ball, rocks and an occasional stick. I love him dealy and want him to come where ever I go.

But, I am well aware that other people don't love my dog like I do and there are places he needs to be kept on a leash, not to keep him reigned in (he doesn't require that) but because it's the rules. And there are even places where he doesn't belong at all.

One person breaking one law (biking where bikes aren't allowed) doesn't make it ok for another person to break a law (unleashed dogs).

If a dog is well behaved, I'm not sure why it would be any problem to have the dog on a leash. The run could still be enjoyed and the law would not be broken.

I personally HATE it when people bring their dogs which then proceed to piss/poo everywhere, jump on people or are just plain in the way. I also hate it when people start screaming at their dogs to "come here!!" Dogs also stink... but I have found may pet owners are immune to their own pet's stink but other people find it gross.

"Good behavior" is in the eye of the beholder, just like a parent thinking their spitting and screaming little angels are cute, when everyone else wants the little creature out of the room.

SueJ said...

I got chewed on two weeks ago by a dog with no history of aggression or badness. It was clear he had trouble with our little group of cyclists.
I like dogs (tho' they make me sneeze) and I do understand there's a simple lifestyle conflict ... I sympathize with not wanting to keepa dog restrained just because some cyclists **might** come by and the dog **might** go ballistic. I'm hoping that the Powers That BE saw fit to declare this dog dangerous, which means (I believe) he has leash laws (which they otherwise don't have out there on the farms).

Luke can mace that mountain biker. THat wasn't the discussion here, it was dogs. Pretty inane commentary. "But I was just" is one of my least favorite phrases.