Incident at the Dog Park
"The people, united, shall never be divided"
- old protest chant
The Dog Owners of my neighborhood were understandably angry and upset when City Hall recently passed a new "leash law."
Most of us have been walking our mutts in the park across the street from my house for many years now. We're the ones who always kept the place clean and beautiful (ours is an exceptionally lovely park with rugged terrain and 300-year-old trees. In the past there were trout in the creek but local overbuilding managed to destroy them)-- by removing cans, paper and miscellaneous garbage strewn around by partying teenagers, by shoring up eroding trails along the creekbed with rocks and fallen timber and especially by always picking up after our pooches... all of whom are well-trained, loving animals, as most dogs are and should be except when they've been brutalized by insane humans.
Then one day we were forced to incorporate as a city (at gunpoint you might say) with a Council that loves to pass more laws and throw its weight around-- fining citizens for this or that infraction of its clammy rules, churning out endless new legislation that we are asked to fall upon our knees and obey ("Because it's The Law!" as idiots say), assessing fees for whatever it can dream up and all the rest of it... Just as most City Councils are in the habit of doing (but not the good ones).
The first to be ticketed was Kathy, a Korean lady who recently suffered a stroke. The daily walk in the park with her little pug-dog, Bug, was her only exercise and Bug's too. This little guy can't walk very well. He's old and arthritic. It was easy for the cop to catch up with this pair; Kathy walks on ahead swinging her good arm to get her exercise and Bug, waddling and panting, tongue lolling, struggles to keep up... a very dangerous little mutt, Bug. But let me put that in the past tense because those two do not stroll in our park any more. Welcome to America, Kathy!
The second to be ticketed was Jasper Cunningham and was he ever mad!
Jasper has a sweet, gentle Golden Retriever named Mica. Like all the park regulars, Mica is beautifully trained. He would never dream of harming a soul. But like every dog he needs his daily run down the hill where people do not walk.
His owner said: "They're ticketing the wrong people! Dogs don't run you off the path with their bikes and motorized razor scooters, dogs don't build fires at the base of trees that were growing here before Columbus landed, dogs don't shoot birds or dump their beer empties in the river--" Jasper managed to talk the judge into a half-price ticket, $60 instead of $120 because he said he hadn't been warned but that didn't lessen his anger at the unfairness of another cruel, blind law handed down to us from "above."
Yes, there are attack dogs in the world (just as there are attack people) but to penalize everyone is not only less than sane but inevitably leads to worse problems. Why not enforce those laws already on the books-- laws that go after criminals (to call them what they are for a change): people who treat animals viciously and create the "attack dog" problem in the first place? The law looks the other way when it comes to them. That, at any rate, was Jasper's argument. "It's because dogs don't vote, pay taxes or support these lousy politicians," he fumed.
And then the inevitable happened.
One afternoon around four o'clock, Reba and Steve and I were out walking our canine family members--minus their leashes of course. Every day we hike down to a small hollow that boasts a pretty little clearing where we can toss tennis balls around and have the dogs chase them and come racing back, tennis ball in smiling mouth (if you don't think dogs can smile you've been sadly miseducated. I'm told that even young Arctic foxes who have never seen a human before--the lucky little devils--love this tennis ball game. Just as much as we do).
But that day, something bad happened.
First of all there was a man with two little kids in the clearing. None of us knew the man, he wasn't one of the regulars and the minute he saw our dogs he went into the type of hysterical fit we had seen before.
He did and said all the usual things ("Oh my God! Keep them away from me! You can't be here," etc.-- picking up a stone and so on), infecting his children with his raw hysteria. And note well: this is the fellow responsible for the murder of whole species. He has no empathy for the animals that occupy the same planet as he does; he believes he is "superior" to them and that they will attack him, therefore he is justified in doing whatever he likes to them.
The question to ask this guy is, "What have you done to an animal?"
He's clearly exhibiting symptoms of guilt and fear of retribution. This man needs help, not new laws to bolster his insanely reactive behavior.
But he soon gathered his young and stalked off. A few minutes later a police officer appeared over the brow of the hill, walking toward us.
He approached Steve first. His ticket book open in his hand.
"Your dog isn't wearing a leash," he pointed out brilliantly. "That's against the law in this park."
Steve began to remonstrate (that means like, protest a bit when you know you are in the right) and at the same time Reba, who always carries a baseball bat on her walks to send the tennis ball spinning a little farther and faster and also to protect against stalkers and suchlike-- Reba snuck up behind the cop.
Just as the cop was saying, "The law states that each of you are subject to a $120 fine or you can appear in court with or without a lawyer to present argument--"
That was the exact moment when Reba hauled off and whacked the officer in the head with her Louisville slugger.
When the bat connected with the cop's skull, the sound was like a watermelon being dropped ten stories down to a cement alley.
Reba wiped her bat with handfuls of grass.
"That's one dead-looking cop," she observed.
And it was true. Stretched full length, partly on the pebbled path and partly on the grassy verge, he was not only bloody as a newly beheaded chicken but also extremely dead.
Then as the days passed, nothing much changed. Everybody came to look at the dead cop: shoppers on their way to the Fred Meyer store, grade school children walking home, even the J.C. track team running its laps would jog a trifle slower to take a leisurely squint at what lay half on, and half off, the pebbly path.
Highschool kids dropped by to lay bets on the number of ants crawling in and out of the corpse's nose and open mouth in any given ten minute period.
Boy Scout Troop 84 made a special project of monitoring the extra growth spurred in adjoining vegetation by runoff from the fresh fertilizer; it gave them something to do on an otherwise boring rainy day. The whole neighborhood came to stop by and gawk. And as the weeks passed we laid bets as to what would rot away first; would it be his uniform or his flesh?
What would you guess? Let's see if you are right, shall we?
Well, by golly, the uniform won. That tough blue weave took a long time to decompose, longer than the fellow himself, and shreds of it wound up covering his fairly white, smooth bones--but everything eventually comes to an end and today when I walk by the spot with my dog all I see are a couple pieces of whitish skull, some rotted blue uniform and finally--not a bit rusted, in fact still gleaming in the sun and hardly changed at all by time, weather, or worms-- that impressive badge of authority, his shield.
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