Re­spect goes both ways in dog de­bate

Times Colonist - - Islander - LYNN ELWELL Lynn Elwell lives in View Royal.

Re: “Off-leash dogs make it hard to share the trail,” com­ment, Aug. 5.

Ihike at Thetis Lake ev­ery day with my dog Piper, a 14-month-old gold­en­doo­dle who loves to run, play, jump, swim and usu­ally runs ahead of me (but al­ways in sight), turns around and comes back to check in with me con­stantly. Piper plays off the trail, in­clud­ing go­ing into the wa­ter for a swim around the lake.

She re­turns to me im­me­di­ately, and if I tell her to go to the edge of the trail on my right be­cause I think some­one might be afraid of dogs, she does so. I con­sider that Piper is very much un­der my con­trol.

Last week, a woman came to­ward me and started yelling that I had to get my dog un­der con­trol be­cause Piper “ap­proached” her. I tried to ex­plain that Piper didn’t touch her and that she was sim­ply turn­ing around to come back to check in with me.

You would not be­lieve how an­gry she got, how she didn’t lis­ten to my ex­pla­na­tion and how quickly it turned into some­thing very neg­a­tive. She was look­ing for a fight, in my opin­ion.

While she was yelling that I was the type of owner who gave dog-own­ers a bad name, my dog was by my side and was do­ing every­thing I asked of her.

The woman kept yelling about how there is a sign at Thetis that says you are not al­lowed to let your dog ap­proach peo­ple. I sug­gested again that she wasn’t ap­proach­ing her and that Piper was very much “un­der con­trol,” which is what the sign says. I ad­mit to be­ing an­gry at this point and I re­sponded with a com­ment that I re­gret, but I was feel­ing pro­tec­tive of my “girl” and an­noyed that the woman wouldn’t lis­ten to my ex­pla­na­tion.

If some breeds of dogs had to be leashed for their en­tire walk, they would likely need three hours of leash-walk­ing to keep them in good con­di­tion. They need to run around and have fun. While I might hike for 1.5 hours and for 10,000 steps, I’m sure Piper does at least dou­ble that, and by the af­ter­noon she is ready for an­other cou­ple of hours of ac­tiv­ity. It seems that some folks be­lieve that shouldn’t be pos­si­ble in Vic­to­ria.

Over the years, I’ve met bik­ers on the trails who have kicked my dog for no rea­son at all, peo­ple who are afraid of dogs even though they are at an off-leash park (Thetis), cute lit­tle kids who love dogs and want to pat mine, cute lit­tle kids who are afraid of dogs and then I make sure mine doesn’t go near them, run­ners who get an­gry about dogs be­ing on the trails and get­ting in their way (I used to run ev­ery day and never got up­set about a dog be­ing on the trail near me), groups of hik­ers of all ages who take up the whole trail and ex­pect oth­ers to step aside, peo­ple who love to chat about my dog and theirs while they are play­ing on the trail, etc. Just be­cause you are us­ing the trail at a par­tic­u­lar time doesn’t mean you have to­tal con­trol over the area.

While you can say un­leashed dogs don’t be­long on a busy trail be­cause peo­ple of all ages use it, it is just not true. The ma­jor­ity of peo­ple I see ev­ery day, whether they are known to me or new to me, en­joy dogs and even stop to chat while my dog plays with their dog.

I try very hard to re­spect ev­ery­one I meet on the trail, and once I get to a place where I can hike on the “back” trails, I go there, be­cause it is so much eas­ier and more peace­ful, and I can al­low Piper to get the ex­er­cise she needs. The dog-walk­ers I know at Thetis get off the main trails, as well, to make sure they don’t of­fend peo­ple who are afraid of dogs or are not knowl­edge­able about dogs.

So don’t leash your dog at an off-leash park. Let it get the ex­er­cise it needs, and let’s com­mu­ni­cate if you are afraid of dogs or pos­si­bly even pick an­other park if you have mo­bil­ity is­sues.

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