I start this week's column with an apology. Last Saturday,
at approximately seventeen hundred and forty-one hours,
I committed an offense against the peace and dignity of
the citizens of Durango and La Plata County, at least according
to the summons I was served. I was cited for a flagrant
violation of city code #4-41 otherwise known as "dog running
at large." That's right. I got cold busted.
Of course the entire situation (aside from the fact that
my dog can barely walk, let alone run at large) is uncanny
given the recent flurry of letters concerning canine policing
in these very pages. The last few weeks have seen valid
arguments both for and against strict leash laws.
I guess this would put
me in the inconsiderate, irresponsible, selfish, leash-shirking,
twit camp. But before you pass judgment, allow me to plead my case.
I did not so much make a conscious decision to leave my house
leashless as it just happened. In the past, I may or may not have
mentioned my battle with acute momzheimers. Basically, by the time
I stuff the kid into head-to-toe fleece, brush the snow drift off
the stroller, stoop over to pick up the discarded hat, load baby
Shamu into the down blankie so only the whites of his eyes are
showing, strap everything down with an intricate system of pullies
and clips that would stymie Houdini, shovel a path and guide the
three-wheeled contraption down the icy walkway, it's hard to
remember where I was headed in the first place, let alone the dog
Not that it would have
mattered anyway. With sidewalks as treacherous as the Khumbu
icefall, maneuvering a small child required both hands on the
wheel. Adding a leashed dog into the fray only would have resulted
in some sort of bizarre Three Stooges routine. Besides, by the time
I got rolling, it was almost dark, and it's common knowledge that
dogcatchers knock off at five to belly up at the Last Bite Bar to
regale in stories of good Lassies gone bad.
Which would explain why,
as we entered the nearby park, I failed to detect the sinister gold
truck lurking in the shadows, circling like a shark at feeding
time. By the time I did see it, it was too late the troller was
coming in for the kill.
One need not watch a lot
of "Law and Order" to know this was entrapment. Nevertheless,
escape with a baby buggy would have been futile, so I trudged
toward my demise.
"I don't have a leash,"
I confessed up front, hoping that honesty would win me points. But
I could see by the officer's earnest swagger that he had a quota to
fill. I decided to gamble on the hardship card. "I can't walk my
kid in the snow with my dog on a leash," I pleaded as he reached
for his ticket pad and inquired if it ever occurred to me to leave
the child at home. I admitted it had, but I was pretty sure leaving
an infant home unattended was even more illegal than walking an
Unfazed, he pulled out
his pen and started taking names. I briefly entertained thoughts of
becoming Barbara Stanwick but chickened out. In a last ditch effort
for mercy, I made an attempt at idle chit chat, which was sternly
rebuffed. After that, I exercised my Miranda rights.
But, when it came time
to ascertain my hair color, I had to speak up. And that's when it
went south. See, those of you out there in newspaper land may not
know this, but I am as bald as a 1967 Chevy Impala at a used car
lot. It makes for endless Halloween costume ideas but when it comes
to renewing driver's licenses and passport photos, things can get
"I don't have hair," I
said, amazed at how a simple altercation had deteriorated into a
discussion with a humorless stranger about my medical
He scoffed. Perhaps I
should have told him I was a blond, seeing as how I had always
wanted hair like Jennifer Aniston's (hell, I would even settle for
"You don't have hair,"
he chided, eyes rolling as if I was being a smart ass, which at
that moment I happened not to be. He tried to break me with a stare
down, but I stood tough. Perturbed, he turned to the dog in search
of current tags. Sensing impending doom, the dog promptly burrowed
his head into the snow.
Good dog. Bad timing. By
now Officer Shark had had enough. He threw the book at us,
including an additional #4-56 and #4-57, and amounting to a $60
kick in the back pocket. And then he bid us good night.
Alas, it is at this
point that I must digress. As much as I would like to use this
forum to take pot shots at a power-tripping android who preys on
poor, folicularly challenged mothers and their shivering babes in
the cold, dark night, that is not the point. Besides, he was kind
when it came to the blank on the ticket for weight. And as trite as
it may be, he was just doing his job, for which, as a mother of a
small child who some day could end up on the wrong end of a
frothing pit bull, I am thankful.
But, as the responsible,
poop-scooping, mostly law-abiding guardian of a docile mutt with a
gimp leg and more missing teeth than a hillbilly hoedown, I can't
help but feel a little persecuted. Is it assumed that all dogs are
guilty until proven innocent? And in the end, how much bite do
leash laws really have? Is a piece of nylon going to deter an
aggressive beast from breaking the grasp of its owner and attacking
Don't get me wrong. I am
not advocating a society where all creatures, great and small,
frolic freely together happily ever after that would be too much
like one of those creepy Disney movies. But, perhaps what is needed
is more space where those who wish to cavort with their creatures
can do so unfettered. Now before you call me a buffoon because this
place already exists on a tailings pile west of town, hear me out.
The Smelter Dog Park has thus far proven to be quite popular, as
evidenced by the frequently overflowing parking and overflowing
poop barrel. But what about another venue, perhaps one in town that
requires no driving (thus no parking problems) and is already
widely used by dogs and their humans and just so happens to already
have a fence? And for neighbors who would rather not have the
entire dog population of La Plata County squatting on their lawn,
gates could be installed use my $60 as a deposit.
Sure, the dog catchers
may get a little lonely. But look at it as freeing up time for them
to go after the real threats in the community, which is what we pay
them for after all.
Even a twit knows