A message to responsible dog owners from A-DOG member Everett Shorey:
The Green Dog group in Arlington has clearly done a lot of work, thinking and hard bargaining to come up with a proposal for off-leash dog areas in and around Arlington. I listened to their presentation at the Selectmanâ€™s meeting the other day and came away humbled by the difficulty they have taken on and by the strongly held opinions on all sides of this issue.
Mostly I realized that we dog walkers are making an essential bargain: we are gaining legitimacy and, in return, we will need to obey the laws. I am as guilty as any other dog walker today. I flout the leash law and I do not expect anyone serious pushback from my fellow dog walkers. Most of us try to be courteous and not to disturb other park users but we assume a right to exercise our dogs in the park, we keep a communal lookout for the dog officer, etc. This is effective but breeds a culture of disrespect for the formal rules â€“ we may have made our own informal rules but we are outside the formal system.
An essential aspect of the grand Green Dog compromise is that we are trading legitimacy during certain hours for an agreement to abide by all of the rules all of the time. Our culture that we can use the parks as and when we please is going to have to change. This is what we give up in the compromise. We get guaranteed access without watching out for the dog officer and without carping from other park users and we agree to play by the rules.
To me this is a fair bargain as long as we get reasonable space and time. Each of us in talking to the Selectmen, our Town Meeting Members and others in Arlington need to reach our own conclusion about whether the deal is a good one. However, once the deal is made, we are all bound by it.
The deal extends beyond just walking dogs in the parks. Other people want full enforcement of the rules. This means that we agree not to walk and exercise our dogs off leash in times and places not open under the rules. An open playground with no one on it will not be an ok exercise area. The deal also means being sure that we clean up after our dogs everywhere. It means that we create a culture of disapproval when others are off leash in the wrong times and places and when someone does not pick up after a dog,
This can be done. Even Manhattanites manage. Central Park is an off-leash zone in the early morning and the evening. People keep their dogs leashed other times. It is socially unacceptable in Manhattan not to pick up after your dog. You can actually walk along the street there without looking down. (I would not say the same about some otherwise clean major cities like Paris and Buenos Aires. Actually, a recent stroll down Charles Street along Beacon Hill was equally clean.) If those dreaded Yankee fans can do it, we should be able to also.
If we do not hold up our side of the bargain, this deal will collapse and we will be back to our old situation. The dog walking community needs to pick up to its side of the bargain.