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Citizen's View: 'Friendly,' or simply out of control?

“It’s OK, they’re friendly!”

Thank you for telling me about the disposition of your dog and your approach to dog walking. Unfortunately, I usually don’t get the opportunity to inform you about me (and my dog), so I would like to take this opportunity to do so.

1. I am a person who has a rescue dog on lead that reacts defensively and aggressively when approached by an unwelcome, unmanaged dog.

2. I am a person who has a non-rescue dog on lead that tends to become intimidated by an unwelcome, unmanaged dog and will react aggressively from their perceived vulnerability.

3. I am a dog walker who would like to let my dog run free, but respects and obeys the laws telling me not to because it is considerate of others and the polite and safe thing to do.

4. I am a person who has no dog but does not appreciate an unwelcome, unmanaged dog advancing on me, requiring an often useless defense against such behaviors as being jumped on, blocked, followed, bumped/rubbed against (muddy), scratched, knocked down and even bitten.

5. I am a person who is afraid of dogs, especially when approached by unknown, unwelcome dogs.

6. I am a senior citizen who is unsteady on my feet.

7. I am a small child.

8. I am a parent with a very young child, either in a pack/carrier or stroller.

9. I am a jogger.

10. I am a parks maintenance person who is faced with this situation more times than not, making it difficult to do my job.

11. I am the baseball or soccer player/coach/fan who does not want to accidentally injure or necessarily share the practice field with an unmanaged dog.

12. I am the person who doesn’t appreciate the dog waste left by an unobservant owner.

13. I am the fragile, off-trail nature area that does not survive the tramplings of out-of-control, unattended dogs.

Clearly marked leash laws on nature trails, open fields, parks and school yards are all areas dogs regularly are allowed to roam free by their owners, who have little to no control over them.

I believe it is important to note: I am not referring to the well-trained, voice-controlled dogs whose owners are respectful of shared space and display courteous and considerate behavior by not permitting their dog to violate the boundaries of others. They can and do control their dogs.  These owners only allow interaction when invited, and the interaction is well managed and supervised.  They may be breaking the leash laws, but not personal boundaries. I am willing to overlook the infraction.

I have been muddied, scratched, bitten, knocked down, entangled and detained by dogs whose owners had called ahead assuring me, ‘They’re friendly.”  Or even worse, an owner who was so far away that they missed their dog’s behavior (and reactions it caused) entirely. And worse still, an owner who witnessed the whole business yet passed by without saying a word or lifting a finger.

I have found myself in the middle of dog fights where a follow-up trip to the emergency room or vet (or both) was necessary.  I have been lectured, warned, threatened and cursed at because I politely but firmly requested a dog be put on lead (if they could catch them) so that I could pass by in safety (with my on-lead dog).  Keep in mind, these types of scenarios happen more often than not.

I must beg to differ regarding your, ‘It’s OK, they’re friendly!’ style of dog walking.  There is much more to it than that.

Terrall Dingman is a resident of Lake Oswego.

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