Here’s a bone to chew on . . .
I’m impressed by the dogs on Aylmer’s sidewalks and trails – breeds one seldom sees (Kuvasz or Great Pyrenees), and all their shapes, sizes, and personalities. Everything from Danes and Newfoundlands down to miniature mutts I cannot identify. “Mutt” is a term of endearment.
Dogs present problems for their owners, neighbours and city administrators. There are rules for walking dogs, on leashes, in parks (or not) – plus picking up after one’s mutt. Many dog owners are dissatisfied with rules and expectations; many feel they have a right to take their pets into city parks, trails, sidewalks.
And when I see a large dog on a leash – it’s easy to sympathize with the animal. A ten-foot lead is not what working breeds were bred for. I wonder about the welfare of large dogs – how healthy is a Greyhound in a condo or a Bernese in a tiny yard? Medium and large dogs require plenty of exercise for their health and growth. Many chew, smell, shed, bark and howl.
For small breeds, city living is likely their preference, but big, well-coated dogs need room and a lot of fresh air. Are they really getting all they require?
Dog parks are one solution (or limit the size or weight of dogs permitted in densified neighbourhoods), but even dog parks have their limitations. And hooray for the city and the Aylmer Canine Club for their promotion of dog parks and dog-friendly facilities!
We must remember, too, that all dogs are not “pets” – people need service dogs, as well as watchdogs. The mention of guard dogs raises the common concern of “dangerous breeds”. How to protect children – and also the dogs?
Big dogs we can hug are wonderful creatures, but are we mistreating them by keeping them in dense urban environments? And is it mistreatment to use an animal mainly to ease one’s own psychological complexes?
One suggestion often read on these letters pages is to open Gatineau Park to dogs. In any discussion of our sector’s Boucher Forest, there will be dog walkers who want the Forest wide open for dogs to run. But who wants to transfer that problem to Gatineau Park? How wise is that? Do we want to solve any mistreatment of Boucher Forest by transferring the problems to Gatineau Park?
We wouldn’t want Gatineau Park to become a big municipal park, crowded on weekends, with its beauty and wildness compromised, would we? It’s busy enough now. Mistreatment of Gatineau Park is a different, but equally significant, issue.
While we love our dogs, don’t we also respect the wild animals in both the Park and Boucher Forest? Do wildlife and birds not have similar “rights” as our dogs? Can we compromise the lives of other creatures to give ourselves comfort and reassurance via our dogs?
Dogs-in-the-city could be a television series, the issues are so complicated. And important.