Guest Colomn: Doggone it! Part 1

Guest Colomn: Doggone it! Part 1

By Brendon O. Doherty

I love dogs. Dogs are better than people in some ways—but they are not people. When, in this artificial world, we mix the worst of man with the worst of dogs, what we get is trouble. I believe everyone has a right to walk freely through our streets without worrying about being made a meal of. In fact, I even think that a little kid, or a little old lady, has the right to walk through a neighborhood she’s never been in before, and not have to wonder if a stray dog is dangerous. That’s fair. It’s also the law. That’s why I support current and proposed laws for better dog control, and the efforts of Kris Cohn and Pat Curran to strengthen laws controlling vicious dogs in Winnebago County.

There are a few people left who actually walk down city sidewalks, while SUVs stampede away into shopping oblivion. Already contending with occasional drunken derelicts, these folks are sometimes outnumbered by stray dogs in their vicinity. Why? Just why? Many dogs have simply been let out by their owners to do their thing. Some are on permanent urine patrol. Some have adopted any neighborhood as their own private toilet. The only good they do is to keep the cats in the trees, eating birds. Plus, there are the dogs already tied up or fenced, who are a major nuisance anyway, barking like they’ve just seen Jurassic Park. Doesn’t anyone realize that some people who walk down the street are not terrorists, but frail or sensitive souls possibly trying to recover from a stressful illness? It doesn’t matter the breed; any of these dogs can look like a threat—that’s enough. In fact, no dog is 100 percent safe, especially to a stranger.

I’ve had hundreds of friendly encounters with strange or stray dogs. I’ve also had times when dogs were basically sent charging at me. Once I told a stranger not to get too friendly with my dog, and the guy nearly bit my head off. Why’d I tell him this? Because my dog had bitten me once! That’s the risk. Anyone who’s ever seen a dogfight knows you don’t fight fire with hugs and kisses—you respect and deal with the problem, better than a dog would. Being tough on dogs doesn’t make you a dog-hater. It means you care, doggone it!

What we have in this city is a people problem. Often, an atmosphere of neglect and negativity is reinforced by an elevation of irresponsibility into some kind of right. Those who act as if they are above the law fail to comprehend that most laws were meant to benefit them and their neighborhoods. Instead of working together to better everyone’s environment, or to change the laws, some people want to be little Napoleons, dominating their neighborhoods, with the pathetic, passive-aggressive help of their pit bulls, their pollution, or sometimes even their children. This is compounded by a degree of benign neglect, or underfunding, of our police departments and public officials. Into this ethical void creeps vindictiveness, vandalism and violence.

To be continued…

Brendan O. Doherty is a local environmental health advocate.

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