Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Does anyone have an answer?

I Our town is having some issues with sharing. Sharing our beloved open spaces. Sharing among ourselves and others. What am I talking about? Dogs, of course!!!! 

As of the first of the year one of the favored open space trail systems in Cape Elizabeth had a rule change about off leash dogs. no longer allowed after 9 AM. There were too many bad incidents, dog bites, poop everywhere, dog fights, the land trust who owns the land unanimously voted the new rule.

I saw it coming!!! This is land I knew well. I have lived in this area for close to 30 years, 20 of them in the town. Worked for the family who owned that land for 15 years. I rode my horse with my dog on that land for years. In fact, I have been riding my horses in private lands all over Cape Elizabeth and South Portland for 25 years. I once kept my horse at Mr. Fickett's on Highland Avenue. I did some of the carriage rides with Carl Flink, who had Standardbreds he rescued and used for weddings and parties. 

I knew nearly all the landowners whose land I rode on. I remember asking permission from Sonny Young one time and his reaction was disturbing.......he was initially shocked at the question because no one had ever asked before. He said people just trespassed and even rode their bikes over his front lawn giving him the finger as they went. He apologized that his son would be downing trees over the trails to try to make it more difficult, but that I was welcome to come and go around the trees if I could. 

In my quest for riding trails I got to know my neighbors. I ended up with permission to ride on trails that took me for miles all over. My dog was awesome, taught to heel on my right so she would be on the inside of the horse and not in the traffic lane. A horse is supposed to travel with traffic. I knew parts of this town that very few people knew. Pretty much every inch of land that was passable by horse with landowner's permission. 

One farmer told me I could go anywhere, just do NOT step over the irrigation pipes because some horse (without permission) has punctured a hole in a pipe. Another told me any time except when the tree farm was open for sales. Too many people and kids to mix with horses during that time. another said only on the lower road. Not sure why, but I guess I behaved appropriately because seven years later she said I could ride anywhere as she liked to see the horses.

another said anywhere, but stay on her property because she and the other family members were fighting. I learned a lot those years riding my horse with my dog all over this town. What I learned was that people were very frinndly and welcoming if they knew who you were. and what a rich and varied town it is!!!! I met people from all walks of life!!!! and explored some amazing lands, in a town of reasonably small size!!! 

So, now many of those lands have been sold or given to the town or a land trust. And are now public. Such so that word got out about these lands and the people flocked. In great numbers and from all over. Dog walkers rejoiced, as they should, these lands are awesome places for dogs!!!! But........you know the BUT here..........they didn't pick up the poo, it would be left in baggies, or just left, the dogs were not monitored and allowed to behave in ways MY parents would never allow a dog to behave. they came from neighboring towns in great numbers!!!! Dog walker websites listed theses spots as common areas they took dogs. YAY!!! What great places to take your dogs!'! People got bit, jumped on, dog got into fights, it became bad enough that during the school field trips and nature outings, kids would have to navigate poo and fend off jumping dogs. The rules changed and fast!!! Crap!!! (Yeah, pun intended!!!)

I actually stopped going to one place because it had become so bad. MY dogs were no longer happy walking among so many other dogs and I would get irritated at all the left poo. My horse got Lyme, so we were not riding long distances any more, but I am not sure I would enjoy it much anyway, navigating all the dogs on the trails. 

So now the dog walkers unite. We, and I am right there with them wanting to help, are trying to unite. But, it is hard. what is the answer? How can this be resolved? One thought is a limit on dog per person. No more group dog walks with multiple dogs for one person to attend to. I think that seems reasonable? I walk with groups, but I usually only have my two dogs to watch or just one. My friends have their dogs, too, so we end up with a pack of dogs. But, yes, no more than three per person. Is that really the answer???? People with one dog might not pick up the poop. Or let their dog be unruly or aggressive. We met such a person yesterday. Her aggressive dog tried to pick a fight and was off leash. I was livid!! I have run into her before. her dog should be leashed or muzzled or not there at all!!!!!

Are the group walks so bad? When I head out with my friends we are constantly worrying about where our dogs poop, who we encounter, how our dogs behave, and we leash our dogs when we encounter others with leashed dogs or no dogs. We do not let our dogs run up to people and jump on them. My dogs don't run up to other dogs. They don't even like being social with unfamiliar dogs, they just want to pass by without trouble. We are responsible with our pack of dogs. We want our off leash privileges to continue, forever!!!!

I honestly don't know the answer. Folks in towns with dogs per person limits say it works well. How is it enforced anyway?? 

I simply do not know the answer to this issue, but here we are losing our precious open spaces. And it makes me sad. I feel such longing for the "old" days and I don't think I am that old.......thoughts are deceiving!!!!

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