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I like dogs. I have always liked dogs. I had dogs when I was a kid, and when I was grown up, and I was nice to them and they liked me. Dachshunds and American Water Spaniels and Springer Spaniels and three racing greyhounds I saved from carbon monoxide boxes. At one point there was a charming beast of indeterminate ancestry called Sam. So I don’t have anything against dogs.
Please don’t write to tell me I’m just a hopeless dog hater. Not true.
Years ago I read Dorr Yeager’s book, “Chita,” the story of a mountain lion, which is a wonderful children’s book, still available in our library. [Alas, no more] In it, Chita was terrified by the dogs owned by the ranchers, and the story took place in our own Tahosa Valley.
I didn’t think much about it at the time, because Tahosa Valley had few year-round residents when I was a child and I rarely saw a dog, other than the lap variety which accompanied a few summer residents.
In the last few years, however, we have seen a big change. Almost everywhere you look, you see dogs running loose, of vaguely Doberman/ German Shepherd/Husky extraction. We now have leash laws, which were not needed in the past, and which are now freely ignored by almost everyone.
Complaining about a dog is a dismal process; law enforcement people dislike being involved, and I can understand their reluctance. They don’t like to be thought of as dog-catchers, and dog complaints, though numerous, are pretty low on the priority list, for obvious reasons. Still, the dog problem is a serious one, and it isn’t getting better.
Tourists come here and say, “Why isn’t there more wildlife?” The answer is a simple one: dogs. As long as dogs are allowed to run loose, you will not see the marmots, deer and elk we saw 30 years ago.
I wish I knew what the answer is.
My neighbors have dogs, and for the most part the dogs stay in their own territory. But it’s also true that deer and other shy animals aren’t going to come to my salt lick while an 80-pound dog is within a quarter of a mile. One of the attractions of living here ought to be the opportunity to see the wild animals living, as Chita once did, free to roam, with as little interference from people as possible. That seems to me to be one of the most important aspects of mountain living.
I like dogs, but I don’t like dogs running loose or barking all day and night.
The sad part of it is that it’s not the fault of the dogs.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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