Flight Don’t Fight

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

The Great Egret has the size and the weapons to gouge a charging dog’s eyes out. But here it chose discretion over valor, and twice took flight rather than confront roaming canines that their irresponsible owners had let loose far outside the dog park. I saw the big bird first on the western slope, pacing slowly northward. Then a dog owner with three loose dogs appeared over the ridge. The bird flew a great circle around them and settled in the grass further north, in sight of the paved perimeter trail. As it watched attentively, as if planning to walk in that direction, another irresponsible dog owner let loose with a big German shepherd there. The bird didn’t wait around but took off. Both times the bird moved so quickly that I didn’t catch its flight on camera.

Very often, almost all the dog owners in the park walk their dogs on leash when not in the dog park. That’s as it should be. But there seem to be days when an epidemic of fever strikes the dog owner clan, and they feel privileged to disregard all rules and customs. They treat the public park as if it were their private estate. This was one of those days. The fever particularly strikes owners of big dogs and multiple dogs. They’ve bought more canine than they know how to control, and they define their animals as status accessories rather than responsibilities. They haven’t schooled their dogs in obedience; they haven’t even trained them to walk on leash without pulling. They feel entitled to burden the public space and its wildlife with the consequences of their bad judgment, vanity, and laziness. There used to be a dog owner’s association that made an effort to educate park visitors about the rules. That group has been inactive for years. It would be a good thing for responsible dog owners to revive that group or form a new one that takes a firm and creative approach to the problem of irresponsible dog owners in the park.

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

More about the Great Egret: Wikipedia Cornell Audubon In Chavez Park

More about irresponsible dog owners in the park: The Off-Leash Movie I

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One thought on “Flight Don’t Fight

  • I walk at Chavez almost daily. A couple years ago, I saw a full-grown, nasty-looking skunk on the north side of the park, at the water’s edge. After that I made it a point to speak to owners of dogs off leash, and let them know that I had seen a skunk and that I had had experience with my dogs when they encountered a skunk in my back yard, and that it was not pretty and one time it was expensive in vet’s bills. My message was taken to heart by most of the folks I warned, but some, of course, seemed not to care. Granted, my skunk sighting at Chavez was a singular event in my experience, but I hope it discouraged at least a few owners from letting their dogs run loose outside the approved area. I haven’t had a dog for years now, but am considering having one again. I think the idea of an organization of dog owners to inform and encourage on-leash behavior is a good one.

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