Thursday, October 05, 2006

Dogs and One-way streets

There's already a recap of Monday's ECCA meeting on the Mount Vernon Square blog, so I'm just going to comment on two issues that came up at that meeting. The common element is that both were changes that have an appreciable effect on residents that were presented suddenly as done deeds with no prior discussion--at least as far as I was aware.

I know a number of people are upset about the loss of the de facto dog park at Bundy Park, and I feel somewhat sympathetic although we never let our dogs run there because one of them can't be trusted around other dogs. I don't know how long people have been taking dogs there (one person told me he'd been taking his there for 8 years), but it seemed to be a kind of easy-going customary gathering place that was tolerated despite not being officially sanctioned. But because it wasn't really legal, that put a special obligation on dog owners to clean up after their pets and make sure they weren't threatening anyone. However, another dog owner told me that wasn't always the case--thus providing a plausible reason for shutting it down.

In my view, if you have a dog in the city you scoop the poop, law or no law, end of discussion. There's plenty of evidence--not just in Bundy Park--that some dog owners aren't doing that, and that casts everyone in a bad light. I don't know who the guilty parties are, but I see lots of people--both newcomers and longtime residents--walking their dogs around the neighborhood, so I see no basis for blaming it all on the former (or the latter).

Now the dog owners have been replaced in Bundy Park by walkers, mostly women, making the circuit inside the fence. I don't know why the two groups couldn't have coexisted (maybe the walkers were afraid of the dogs--many people are). Still it's a shame that little node of neighborhood camaraderie has been lost, and there should be room in this city to have a decent dog park.

What I think most rankles the dog owners, however, is that this just happened without warning or any attempt to work out a solution that might have accommodated everyone. That gave it an appearance of being petty and spiteful, even if it was just an enforcement of the law.

That leads me to the sudden change of the 600 and 700 block of O Street from two way to one way. I had noticed that the parking markings had changed but did not realize before the Monday meeting that the street had become one way. The strange thing is that as of this writing, there still is no sign at the 6th Street intersection (haven't checked 7th or 9th yet) that the street is one-way.

I don't really have a problem with the one-way thing, but my question is why was no one in the community notified that this was in the works? People do care about stuff like this, and everything else seems to come up for public discussion, so why wasn't this ever raised? I don't know whose responsibility that would have been, but it seems like a lapse to me.


At 10/06/2006 5:19 AM, Blogger richard said...

pet owners should be fully responsible of ALL the actions for their pets.

i didnt know bundy had a group of walkers and i'd like to know more about this group. dogs should be on a leash in an urban environment because it is the law.

eventually, we need a designated dog park in our neighborhood. i am not a dog owner. but i've seen it work in other neighborhoods and in washington state there's a combo dog park/childrens playground/and pet memorial park(where ashes of loved companions are scattered in a garden setting).

there is a one way sign facing O St at 7th street. dept of transportation is trying different things and making the 600 block of O St one way west is a good thing. at least for right now. :)

At 10/06/2006 4:33 PM, Anonymous Charles said...

I'm a dog owner, and it took me a long time to realize that in some circles, not picking up dog crap is a stereotype of "newcomers".

Now I understand why I have been told quite rudely on a couple of occasions to pick up my dog's crap, when my dog was not even taking a crap, or about to take a crap.

I always walk around with a couple of bags when I'm walking the dog, as should everybody who has a dog. I always pick up after. It's my responsibility and the responsibility of every pet owner. Shame on those who don't clean up after their pets.

At 10/06/2006 5:52 PM, Anonymous Yt said...

Why don't all you dog owners have a dog show or something (maybe not at Bundy now, but some other local park, if you request special permission). Invite the old school and the new school dog owners. Give out blue ribbons for prettiest, ugliest, most talented, and laziest pooch, etc. Have a set of judges that represent the diversity in the hood --include some kid judges.

Have some freebie giveaways for the kiddies, twisted animal balloons and such. Maybe offer some free poopscoops to promote some good will.

Might sound pretty countrified, but things like county fairs exist to bring people out, to get together and have fun. The non dog owners can enjoy the spectacle if not the thrill of competition.

Ask some of the local doggie merchants and day cares to help sponsor it, invite other local mom and pops to take part, sell their wares. You could even invite the church folks to sell pies or something. I reckon my farmboy roots are showin' -- and ahm probably talkin' greek to you cityfolk.

At 10/06/2006 7:53 PM, Blogger richard said...

awesome yt! that made me LOL and it's a great idea!

At 10/07/2006 4:52 AM, Anonymous jennifer c said...

i think that's a great idea. we'd definitely bring our 2 little dogs to such a doo (pun intended).

At 10/07/2006 8:02 AM, Blogger DaddyFiveOh said...

I like the idea too. We went to one kinda like this in Dupont in June and it was lots of fun.
I lived in Clarendon for many years and we had a county-sanctioned dog park there. The key was having a group of volunteers who basically policed the area themselves to make sure the poop got picked up and that the dogs (and their owners) didn't didn't become a public nuisance.
One more thing, yt: in future comments please provide a first or last name to identify yourself. See post below for why I'm asking for this. Thanks.

At 10/09/2006 8:16 AM, Anonymous Jill said...

The lack of notice and community involvement on both these issues is worrying.

A well run (and respected by govt officials) ANC would know about such things.

I've seen hispanic soccer players at Bundy park as well. A dog park in the area is a very good idea.

At 10/09/2006 8:40 AM, Blogger richard said...

pet garden link:

At 10/10/2006 12:44 PM, Blogger richard said...

the one way sign on the 600 block is gone and it's a 2 way street again

At 10/10/2006 9:06 PM, Anonymous ShawQd said...

I am a dog owner who's lived in Shaw for about 6 years. Dog owners unquestionably have an obligation to clean up after their pets.

Shaw, unfortunately, has proven an inhospitable place to have a dog. On at least a weekly basis, someone in the neighborhood harasses my wife or me simply for walking our dogs down the street (on leash). The dogs admittedly are large, but they're well behaved and never have hurt, or attempted to hurt, anyone. My sense is that some people feel that we have the dogs as protection against others in the neighborhood (retrievers are hardly good guard dogs).

The Bundy Park issue strikes me as a bit odd. I started taking my dogs there when I moved to the neighborhood six years ago - irregularly, maybe once a week. I rarely saw anybody using the park for anything other than soccer (and refrained from using it in those circumstances out of deference to those who got to the park before me). No one ever said a word to me about letting my dogs off leash in the park.

Bundy park became a de facto morning dog park several months, maybe even a year, ago after a group of dog owners was forced to stop using the field behind Seaton Elementary school in the early morning (perhaps rightly so). The group then migrated to Bundy. The move didn't seem to displace anybody at Bundy. I never saw anybody using that park for any purpose in the early morning hours.

The issue of these de facto dog parks (Seaton and Bundy) unfortunately seems to have racial undertones. In both instances, the persons I personally observed complaining about the dog owners (calling the police on their cell phones) were black. The dog owners for the most part were white. While I certainly agree that no one should worry about stepping in dog excrement when enjoying a public park, I suspect that the excrement issue largely is a pretext. It seems that no one particularly had any use for these parks in the early morning hours until a group of white people with dogs decided to use them.

I agree that the best solution to the issue is a dedicated dog park. Dog owners have tried that approach, however. The response largely has been that the city should not provide a park that's not open to all residents to enjoy. That's an unfortunate attitude. A dedicated dog park would keep dog owners out of parks intended for non-dog uses. Dog owners would have no excuse to have dogs off leash (or even in the park) and the rest of the public would have no reason to complain about dogs off leash in an area dedicated to dogs. Nobody ever said that the District government made rational decisions.

At 10/11/2006 1:24 PM, Anonymous marty said...

Let's not turn everything into a racial issue. ...

The dog owners (of all colors) should rally and organize themselves and submit a proposal to the ANC and/or the City Council. Send it up for a vote. There are a lot of people with dogs, in a democracy, the largest number of voters wins. I've seen both the outgoing ANC 2C commish and the soon to be elected commish walking dogs. If there is not enough support for a dedicated dog park, then dog owners need to come up with a better solution than using school grounds and athletic fields. There will always be people who don't care about being resposible for their pets, they ruin it for everyone every time.

As more people move into the area, into apt/condo buildings, many without their own yards, this is going to become a bigger issue. Sadly, the anmimals will ultimately be the ones who suffer due to a lack of adequate concern and action by their owners.

At 10/11/2006 8:17 PM, Anonymous shawqd said...

I only addressed one issue - dogs, so I'm not turning "everything" into a racial issue. More to the point, I'm not turning anything into a racial issue; rather, I'm reporting what I observed and experienced, which is more than fair. There clearly is a cultural issue here with respect to dogs. The only way to resolve it is to admit to and confront the gap in understanding and try reach a resolution that's acceptable to all.

In any event, I agree that the lack of a dedicated dog park issue is only going to get bigger.

At 10/12/2006 3:27 PM, Anonymous marty said...

My friend, you know darn well there are plenty of non-white dog owners in the area, and many African Americans. It's hard to imagine that you get treated any different than they do. Try to expand the group you associate yourself with.

Poeple with animal phobias don't like animals, it has very little to do with who is at the other end of the leash. When my girl (who is of Irish decent) and I (Black and Central American heritage) walk Doodle, some people, even some big grown black men, do let us know that they are uncomfortable around dogs. And Doodle, who's got a permanent gleeful dumb (George Bush/Ronald Reagan) doggie smirk on his face all the time, wouldn't hurt a fly (so much for being a guard dog ...). Nonethless, some still don't like him; and we have to respect that.

If you're wiling to go the extra mile (or 7-8 blocks) for your pet, take it to Logan Circle. The statue area is off limits, per the signs, but other than that the dogs seem to be pretty welcome.

At 10/20/2006 4:10 PM, Blogger bebejack said...

I think the idea to have a 'doggie' day is great! Isn't there a yahoo group for us doggie owners in shaw? Can someone send it or post it on this blog then we all get to know one another. My dog Chique and I have lived in this neighborhood for over 12 years and I went to Bundy on a few occasions only b/c we were kicked out of Seaton b/c some cranky neighbor kept calling the five o. Our 'neighborhood' is due for some changes for the better not only for us 'humans' but the 'dogs' too!

At 10/29/2006 1:45 PM, Anonymous Mark said...

My own experience, in a part of town further to the east and north from this blog, is that some neighborhood oldtimers are antagonistic to dog owners not becasue they dislike dogs qua dogs, but because they dislike all the yuppies who move into the neighborhood, who disproportionaely own dogs.

Moreover, while both oldtimers and newtimers fail to pick up after their dogs, they only non poop-scoopers I've actually witnessed are oldtimers. Of course, its hard to extrapolate from such a small sample, but, given the fact that many oldtimers are also lax about: (1) picking up trash; (2) mowing their leans and doing general upkeep, I wouldn't be surprised if non-poop scooping is an oldtimer behavior that has remained constant and has only recently become a source of controversy because the increase in dog-owning yuppies has provoked oldtimers to (1) search find non-racial pretexts for venting their frustration at neighborhood change; and (2) have decided that the unliked interlopers must be responsible for preexisting behavior that, prior to the influx of yuppies, went largely unnoticed.

While I agree there is not a racial divide on dog-owning culture, there is certainly a class divide. I've noticed that many old time dog owners keep their dogs largely for utilitarian purposes--as guard dogs, often chained or locked in the back yard. Yuppies, both black, white, asian and everything in betweeen, by contrast buy dogs as surrogate children. Hence, yuppies are likely to walk their dogs more frequently and look for recreational activites where dogs can socialize with other dogs and get off the leash because they care about the "emotional" well-being of the dog/surrogate child--something that doesn't fit into the utilitarian-model of blue collar owners, in which a dog serves as more of a tool.

The two modes of dog owning--the utilitarian and surrogate child models--lead to different attitudes about dog parks. Utilitarian owners fear dogs off the leash, because guard dogs tend to be more dangerous. Surrogate-child owners view the matter much differently. Add the hostility that the blue collar dog owners feel toward yuppies as a group, and the conflict is predictable.

Finally, while I agree that dog parks would be the best solution for all, I do think that on a case by case basis, informal use of underutilized public spaces by dog owners is a social good. In my neighborhood, one school yard is virtually unused on the weekend except for: (1) youths who vandalize the school ground by turfing the grounds with dirt bikes and (2) gang members and occasional drug addicts, evidenced by a large number of gang graffiti tags and occasional littering of drug paraphenelia. Children of any sort are never seen there. When dog owners use the school ground, it chases away the gang members and vandals; moreover, the dog owners sometimes do upkeep on the grounds, by picking up trash. In cases where D.C. has essentially abandoned upkeep and the vacant public space become a nuisance as a result of undesirable uses, informal use as a dog park by generally law-abiding people who have a vested incentive to do upkeep is preferable both for the school and the general public.


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