The elves looking after the emails at the Duck ’n Fiddle received a number of complaints from dog owners about my March column titled Barking Mad: On or off the leash. They claim it didn’t address the problem at all. In fact, the word leash never even popped up till the last sentence, which got Tannie Marie from Onrus upset enough to email us, but we’ll get to her later.
I must confess though, we did get somewhat sidetracked exploring various dog-related idioms by mistake, leaving us without space to discuss “to leash or not to leash”, as the title implied. This was unfortunate. So now we intend to take this canine conundrum by the scruff of the neck and discover why folks, apart from priests, also get hot under the dog collar.
There are two areas of concern. One is the on-the-leash bylaw, and number two is the unleashed/free-range necessity. So, not to confuse our number ones with our number twos, let’s untangle number one first – on-the-leash.
Dogs on the end of leashes are obviously less likely to be able to maul another dog or eat a child before being yanked away. This is commendable. The front bit though, is relatively easy to control, and just requires a muzzle if the dog is anti-social. However, that leash connects the owner to the whole dog, not just the front bit with teeth but what goes on at the back, too.
Leashes are seldom longer than two metres, so the dogs (front and back bits) remain on or next to our regular walking/jogging tracks, like the coastal footpath. The back bits often erect some awkward, if not artistic, holy shrines in homage to Epol and Dogmore that ye hand holding the leash needs to deconsecrate, usually with the help of a plastic bag.
This is where Tannie Marie made a near-fatal mistake. She let go of the leash to poop-scoop the proud offerings left by Muffie, her miniature dachshund, and the little darling scampered up the pathway yapping happily.
Now, careening down towards them at speed, was what Tannie Marie described as “a large black dog the size of a pony dragging a petrified teenager behind it on roller-blades”. When the dogs collided, she could only watch in terror as most of her dog seemed to disappear into the gaping jaws of the beast.
“He had my Muffie in his mouth!” Tannie Marie wrote in horror. Fortunately, when the kid smashed into them, it let go immediately and hurtled off yelping down the path, dragging the brat on his knees behind it.
Her Muffie, you’ll be pleased to know, was unscathed by the ordeal. The beast however, received a couple of stitches in his tongue and a muzzle, and the kid’s kneecaps, needed relocating.
This only highlights the urgency for the local municipal bylaw to be finally stamped, which involves ridiculous lawyer-speak, but translated, sets out the following rules: 1. Leashes must be attached to dogs and owners at all times. 2. Dogs larger than a corgi must be muzzled. 3. Plastic poop-bags must be visible at all times, for eg. bracelet, necklace or anklet. Or belt – for larger dogs.
This will certainly sort out our first problem. Now onto the second, the unleashed/free-range solution.
Many churches across the bay have kindly offered the use of their excess land to accommodate dogs off the leash. Here, they maintain, they can romp around “free and unfettered as the Good Lord intended”, so leashes must be checked in at the vestry.
Seating arrangements will be set up so the owners can chat or play chess and Scrabble, while the dogs can cavort about, doing what dogs do. Communion wine will be available. Owners agree that any injuries sustained on holy ground cannot be misconstrued as an Act of God, thus exonerating the church unconditionally.
But seriously, some paranoid owners with leashes are often the reason why dogs fight. Many dog-lovers would welcome easier access to real free-range areas. So would their dogs. Anyone listening?