August 02, 2020

Fettering leash laws hurt quality of life

Guest Column

This is about walking with dogs. I am always delighted and grateful in the winter when the snowmobile trails become established in our neighborhood. It means that I can walk freely with my dog, without a leash, in places of fresh air.

When I moved to Bangor in 1973 most of the people I met seemed exceptionally loving and positive toward dogs. But now this has changed. It is no longer fashionable to respect dogs as pooper scooperism spreads across the land, as scatophobic joggers refuse to look where they are going, and as we hear in the sad news about the stubborn “Dog Man” of Portland.

In the past few years we dog-walkers have become fugitives from regulations. Signs tell us to stay out of cemeteries and we are often unwelcome on the walkway unless we are leashed. What happened to the clause in the leash law about dogs being free if under voice control of their keepers? No one seems to remember that. A jogger, startled by my big black dog, asked gruffly, “Why isn’t he on a leash?”

“You like to run free, don’t you?” I asked him back.

I had walked my dog for 15 years without trouble or complaint in Hayford Park. One day he and I saw the marvelous castle local citizens had built for the children and went over to admire it. I was met with “Get that dog out of here! He will frighten the children! He’ll mess in here!” (This from a young woman who was hovering over the castle like a territorial imperative.)

Why did this woman assume that I would permit my dog to frighten the children? And what 3-year-old would view a dog as something nice after hearing the alarm and disgust in her voice?

I know that there are two sides to this question and that unattended dogs must be regulated and restrained, but I also know that the quality of life in a place erodes when free walking is curtailed. Unfettered dog walking in fresh air is a very healthy exercise. The dog reminds one to get out there in the first place, and if you are a timid person who would otherwise stick to your car, he gives you confidence.

In Europe, where towns developed long before the advent of large vehicles, a more human scale exists with numerous lanes, paths and right-of-ways. I hope and suggest that our city will establish more paths for our use as the open lands in this area become closed through development. Perhaps the paths could be kept open in winter through the occasional use of snowmobiles. Certainly our tax dollars in Bangor have gone to subsidize other people’s favorite sports — now let’s have more pathways where dogs can be walked!

If anyone is interested in what I have had to say, let us start a dog-walkers group. Maybe together we can find ways to create more walking areas in our neighborhoods. Please call 945-6398 between 7 and 10 p.m.

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