Several Reasons People Can't Walk Their Dogs — Including Mine — Off Leash in Dallas

Penny (left) chases coyotes five times her size; Dorothy lived on diet of cats and squirrels her first two years. You really want to leave your dog off the leash next to mine?EXPAND
Penny (left) chases coyotes five times her size; Dorothy lived on diet of cats and squirrels her first two years. You really want to leave your dog off the leash next to mine?
Jim Schutze
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Call this a pet peeve if you must, but it’s way bigger than a peeve to me. You cannot walk your dog off the leash in Dallas. In Dallas, you cannot allow your dog out into your unfenced front yard off the leash. And in Dallas and all of the major cities I can think of, your dog is not a human being. It’s a dog.

Don’t tell me, “Oh, he wouldn’t hurt anyone.” Yes, he would. He would kill a cat if he thought he could get away with it. He would kill a cat if he just had a really good shot at it. He’s a dog. D.O.G. Dog.

The difference between a scary, slobbering, three-legged, one-eyed, stump-eared pit bull running wild through an abandoned lot in a poor neighborhood and a high-stepping, freshly shampooed Afghan wearing a rhinestone collar but off the leash on the Katy Trail is the amount of slobber. They’re both equally and fully against the law and not human.

The law is plain. Dallas City Code, Volume I, Chapter 7, Animals, Article III, Care and Treatment, Section 7-3.1, Loose Animals, paragraph a: “An owner commits an offense if the owner fails to restrain the animal at all times in a fenced yard, in an enclosed pen or structure, or by a tether or leash.”

Do I sound a little hyperventilated, like I have some kind of personal problem here? That’s possible. So what? The law is still the law. What? Do you think this is some kind of personal diatribe against a particular neighbor of mine? Not at all. This is about world peace, beginning with my peace when I walk my dogs.

I walk my dogs on leashes, always. And, yes, they have some issues, especially the somewhat larger one, Dorothy, who is a medium-sized herding dog mix. Dorothy was trapped in Kiest Park in Oak Cliff, semi-adult and running wild. We have had her for six years. She is now sweetly tame around us but still a little on edge around some people and all unknown dogs.

She is somewhat odd. There’s a homeless guy in our neighborhood who points at her when he sees her from afar and cries out, “Dingo!” I think he and Dorothy may be connected on some off-channel wavelength.

The other, smaller dog, Penny, a terrier mix rescue, is the one everyone takes for a sweetheart, and she is, under the right circumstances. But the other night, she pulled the leash out of my hand and chased an immense, wolf-sized coyote four long blocks down Swiss Avenue.

I told a neighbor about it, and she asked me why such a little dog would go after such an obviously overmatched opponent. I said, “I don’t know. They chase dump trucks. They’re dogs. They’re complete idiots.”

Or not. Sometimes they’re smart. My dogs can spot an off-the-leash dog a block away, and they immediately go into fight mode, growling, barking and tugging on the leashes. They’re smart enough to know that they are tethered and not their own masters, so they will be compromised in a showdown. They go into strong offense mode to warn the loose dog away.

But lots of people I know walk dogs who are sort of iffy on the leash, not 100 percent perfectly trained, given to a little bit of rowdiness if things get crowded on the trail or sidewalk. Typically, we owners of discipline-challenged pets haul our dogs off the sidewalk, across the street or away from the trail if we see a potential conflict looming.

It is not fair, it is not smart and it is not legal to come promenading down the trail at me with your dog on what you think is your own mental leash and then glower at me when my dogs start behaving like dingos. I’m not in the wrong. You are. And the dogs are just dogs.

All right, maybe this is a little bit personal, but, I swear, it’s not about anything in my neighborhood. I am talking about an entirely theoretical situation in which some complete moron has his dog loose in his front yard, I don’t see it, and then the moron blames me when my dogs and his dog wind up in a rhubarb. And then the guy tells me, “My dog was not in the wrong because he was in his own yard.”

Wrong. Makes no difference. Your dog has no more right to be off the leash and unfenced in your front yard than to be off the leash on the sidewalk. And anyway, moron, your sidewalk is my public easement. More important, they’re all just dogs. Maybe you could figure this out if you stopped assuming your dog thinks like a human and you tried thinking like a dog instead.

Here’s your dog: “My den here. Other dogs coming. They no come my den. Me bite.”

Here are my dogs: “Den dog. Fight mad. We bite.”

That is why they all have to be on leashes. Always. I don’t care if you think you have trained your dog to walk off the leash and never misbehave. I don’t really care if your dog can play the banjo. Just put a leash on the son of a bitch. (The president can say it.) Obey the law.

Read it and weep. That dog cannot be off the leash even in your front yard.EXPAND
Read it and weep. That dog cannot be off the leash even in your front yard.

Listen, I don’t really want to go here, and I probably never would, but I do want the owners of the high-stepping, off-leash Afghans of the world to understand what happens if we ever really do get into it. I drop my leashes.

Then we see what happens. What happens when an off-leash, freshly shampooed Afghan takes on a bad-mannered dingo and an insane coyote hunter? Want to bet some serious cash on the outcome?

Oh, no, forgot. That’s only legal in Japan, Honduras and Russia. And I would never want it to come to that anyway. Just answer me this: Why do you think your dog should be off the leash anyway? What do you think it does for the dog? You think he’s trotting along thinking, “How now, Spirit! Whither wander you?”

He’s thinking, “Squirrel piss. Cat crap. Bird doo. Possible coyote. Homeless guy who points and calls dogs dingos.” He can do that same inventory while he’s on the leash.

This is not a diatribe against the off-leash dog. That dog’s just being a dog, doing what dogs do. This is about human beings who do not respect the social space or privacy of other human beings — people who don’t have a good handle on how their behavior affects other people.

Figure it out. Otherwise, Dorothy and Penny will figure it out for you. Dorothy lived on squirrels and cats the first two years of her life, and Penny is totally out of her mind. You really want to throw down with us?

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