(Rufus, from www.gracenjohnson.com)
I discovered a new (to me) blog this week, "Another Place for Me," which is written by Gracen Johnson, a recent graduate student now living in Fredericton, New Brunswick. She makes excellent short videos illustrating current issues. A few of them feature her adorable small dog. Rufus.
In the most recent video, "Another Place for Me Winter Special: Dogs in the City," Rufus and Ms. Johnson illustrate how dogs can add to the life of the city. In a nutshell, dogs in a city means people walking dogs, which adds life (and eyes) to the street. This increases the potential for businesses to open where people can walk to, and by people we mean people with dogs and people without dogs. The more people, the more life, and the city becomes a better place to live. And we meet people, as I can regularly attest, having become acquainted with any number of dog walkers I regularly see in our neighborhood.
It's worth mentioning that in her video, the dogs are leashed and well-behaved, and the street scenes are bustling but uncrowded. Alas, it is not always so. I hear complaints about dogs getting underfoot at our crowded downtown farmers' markets, and dogs who bark all day long. And those dogs are theoretically under someone's control. My friend Niles Ross notes that a walk along 32nd Street NE is complicated not only by decaying sidewalks but by dogs running loose. "Yes, there is a leash law," he points out, "but nobody enforces it. The mail carrier has repeatedly called, but by the time anyone shows up--if indeed anyone does--the dog(s) is/are somewhere else." I've had enough run-ins with dogs, unleashed or lunging at their leash, over the years to tax the patience of even the most devoted reader of this blog. Suffice to say they have certainly made we wary of any dog I don't know, and even wary me got bit on the hand by a Jack Russell terrier last month.
Suffice also to say there's poop, by the pile (literally!).
Gracen Johnson is right, of course, both on the matter of walkable cities and on the matter of dogs. But to get to the happy place depicted in her video, we're going to have to re-learn things our grandparents' generation probably took for granted. Just as our species needs to re-learn how to use third places, and how to mix cars with bicyclists and pedestrians, we--dogs, their owners, and those of us who are neither--need to re-learn how to behave when we're in close proximity.