Maybe it’s time we temper our adoration with a splash of renewed commitment to our fellow human beings. For example, state officials are currently deciding whether to allow dogs inside the Oregon State Parks system’s 250 or so yurts and cabins. These are communal, lottery-funded structures that range from $20 to $80 per night, and some guests, even if they’re not allergic to dog hair, might not enjoy snoozing where a dog once slept. Until pups start paying too, I’m not convinced they deserve to share our public sleeping quarters.
Worse yet are the little leftovers park-goers have to sidestep—not to mention the owners who bring their dogs to restaurants, only to leave them tied up and baying outside while other patrons grimace their way through three courses. And while we’re at it: Why is it that Oregon just opened the country’s first Animal Medical and Learning Center, for a mere $6.4 million—but nearly 20 percent of Oregonians still don’t have health insurance?
Looking for answers, I visited the off-leash area at Fernhill Park in Northeast Portland to square off with some dog owners. On the far side of the park, I found Karen Kyle, whose spastic brown labradoodle, Lulu, leapt up and down with frightening urgency, awaiting the next swing of the ubiquitous purple plastic Chuckit. As Lulu chased down the ball, Kyle told me that a few weeks ago at Fernhill, a dog had peed on her leg. Her horror story inspired me to share my frustration about barking, slobber on my pants and the overall feeling that I’m a pariah because I don’t embrace either.
Kyle was sympathetic. “People can’t presume that everyone loves their dog. Look, your dog has to have manners, just like your kid has to have manners,” she said, as Lulu yipped for another go with the Chuckit. Exactly, I agreed. Heck, some parents even keep their toddlers on leashes—and even those who don’t still don’t let their children pester strangers. If only dog owners had the same standards.