A PREDICTABLE CONFRONTATION
The new Rowcliffe Park is open at 6 am till 11 pm. I have planted the garlic and watered my five-by-eight-foot garden this morning by seven-thirty on this beautiful Sunday morning, with only one other gardener working in the community garden. We have a brief chat and I say goodbye to Ursula. As I make my way to the gate and onto to cement walkway intending to walk back to my condo on the other side of the park, a man on rollerblades whizzes by on the trail with his black lab running free on the field beside him. I call out to him, “You are supposed to have your dog on a leash.”
As he speeds off he calls back but I can’t hear every word, although I understand from the tone he doesn’t agree with me.
The concrete park trail loops in a circle around the perimeter of the new park with a soccer-field-sized grassy field in its centre. I continue walking as the man blades and his dog runs ahead of me, the distance between us increasing fast. Another dog walker enters the park, a young lady with a beige, fluffy lapdog. I decide to follow the man and have a word with him about the dog rules of the park. Ahead of me his dog squats. The man picks up its product and then takes off his rollerblades, and puts his dog on its leash.
While he is doing that, I catch up to him, and I walk the path with him.
“Can I ask you how come you have your dog off-leash in the park, while you are walking past the off-leash park?”
The man is looking at me with a scowl on his face angry and barks, “How can I do that on my blades?”
“Well, you’ll have to put him on the leash when you are rollerblading through the on-leash park,” I insist.
He doesn’t see the logic and replies petulantly, “Why would I do that when there’s nobody in the park?”
As if he is a child, for goodness sake.
“There is always somebody else in the park, and the rules make sense,” I reply.
Fact is, about every five minutes I see a resident entering the park to walk one, or two dogs, as I sit and watch during the day from my third-floor deck overlooking the park entrance. Since I moved into my building, I already met the various owners with their 5 dogs on my unit’s corridor, and that only represents half of my floor and I haven’t even met all of my floormates yet. There is another wing on the other side of the elevators. Let’s just say for a rough estimate, they have 3 dogs, that makes in total 8 dogs on my floor. On four stories, that adds up to 32 dogs for my building. Two buildings of each 4 floors, roughly make already 64 dogs in my Mission Group development only. There are a number of apartment buildings adjacent to the park, probably with dog owners as well.
Another fact is, that runners use the walkway for their work-out, and bicyclists, roller skaters, skateboarders, and mothers with toddlers and strollers, and many residents walk the trails in the evenings. Not all may like dogs. An unleashed dog is more threatening than a leashed one, especially a large dog or of the more dangerous breeds. He was able to not even complete one round on the circuit before a girl with a dog on a leash entered the park.
Anyway, to get back to the conversation, the man gets louder and exclaims, “But I put him on the leash when I saw her.”
I reply: “That makes no difference, she was already on the trail. You should take your dog to the off-leash park for a free run, and if you want to rollerblade leave your dog at home. Those are the rules. There are a lot of people with dogs here and the rules are put in place for a reason.”
“Why would I want to pass up on a little bit of fun with nobody around, and what are you going to do about it?” He gets louder and louder as we walk along and he keeps walking along with me. He was calling me nobody. Wrong decision.
I decide to take up the challenge with this child-man. Nothing changes when bystanders keep their mouths shut. It’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it. The rest of the residents here seem to prefer to turn their heads away. That didn’t work so well during the years prior to and during the Nazi takeover, when millions were carted off without so much as an attempt from the regular citizens—their neighbours—to stop the Nazis in Germany. Too stark a comparison, you object? Well, look at what is happening in our neighbouring country down south where many and mostly white male Republicans stay quiet and look the other way. Enough said.
“There are rules that everybody needs to follow and you too. I have seen you before letting your dog run without a leash. I could report you to the city for breach of the dog bylaw. The other day, I just about stepped on a big turd in the middle of the field,” I stubbornly go on.
“That’s not from my dog,” he shouts. “I always pick up, I even pick up for somebody else. And how can you report me? You don’t know me.”
“That’s very good of you,” I say generously. “At least you show some community spirit with picking up for others. Good for you. I do that too. I clean up here when people leave garbage behind. Still, you need to stick to the rules. And by the way, I can find out where you live by following you.”
Oh, Oh, that made him really mad.
Now he is considering whether he should hit me with his rollerblades. The dog beside him on the leash lets out a low growl. The man is white with dirty-blond sparse hair, between 25 and 30 years of age, and of similar size of my five feet and a couple of inches, as his eyes are at my level, and he keeps solid eye contact with me. As we keep walking next to each other, he regains but his eyes are wonky with anger.
“What about I follow you home,” he says, proud of himself for having thought of that reply.
“Why would you want to do that? I’m not breaking any rules,” I reply calmly.
Then he loses it. “You, cunt, you, miserable cunt, you spoil it for everybody,” he yells.
“Oh, so now we are getting into name-calling. It won’t make a difference to me.” I reply without any idea how to end this spat.
“Yes, I am calling you a cunt, and you are making me,” he yells.
Once more I reply before I turn to my stairs going to the upper level of the development. “If you won’t leash up your dog, you’ll be in trouble.”
He turns around and makes the distance between us greater in a hurry to get home, as I go up the stairs to my building.
I exhale a big sigh of relief. That problem is solved, for now. As I am rounding the corner and enter the back door of my building using my fob, I ponder about this man-child’s responses. I wonder why these man-children—white males, like all the other men with their dogs off-leash where they shouldn’t be—are so hell-bent on breaking the rules that others seamlessly apply to their lives.
What makes them so special that they think the rules don’t apply to them? What made this man so angry when a woman of a certain age reminded him of his unexceptional status as one of the many users of the park? Did he never hear no in his childhood, or too many times so he couldn’t breathe? Was he abused and fighting free of that past or just an omnipotent child with an inept parent who couldn’t set boundaries? Who knows.
I put my past job as a social worker behind me and am now just a community member with a voice, and not willing to hand over my one-person-power to anybody. When bullies are not stopped, their improper conduct will continue and may even escalate. As a responsible community member and a consumer of the park’s amenities, I do my citizen’s duty and don’t rely on others to do that for me. Stubborn you say? Yes.
The off-leash park is the yellow (clean woodchips) area in the background.
I go home hoping that this sensitive soul with his special dog needs eventually finds out that he could teach his lovely black lab to run beside him on the leash like I’ve seen other men on bikes do. Well-aware of the Bystander Effect, I am glad I didn’t cave or cower to his belligerent conduct. We will see if, and how this confrontation will change his behaviour in the next while.
The person in the photos is on a cell phone, as doggie is waiting for the frisbee to be thrown.
Since that day I have been paying closer attention to dog walkers and noticed that four out of six dog owners leave their dogs unleashed when they take it out in the park for their business. Rush hour is at 4:30 pm. None of them continue on to the off-leash park, only a few steps down the path. Why should they? The whole park is open to them, or so they seem to think. Will holding a leash make them less manly than pretending they can control a dog with their voice? And they must think the new park and all that gorgeous green space and flowerbeds are just constructed just for them. And yes: these a..holes are all male and white.