Source: Cape Town etc. (Extract)
Posted: November 07, 2023

There is a special place in Cape Town that is a massive recreational space known as the Doggy Park that should be enjoyed by all. But unfortunately, a group of entitled dog owners are ruining it for everyone because apparently they speak dog and are all animal behavioural experts, laments Gasant Abarder in a new #SliceofGasant column.

Abarder, who recently launched his book, Hack with a Grenade, is among the country’s most influential media voices.

My daughter and I see the same lady on a school’s rugby field every morning as we drive up Keurboom Road. She’s running her two dogs off leashes on the field and yes, she is armed with plastic bags in case the two mess. But we always giggle when she walks past the sign: ‘No dogs allowed.’ I mean, if privilege was a picture.

I’m also a dog owner so I can empathise. I wish I could find a wide, open enclosed area where my dogs can just run with abandon and not interfere with other dogs. I have two. One is a female husky and she is completely bonkers. The male is a rescue and looks like a husky crossed with a German Shepherd.

The male, Rocky, has a lovely temperament and listens. The female, Maya, is an escape artist and listens to commands when she feels like it. It’s all my fault. I spoilt her rotten when she was a pup and now I live with the consequences.

I have one rule: They’re always on a leash when we’re in public for the following reasons:

  • Both Rocky and Maya feel the need to protect me and the family if a strange dog approaches;
  • Maya is entirely unpredictable in the most benign situations;
  • Not everyone appreciates being licked and sniffed by a dog; and (most pertinently)
  • I don’t speak dog.

On Sunday, we took them to the massive park shared partly by Western Province Cricket Club and Rondebosch Boys’ High School. It’s filled with dogs and kids, and adults and kids who love dogs but also adults and kids who are not dog people. And that is okay. The park should be for everyone.

But dog owners have a weird sense of entitlement. Especially those who feel it is their right to run their dogs off leashes. I’ve witnessed some unfortunate instances where Fido didn’t listen to a command and ran over a toddler. Or Rex attacked an innocent tiny dog that was on a leash.

This happened on Sunday. I walked with Maya because I can keep her on a short leash if something happens. And my Rocky is gentle enough for my daughter to handle. But then five dogs off-leash approach and start sniffing and being a bit boisterous. So, both Rocky and Maya defended their space and my daughter and I were able to pull them away.

And then we get the dirty looks! This was after warning the dog owners that my dogs were unpredictable and telling them that unfortunately, I don’t speak dog. In fairness, Rocky and Maya behaved. It was the dogs off leashes who caused the trouble.

But no, apparently, everyone at the Doggy Park between Keurboom and Avenue de Mist is a dog expert. They’re dog whisperers who are fluent in speaking dog and know exactly what Fido and Rex are going to do next.

It’s just good manners to keep your dog on a leash. And to pick up after your dog if they’ve made a poo. We all want to be the ultimate dog owners and believe that a series of whistles makes you more astute than the trainer of a circus dog.

But the reality is, like me, you don’t speak dog and you’re not a dog whisperer. Animals are unpredictable and I’m not prepared to unleash my crazy dog Maya on the world. Remember, Steve Irwin? He could talk to the animals, walk with the animals, sing and dance and laugh with the animals. But not stingrays.

Don’t be like Steve. The park belongs to everyone and I’d hate to be impaled in the chest by the tail of a dalmation.