I've been digging graves. I don't usually talk about stuff that makes me rabidly angry on this blog, but I've been digging graves. This is because about an hour ago, while we were out, a dog from down the block got into our yard and killed two of our chickens. Our neighbours cleaned up and called us. Our other neighbour caught the dog and took it home. And I dug the graves and now have to explain to my two-year-old where his favourite chicken has gone.
The thing that make me so rabidly angry about this isn't the fact that our chickens are dead. Sometimes you can think about that as bad luck. Chickens aren't the smartest animals, or with the best defence mechanisms. I don't blame the dog, it was just being a dog. But this dog was in our yard, and is actually well known to me, because almost every day it comes past our house, off its leash, being yelled at by name to leave-that-alone or keep up or something else. The owners regularly think it's fine for the dog to be bandying about the streets uncontrolled, even though it regularly rushes our fence. And today, it escaped its yard and had enough time to get to our place, and kill our chickens and be taken back before it was missed. This is part of a much wider problem I see of the privileged dog owners who have every excuse for why their dog is off the leash, or otherwise not controlled. The ones who think it doesn't apply to them, even though controlling your dog is the expectation and requirement of owners in this city.
Surely I'm just emotional at this point. Blogging on anger. Making too much of it. Wasn't this just bad luck, something random that could happen to anyone? Well, no, actually. This is just one of many. At Christmas this year, my then under two-year-old was knocked down by a dog at the beach. The owner was so far away they didn't have a hope of controlling that animal. Didn't say anything to us, didn't care. At the same beach were two other dogs, also off their leashes. The beach is signed for dogs on leash, but people don't care, because what's going to happen? They go every day and do what they please. The year before, at the same beach, my disabled younger sister was also knocked down by a dog. At the time, my mother wrote to the council. They expressed surprise, promised enforcement. I wrote again at Christmas, and received a stock reply.
There's more. I sometimes now (and often a few years ago) walk the tracks at Mt Coot-tha. And every time I do I see a good number of dogs off their leashes, despite the fact there are many people on those trails, and many other dogs. On my most recent walk there with a friend, a lady coming down the mountain with her off-leash dog saw my friend hesitate and merrily called out, "Oh, don't worry, he's fine!" My friend replied, "He might be, but I’m not." See, it's not about you. It's not about how fluffy and cute and well-behaved you think your dog is, they can scare other people. And you don't know what's around the next corner. What are you doing to do if something happens? What possible control do you have?
On a walk with another friend a few years ago, my friend has his dog on a leash. An off-leash dog came along, attacked my friend's dog, and then the owner abused my friend like it was his fault. I was gobsmacked. On another occasion, an off-leash dog jumped up on me. The same dog had jumped up on my friend a month before and torn her shorts. When I told the owner the dog should be on a leash, he offered some total BS story about recovering from back surgery and not being able to pull on a leash. THEN LEAVE THE DAMN DOG AT HOME, YOU TOOL. Honestly. These are not one-off incidents. They are happening every day. I've written to council about Mt Coot-tha, too. Stock reply. Nothing changes.
And then, I'm digging graves.
So control your damn dog. It's not about what you think your dog is capable of. Your dog is not a small person. They can strike fear into other people, and they're capable of causing injury and death. You don't know what's around the corner, or who will be there, so you should have that leash on regardless of who you think is around. The chicken-killer is a smallish, fluffy-eared brown thing. The owners probably think it's too cute and small to be a problem for anyone.
The owners put a note in our letterbox. They could understand our distress, they said, because they'd lost chickens over the years too. Except they don't get it. They don't get that they're part of this privileged set of people who think that their dog doesn't have to follow the rules. That they're somehow exempt on grounds of cuteness or well-behavedness or smallness, or whatever other BS excuse you want to have. One of the owners was cleaning up feathers when we arrived home. I asked them to leave. I'll clean up the feathers, thank you. I'll dig the graves, and put our poor chickens' still-warm bodies into the earth. I don't need you to clean up, and to offer reparations. I need you to keep your dog on a leash, and in your yard.
And for anyone else who currently doesn't do those things and thinks it's just fine, because their dog would never hurt anyone, that goes for you too.