Did you know there’s a debate about extendible dog leashes and the walking paths around the lakes? No? Probably because there isn’t one, but that won’t stop me from pretending there is. If I can’t gin up some ersatz controversy and rile you up for no reason, might as well hand this space over to the classifieds.
Here’s the dog owner side: Extendible leashes are useful. My dog comes from a breed with two passions — eating rabbits and yelling at raccoons. The latter is fun for the whole neighborhood, because everyone is informed there is A RACCOON UP THERE, YOU GUYS, SERIOUSLY, A RACCOON, and the dog dances around the tree while a 50-pound sack of hair with two eyes glowers down and says, “Yeah. And what of it?” The raccoons are so nonchalant that when I shine a flashlight up into the branches I expect to see them dealing a hand of solitaire.
Bunnies are a different matter. Chasing bunnies is a bad PR move for dogs. Your dog catches a bunny, and suddenly you’re aware that Mr. Wags takes great atavistic pleasure from crunching Peter Cottontail. As if the dog’s pleasure in munching a squeak toy wasn’t a clue. These sounds of pain and fear tell me I’ve gotta be doing something right! is what his dog brain tells him. It may be cute to us, but the sight would chill the heart of any rabbit looking through the window. Omigod, he’s practicing.
If you have a leash with a fixed length wrapped around your wrist and the dog sees a bunny, here is what happens: You return to work after three weeks, and everyone’s glad to see you back, but it takes a while before someone in the break room says, “Say, I can’t help notice that one of the sleeves on your shirt is totally empty and, in fact, is pinned to the side.”
“Yes,” you say. “The dog went after a bunny, and I had the leash wrapped around my arm. Took it clean off at the socket. Dogs! Gotta love ’em. They’re like family, if your family includes a latent psychopath.”
At best the jerk of the leash will alert you to imminent problems, and you yank HARD and the dog experiences what the 19th-century penal system would call “corrective strangulation.” This is not fun for anyone, and that’s why the extendible leash is good for breeds like the American Lunger or the Australian Cattle-Leaper. As the line plays out, you can brake it and reel the dog back in.
This is what dog owners go through as they walk around the lakes, and it’s why they do not realize they are the bane and peril of joggers.
A runner is chugging along at a steady clip, navigating a path between the ambling citizens and parents pushing strollers, and suddenly there’s a tripwire at shin height. In an instant, jogging has become an Olympic hurdling competition, and they have to jump or stop or hop, which breaks the rhythm.
So I learned from a jogger, anyway. I imagine quite a few are tired of doing the steeplechase routine every time they run around the lakes. So is there something we can do about it?
Sure: Dog owners, mind your dog. Joggers, be careful. I think that covers it.
See, I told you there wasn’t any controversy. I tried, but there are limits to my power.