Monday, October 14, 2013

Fall Clean-up 2013: Saturday, October 19th, 10:00am to 2:00pm

Signs are up, courtesy of Jerry Culligan.   Wood chips are waiting, courtesy of the Parks Department.   Looks like a much better batch of chips this time--the last batch, it must be said, looked like they needed to be run through the chipper a few more times.   The news ones look nice and fresh--with enough tools, enough wheelbarrows, and enough people showing up, we should get them spread around in no time (okay, in 4-6 hours, same thing). 

We'll have great refreshments, as usual.   And crazy dogs running around getting in our way, as usual. 

It's hard not to notice all the new faces showing up at the run recently--be nice to see some of those faces next Saturday.   Show up before 10:00am if you like--and if you show up late, there'll still be plenty of work to do.   See you then. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Clean-up Day, May 18th, 10:00am-2:00pm (show up earlier if you like)

We almost always get an early start, and there'll be plenty to nosh on, as well as goodies from the Parks Department.  Turn-out was a bit low last time (at least by our standards), though those who showed up compensated by working really hard.  Great weather, as I recall--sometimes a really beautiful day impacts turn-out worse than a lousy one.  So many fun things to do on a weekend, but getting together with your neighbors and their dogs (and yours), to shovel wood chips, plant flowers, trade notes, drink coffee, and munch bagels certainly ranks as one of the best.   Mark it on your calendar.  Clean-up comes but twice a year for us.   If you're new to the area, a great opportunity to get acquainted with the folks you don't necessarily see when you're visiting the run.  

So anyway, here's hoping for a great day--just not too great.  ;)

Sunday, March 3, 2013


Leo, Irina and Eddie's dog, died last week.  It was his time, and he had as good a life as any dog ever did.  Leo has appeared on this blog now and again in the past, and this, sadly, will be the last time. 
Leo was the first male dog to befriend Max in his new neighborhood--for all I know, the first adult male of his species he ever had a friendship with.  They didn't play, they didn't show overt affection--they just treated each other with respect and great understanding, and I know Max considered Leo his superior in the loose-knit 'pack' structure of the general neighborhood--never once did I see Leo exploit Max's subordinate status, or make any big deal out if it.  It was just an accepted fact between the two of them.  They were always interested in each other, always pleased when they happened to meet.  
Leo was what Cesar Millan would call "Calm Assertive".  An alpha, but one who had nothing to prove to anybody.  He walked through the run like the wise king he was born to be, reassuring the dogs around him with his quiet confidence, his tail held high like a banner.  He didn't threaten dogs who seemed to be out of line--he just leaned on them a little, and they calmed down.   He enjoyed watching them clown around, but he rarely joined in.

The day these photos were taken, over four years ago, there was this young unneutered male who wouldn't leave Max alone.  He was the opposite of a calm assertive--he had everything to prove, and he'd chosen Max as his victim--he meant no real harm, just heeding his immature instincts--it was pleasurable for him to assert his dominance over this larger male, who had no intention of accepting it, but that just meant the game could go on and on indefinitely.    Max snapped at him, barked at him, moved away from him--nothing made him stop.   Max could have given him a good chewing out (literally), but that just isn't his way.  I was starting to think I'd have to take Max out of the run, even though we hadn't been there that long, and it was a nice day.  As annoying as the dog's behavior was, it wasn't violent aggression, so I didn't want to make a stink about it with his people.  And I was curious to see if somehow the situation could be resolved without human interference.
I've never seen anything quite like what happened next--Leo saw Max's distress, understood what was causing it.   He walked over quietly, and I swear he talked to the little dog.  Talked to him.  Not with words, but with the language of the body.  His hackles stayed down, he never uttered a single growl, but the little dog understood he was in the presence of a true leader, and that he simply didn't qualify for that job, at least not yet.   He backed off, and didn't bother Max or any other dog for the rest of the time we were there.  

And Max knew exactly what Leo had done for him.   And so did I.   And this is my small way of thanking him.  And all dogs like him.   And the sadly small number of human beings like him.   But there are some.   I hope.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

'Mayhem' at a neighboring dog run.

You can read about it here.

Jay's Run, in nearby J. Hood Wright Park, is a rare instance of the city setting up a dog run without a preexisting community group both lobbying for it and agreeing to take responsibility for it.   It has a troubled past, with one dog escaping from it and being found dead later, though the fence and the run as a whole have been substantially improved since then.   A group of dog owners has been trying, with some success, to make it a better dog park, and it must be upsetting to them that this one incident is the first time the media has paid much attention to that run.  Upsetting, but predictable--dog bites are always news, even when it's another dog being bitten. 

I've gone there with Max a number of times, and have met some really nice dogs and people--never encountered anything remotely like this.   I hope the little Havanese is okay, but I must note that the woman who owns that dog is not above criticism--regardless of how big your dog is, if you see three dogs that all belong to the same people in a run--and no other dogs present--you should consider the possibility that they are in a pack mentality, and while most 'pit bulls' (a real catch-all term the way most people use it) are friendly playful animals who are an asset to any run, some of them possess an exceptionally high prey drive, that when they are excited may lead them to perceive small dogs they don't know the way the average dog perceives a rat or a squirrel. 

Something about the description of the people with the pit bulls rings a bell, and I think this same couple may also sometimes exercise their dogs at the Rocky Run.   There just aren't that many pits around that behave this way that are ever brought into a dog park or offleash area.   But whether it's the same people and dogs or not, the rule of thumb should always be, if you have any doubts at all, ASK before bringing your dog in, especially if it's a small dog.   It's not about getting permission to enter a public space; it's about taking sensible precautions.  Many of our local runs don't get the kind of heavy use the downtown runs get, and people with dogs that probably shouldn't be in any run may be tempted to use that temporarily empty space to exercise their powerful energetic pooches, hoping nothing bad happens, but tempting fate every single time. 

Most big dogs are exceptionally tolerant of smaller ones (and I've heard many stories of big intimidating-looking dogs being bossed around and terrorized at home by tiny housemates) , but even with a lot of experience, you can always misread the situation.  

The real problem, I've found, is not pit bulls (or any other breed), but packs--dogs that instead of seeing the run as neutral turf, start perceiving it as their personal territory, like a fenced-in yard that happens to be some distance from their home--and once that mindset is in place, anything that enters their 'yard' is going to be fair game.   When you repeatedly bring several high-energy dogs that live together (and never play with other dogs) into an empty run to exercise them, you run the risk of creating that pack perception in their minds, and of establishing the idea that the run belongs to them.   If you're going to do that,  trusting that nobody else will bring a dog into the run until you're finished, you are begging for trouble.    You combine the pack instinct with the territorial imperative, it's not a matter of if, but when. 

Some dog owners will know enough to ask first, others will not--and while we can make allowances for people who just want to give their imperfectly socialized buddies some fun time,  there are limits to tolerance.  Anything that puts a dog's life at risk is beyond the pale, and don't think we won't call the police if we have to.   There is no excuse for bringing several potentially aggressive dogs into a dog run at the same time.  Ever.   Even if nobody is there, even if nobody is anywhere nearby.  Trouble can start before you have time to react, and once it starts, there is little chance of containing it before serious damage is done.  If you want to call this a fight, and it really wasn't.   It's a fight the way your dog grabbing a rat and shaking it is a fight.  Only the Havanese survived, leading me to think that even these overexcited dogs may have begun to realize this wasn't a rat.  

I've heard of much worse incidents involving bigger dogs savaging smaller ones--and they mainly occurred out on the street, nowhere near a run.  They usually involved several larger dogs attacking one smaller dog.   They usually happened near where the attacking dogs lived.  Dog runs are safe, almost all of the time, precisely because most dogs going there don't think of the run as being their territory, and see all dogs who come in there as potential friends and playmates.  

As to the neighbors complaining in the story about dog poop on the sidewalks, and noise late at night--that, as several regulars at Jay's Run point out in the comments, has nothing whatsoever to do with the run being there.   Some people just don't like dogs, and don't want them around.   They will seize on any opportunity to complain.  We're fortunate in our location--The Rocky Run is too far from anybody's home for barking to be a problem.   There aren't enough locations like that to go around in Manhattan, so it is important for people to be considerate, and not exercise their dogs past the 11:00pm closing time.  And to pick up after their dogs, whether they go to a run or not.  And if every single dog person in New York did this, would people stop complaining about dogs?  Of course not. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The run fence is fixed (mostly)

I only found out this weekend, but the work was done last Thursday.   There's room for improvement there, especially on the north side of the south gate.  It's a patch job--they didn't completely replace the damaged sections of fence, but used the supplies they had to hand to get the existing fence back in fairly decent working condition. 

To sum up the events of recent weeks, a section of run fence was damaged by large tree limbs felled by Hurricane Sandy.   We weren't sure who was going to be paying for the needed repairs, and were looking into the existing options--but then a parks truck showed up full of wood chips (a byproduct of all those fallen tree limbs), that we hadn't requested, but which they decided to give us anyway, because they had to put them somewhere.   These were dumped right outside the south gate--and then the truck was accidentally backed into a previously undamaged section of run fence, wrecking it even worse than the fence on the other side of the gate was wrecked by Sandy.  Whoopsy.

As unfortunate as this was, it did neatly resolve the issue of who was responsible for getting the fence fixed, and while it took a bit longer than expected (there are apparently only three parks maintenance workers responsible for fence repair for all of Manhattan), the job did get done, and we're very grateful.   We were also informed there were slight compatibility problems between the original run fencing purchased by us when the run was founded, and the materials the parks maintenance people have on hand to repair it, but this was not an insurmountable difficulty.   It does mean you'll have no trouble spotting the areas of fence that were repaired. 

The day may come when the whole fence needs to be replaced, but that is hopefully some time off.   Right around the south gate there are a few tiny gaps at ground level that a very small dog might be able to get through, if he or she really wanted to, but I haven't seen or heard of any such incidents occurring.   We'll work on getting the fence into even better condition in the near future, but let's just be thankful the issue has been mainly resolved in about two months time.