Friday, March 14, 2008

The latest from Bailea, our run manager--and more about 'Puppy Pals'

(Bailea at the run for Clean-up Day, last October)

I talked to Bailea night before last, and she had various little tidbits of information she wanted me to pass along. I can see you all drooling with anticipation, so I'll get right to it.

As I mentioned a few weeks back, we were supposed to get our double-gates installed last year, before it got too cold. Then it got too cold. Well, Bailea has been promised we are DEFINITELY getting them installed this spring. Unless we don't, of course. But delays are part and parcel of dealing with a bureaucracy, and hopefully we're close enough to the front of the queue now.

She's dropped by the run here and there (for those who don't know, Bailea moved out of Manhattan a while back, and has yet to find someone to succeed her as run manager), and has noted that the wood chips are already getting a bit thin on the ground. Although the next official Clean-up Day is in May, she thinks she might try to get some fresh wood chips dropped off well before then, in which case we may all have to show up and pitch in to spread them out.

Jerry Culligan has an excellent idea, by the way--mark that muddy area towards the north of the run as the place for the wood chips to be dumped. That way, we'll get really good coverage there, and it'll take the dogs a while to dig back down underneath, and start eating the mud, as they seem hellbent on doing, for some typically perverse doggish reason.

Bailea also mentioned that she'd like to do something a bit different in the next few months--schedule a meeting at the run, probably on a Saturday afternoon, so that people can personally confer with her about any problems or suggestions they have--although she's always present on Clean-up Days, all the shovelling and raking tends to get in the way of serious discussion. Once a date has been settled upon, she'll post a notice at the run, and I'll post it here.

I had put in a call to Bailea primarily in order to get her in the loop about Puppy Pals Playgroup, and the new phenomenon (for Northern Manhattan, anyway) of businesses bringing large numbers of dogs by car, and letting them loose inside our run. She had never heard of this before. She did not sound terribly enchanted with the concept, put it that way. She told me she'd be calling her main contact at the Parks Department, expressing her concern, and finding out all she can about Parks policy with regards to these businesses operating on Parks land.

Since my last update on this subject, I've done some checking of my own, and learned a fair bit--let me give you a quick rundown.

First of all, I have confirmed that the official Parks Department rule is that you must have at least one human for every three dogs in a dog run. Julie Zittrauer, of Puppy Pals Playgroup, told me she was surprised to learn about this, when she read it on this very blog, a few days ago. She assures me that in future, PPPG will obey this rule.

Strangely enough, I've been informed that over two weeks ago, PPPG was at the Sir William's Run, which they were visiting for some time before they ever discovered the Rocky Run. Somebody told Allison Barron that they didn't have enough people, pointed out the sign with the rule, and she responded, or so I'm told, in a less than pleasant and accomodating manner.

In fact, there's been friction between PPPG and the regulars at Sir William's Run, for about as long as PPPG has been going there. What happened between Allison and Irina Vodar was not an isolated incident, I'm sorry to say. Mention Allison's name the next time you happen to visit Sir William's, and you might get quite an earful on the subject.

And it's interesting to note that they are mainly bringing the dogs up from downtown neighborhoods--which have plenty of dog runs, with running water, and all kinds of amenities we don't have--not to mention they all have double-gates, and aren't immediately adjacent to two busy roads, and a very dangerous intersection. So why did Allison Barron come up here with a lot of unruly downtown pups, who are still in the process of being trained and socialized (or we hope they are, anyway)?

So whenever they found out what the rule was, they know now. If they have 10 dogs, they need 4 people in the run with them at all times. 16 dogs--6 people. 20 dogs--7 people. Etc. Etc. And the only reason they didn't always have enough people was that they didn't know what the rule was, right?


whenever i take my dog to the run and the puppy play group is there, i don't feel comfortable bringing my dog in. so, we leave. there is entirely too many dogs and too few handlers to look after all of them. there have been fights between the dogs in the puppy play group because of this. just today, in fact, i went (didn't go in) and there were 13 dogs (i counted several times) with only 3 handlers.

isn't there a rule about a maximum of 3 dogs per handler?

this doesn't seem fair to me. they take over the whole run and the handlers don't seem to have enough control of all these dogs (a huge pack really)!

That was posted on December 21st of last year.

Please note that if there were thirteen dogs and three handlers, that would mean they weren't acting in accordance with a four dogs per handler rule either. But in any event, I'm a bit confused as to how they somehow managed to remain blissfully unaware of a rule that directly impacts their business, by forcing them to hire more ten dollar an hour helpers. That rule has obviously been well known at the Sir William's Run for many months now.

Assuming PPPG and other playgroups stick to the three dogs per human rule, they may still not be in the clear. Fort Tryon Dog Owner's Group has been talking to the Parks Department, including newly appointed North Manhattan Parks Administrator Jennifer Hoppa, who I'm hoping to talk to shortly. Seems that to operate a business in a city park, you need to have a valid permit sanctioning that activity. The Parks Department takes that rule pretty damn seriously, and people using city parks to make money are always trying to find ways around it.

This rule wouldn't really impact a single person doing freelance dog-walking, who takes a few dogs to a local run--for the same reason it wouldn't impact a nanny taking a few toddlers to a park near their homes. But if the nanny got some capital, hired other nannies to work under her, put up a website, started using vans or SUV's for the purpose of shuttling scores of toddlers halfway across town, to parks the parents of those kids had never even heard of--and in so doing, made those parks less available to the children and adults who lived near them--well, that's a bit different. To put it simply, a nanny is not a business, for the purposes of the rule in question. What amounts to a mobile daycare center may be another matter.

When I asked her about this, Julie didn't agree that PPPG needed a permit but said that was Allison's department. Actually, it's the Parks Department's department--and I'll get back to you, once I've got some answers from the people who are qualified to give them.

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