Denver Direct: Denver Dogs

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Denver Dogs

I couldn’t resist putting up this picture of my last dog, Kea, who loved to take a bath.
She stood over 6 ft tall and weighed 125 lbs.
Licenses are required for dog and cat owners in Denver. I have read (but can’t find a reference) that only 5% of Denver dog owners have a current license for their dog. Yet we are apparently preparing to establish off-leash dog runs in City Park.
Correspondent Cathy Donohue weighs in:
This morning I attended the Dog Park Master Plan Meeting at 7:30 a.m because I was told they were going to make recommendations about the New Off-Leash Program (Off-Leash hours would be from 5:00 am to 9:00 am in the morning, and from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm in the evening at several parks in the City.)  I wrote some comments because I was told they would not be taking any testimony; and, as usual, I wanted to get my 2 cents’ worth into the record.

They decided to try a pilot program some time next year in an open area of City Park and one other park that they couldn’t quite identify. We will all have to wait for the final decision.

By the way, we were allowed to ask one question at the end, so I asked the Manager of Animal Control just what one would do if she were on the ground with an injury that would make it impossible to chase down a loose dog or it’s master so that the victim could pursue action against the dog owner.  He smiled and said “call the dog catcher and they would find the dog and its master if the victim could give them a description”.

I thought that was the most ridiculous reply, since I have called the Animal Control several times over the last 40 years and it took more than an hour to get to the area of the problem.  Needless to say, they were unable to find the animal in question.

I think the matter of allowing dogs to have free reign for 8 hours a day is a bit too much.

Confessions of a Denver Dog Owner
by Cathy Donohue
October 28, 2009

When I moved to Denver and the Cheesman Park neighborhood from Wyoming in 1963, I brought my German Shepard with me. I have owned or rescued about 12 or 13 dogs since that time. Over a period of 45 years I have used City Park, Washington Park, Cheesman Park, the Platte River and many other pathways in the city to walk these pets. All of them went to dog training classes and were trained to heel, walk properbly on a leash, sit, come and stay. None of them ever bit a human being; however, several could not be trusted to refrain from arguing with another dog.
I tell of these matters because I wish to have the powers that decide dog issues in Denver realize that I am an experienced and competent dog owner. The plan being proposed to allow approximately 8 hours daily of off-leash activity in Denver’s parks is one that will place countless human beings in danger. The vast majority of dogs are not under the voice control of their masters and never will be.
I participated in an informal “dog group” in the late 70’s  that existed on the top of the Cheesman water reservoir in Congress Park. This dog group had about a dozen participants. No one could see the activity from the street and no high rise dwellers were able to watch the group.  This bunch of dog owners and their pets enjoyed the pleasures of each other’s company until the time that an irresponsible owner of three wolf-hybrids decided to join. He never cleaned up after his dogs (as we all did) and he allowed them to attack other dogs. This bad behavior began at the boundary of Congress Park and his animals made their destructive way to the reservoir on their own. He believed that his dangerous pets should have a “free run” of pure enjoyment. The neighbors around Congress Park finally called the dog catchers and the Water Department.  The “dog group’”owners were ticketed, along with the owner of the wild dogs, and the group disbanded. The Water Department securely locked the reservoir.
Today we have a “dog group” many times larger than the group that existed in the 70’s. They have taken over a large section of Cheesman Park. I would imagine that few of the owners of these dogs  have genuine voice control of their pets. Even after many years of training, I can honestly say that I had true voice control over only a couple of my dogs.
If the Parks Department decides to allow free running dogs in any of our city parks, many people (young, old or frail in any way) would not be safe from being knocked over by a loose dog. Being bitten is an even greater threat. Trying to chase down the dog’s owner would be a task of impossible proportion if the victim were injured in any way. Given my age (70) and my state of health, I would never enter a park during the time that dogs would be running off leash.
Do we need dog parks? Yes. They need to be properly fenced so that the dogs that people love so much are not able to harm anyone. We are no longer able to buy or maintain more park land in the city. Every plot of green oasis needs to offer rest and pleasure to as many people as possible. Dogs are often a pleasure as well as a necessity, but our parks cannot be turned into dog runs. Yes, I have, for 5 or 10 minutes at a time, left one of my many dogs off the leash–to run freely. I disobeyed the laws very early in the morning or after dark; and I was very careful to see if anyone was nearby, so the illegal action did not threaten other park users. Was I wrong to disobey the laws? Of course, but we have all been tempted to allow 5 or 10 minutes of stolen freedom for our dogs. I received two tickets over a 45-year period. The city is unable to enforce its laws. I have not let any of my dogs off leash for more than 10 years. I came to a realization of my duties as a dog owner. We need to consider everyone’s needs. There is a need for safe parks and a need for fenced dog parks. 
Dogs owned by Cathy Donohue from 1963

1.     Falco – German Shepard

2.     Jacque – Standard Poodle

3.     Gretchen – Airedale

4.     Rascal – Scottish Terrier

5.     Sophie – German Shepard/Doberman mix

6.     Penny – Doberman

7.     Misty – Scottish terrier/Schkipperke mix

8.     Little Guy – Miniature Pinscher

9.     Callie – Miniature Pinscher

10.  Mr. Jiggs – Pomeranian

Note:  I have rescued several dogs that were abandoned in Cheesman Park and kept them until I found suitable homes for them.