August 21, 2012
Have You Ever Had a Bad Encounter with the Dog Police?
By Chad Love
Many of you are probably familiar with the books and stories of Jim Fergus. Although primarily a novelist these days, Fergus was at one point an active hook-and-bullet freelancer (in fact, he recently wrote a piece for F&S). He also penned two very good non-fiction books: "A Hunter's Road" and "The Sporting Road." "A Hunter's Road" is his chronicle of a season spent bird hunting across the country, and "The Sporting Road" is mostly a collection and expansion of some of his better magazine pieces. Both are, I believe, out of print, but can be easily found online and well worth your time.
Anyway, Fergus wrote a screamingly funny piece in "The Sporting Road" I think we can all relate to in some way. Its title? "A Close Call With The Dog Cops," in which Fergus is walking his lab, Sweetzer, off-lead but at heel and in control at a city park when he's confronted by, of course, the dog police. Papers and identification for both dog and man are demanded, dog and man are threatened with incarceration, dog and man make a run for it, escape in comical manner, and all ends well.
And here's where we segue into the "Damn, but times have changed!" portion of the blog... Phil Bourjaily recently sent me a link to an eerily similar story about a man, a city park, his leashless dog, and the dog police. But that's where the similarity ends. Remember that "Don't Tase Me, Bro!" meme from a few years back? Go ahead and dust it off...
From this story in USA Today:
A man walking his dogs in a federal park overlooking the Pacific Ocean was hit with a stun gun and arrested by a park ranger who accused him of not tethering the animals and giving a false name, astonishing passers-by who say the reaction was excessive.
The ranger deployed the Taser stun gun on Gary Hesterberg on Sunday after he ignored the ranger's orders and tried to walk away, the National Park Service said. Hesterberg was allegedly walking his dogs without leashes in violation of the rules of Rancho Corral de Tierra, which was incorporated into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in December.
Now I have no idea what (if any) the extenuating circumstances (Was the dog out of control? Was the dog calmly at heel?) were in this incident and won’t pass judgment except to say the fact that you are authorized to carry a Taser does not mean you have to use it every single time you encounter a difficult person. Silly me, I always thought that's what brains and good judgment were for. At any rate, it brings up an interesting question for gundog owners: Have you ever had a bad dog cop encounter?
I admit, I've had a few encounters with the dog police. Not to the comically criminal level of Fergus, nor the electrifying level of the unfortunate and probably still-smoking Mr. Hesterberg, but enough of them to realize that how my dog acts off-leash and what I'm doing with the dog off-leash goes a long, long way in determining how the doggie police act toward me, to wit:
Young dog chasing ducks into the park pond and then swimming after them in a bloodthirsty canine frenzy as he repeatedly ignores my commands to HERE, DAMN IT! while horrified onlookers upload the camera phone video to YouTube? Yeah, I probably deserved that one (but at least I didn’t get tased…).
That same dog, two years later, again off leash and technically illegal but calm and completely under control as we're doing baseball drills on an early (think crack of dawn) Sunday morning in an isolated and completely people-less part of the state park when the officer drives by? Got a free pass on that one, and I think most law/code enforcement types can (and hopefully do) recognize when they can relax the rules just a bit. I can honestly say, however, that I've never run into a true horror story of a doggie cop. Have you?