‘It’s OK, he’s friendly.’
If ever there were words more likely to drive a reserve manager to distraction, I’ve yet to hear them.
This week I was mildly chewed by an arthritic looking Rottweiler as its owner stood about blithly unaware that his charge had developed a taste for man-flesh in its dotage.
Dog bites – like falling in streams, being impaled by blackthorn, having the public inform you that ‘they pay their taxes’, and discovering dead bodies, are something of an occupational hazard.
As I bravely shunned medical attention for my moderately painful graze, I pondered, not for the first time, ‘what’s to be done about the clear incompatibility of irresponsible dog owners and nature reserves?’
It’s not just the bleeding puncture wound with potential long-term nerve damage that I could do without. It’s the poop-bag trees, the eutrophication from unbagged poop, the dogs loose on ground nesting bird sites, the dogs frolicking in ponds, the bark stripping, the tree-branch hanging. The squirrel chasing I can live with however.
I recently surveyed one of my sites and found that, despite clear signage about the bylaws, 75% of dog walkers had their dogs off leads. Not surprising, and in reality it is a completely unenforceable bylaw and everyone knows it. I tend to restrict myself to raising the issue only if the dog is ‘out of control’ (Professional dog walkers, I’m looking at you guys).
Not that this would have stopped the brutal ravaging of my forearm, which though I am yet to see a Doctor, I am pretty sure may need to be amputated.
My geriatric canine assailant was on a lead and did look, to all intents and purposes, to be completely harmless, nosing forward and snuffling at me, lulling me into a false sense of amiability before virtually dismembering me and attempting to drag my bloodied bones back to the gates of Hades to gnaw on for all eternity.
Basically, I’ve typed this whole missive with my one remaining finger-stub.
I don’t actually have any answers for you. From experience, telling people to put their dog on a lead generally makes them argumentative – because their dog is different. Their dog is special and is part of the family and so what if some people actually have a pathological fear of dogs? That’s their problem. And if they don’t like a dog snuffling at their crotch or barking furiously at them, well, they need to just grow a pair and get over it. Everyone loves dogs, right?
They really don’t. I could digress into my theory about the low diversity of visitors to urban greenspace here, but that seems like an entirely different topic.
All I can really do is put up clear signage (or, given the fact my arm is sure to drop off any day now, direct someone else to put up signs) and flag people up when their dogs are out of control (which, with the hook-hand and all, should at least be a bit more effective from now on). Other than that, I’m open to suggestions.