Things went from bad to worse at the dog park this week. The woman with the three big dogs was there again, and AGAIN they came toward us, surrounded us, and provoked another attack. But this time I was prepared. I had brought my dad, and we were both armed with big sticks — more like branches, and, well, okay, possibly, one may have been a large broom handle. Yes, I know, this was very un-pie-like on my part, but it was for the sake of defending my 15-pound dog against her huge beasts, which, as you can see in the picture below, she is unable to handle by herself.
When she came to collect her dogs there were more profanities uttered, though not by me. She was as aggressive as her Rottweiler, but instead of saying a word I simply pulled out my digital camera and took pictures of her. JUST IN CASE. “You’re taking pictures?” she asked incredulously. No, she didn’t like this at all. My dad, however, was holding his stick up to fend off her dogs and he might have said something to her like, “I’ll use this stick if you don’t get your dogs away from us.” She took this as a threat, said she was going to call the police, and went running back to the group of other dog owners, screaming “Help me!” We went about our own business, throwing the stick for Jack, and ignoring the group of people staring at us as she grumbled to them about us “threatening” her. Police? Did she really think she had a case?
The whole episode was very upsetting. The dog park is usually a very peaceful place, a rare patch of open, grassy space where you can legally have your dog off the leash without risking a $250 fine.
My dad and I went back a few days later, saw through the fence that this same woman was there with her three dogs, so we didn’t go in. We walked with Jack on the outside of the park, along the sidewalk on the OPPOSITE side of the street. She saw us. She yelled, “You’re lucky you’re not in the park or I would call the police.” We said nothing; we just kept walking. And then, a block later, we saw the black and white car pull up alongside of us. She did call the police! We were questioned, because, as they said, they were “required to follow up on a call.” We told them our story and that was the end of that. I hate confrontation. I don’t go looking for it, and when it finds me–first thing in the morning, no less, without any provocation–it is especially dispiriting.
This is when I employed some of my own, nearly forgotten advice, “Don’t get mad, get busy.” So when we returned home from the dog park I told my dad, “Come on, Dad. Get a broom, some garbage bags, and some gloves. We’re going to clean up that sidewalk.”
There is a neglected patch of sidewalk that I have been using every day during my stay in LA. It is my route to the dog park and every time I have walked this section I think, I can’t stand all this litter and these weeds; I am going to come back and clean this up myself. Today was the day. DON’T GET MAD, GET BUSY.
I had just researched Obama events where I could volunteer (another case of Don’t get mad, get busy), but I thought, why not put the energy into a community improvement project? Isn’t that what Obama’s message is anyway, to be part of the solution? I know it still looks scruffy (see pic above), but you should have seen it before we started! We worked for over two hours raking leaves, picking up trash, and pulling weeds. A neighbor even came out and joined in, Marvin, a gorgeous man with two kids who “has been meaning to get out here and clean this up.”
A few other people walked by. They asked, “Why are you doing this? Do you own the land?” (Why ask why?! I wondered. Why not just say thank you?!)
“No,” we answered. “We’re doing this because we want it to look nice, and it has been neglected.” We were doing it because of the “Broken Window Theory“–if you clean up the litter, people will stop littering there. It’s a theory about how keeping your community clean will help reduce crime. Really I was doing it because I wanted to transform my burning negative energy into something positive–and this was one grumpy person for whom baking a peach pie would not be an option.
I always hope for a happy ending to troubling stories. The happy ending to this one is that I have stopped going to the dog park (even though it is a convenient two blocks from my parents’ apartment) and instead I have been driving one mile down to the beach where there is an even bigger park, an ocean view, and a saltwater lagoon where Jack can swim. (See pic of Jack above.) There are never any other dogs around, and thus no hysterical, police-calling dog owners, and we have been enjoying our last days here in L.A. immensely. And now, when I take Jack around the block at night, I can walk on the sidewalk without getting scratched by weeds or stepping on a potato chip bag and know that I have helped make the world an ever so slightly better place.