Who let the dogs out?

Saturday, April 22, 2006
Our community garden association had its annual spring meeting today. We discussed issues about fencing, approved a proposal to lock the tool shed at night, and reviewed the rules about what can and can't go onto the compost pile. We talked about seeing if Starbucks -- located two blocks from the garden -- would be willing to donate its coffee grounds for compost. We collectively thanked Bob, the garden services guy, for single-handedly doing the plumbing repairs. We elected Lew to be our new president. And we wished a happy birthday to Carl, one of our oldest members, who's in his eighties. For the most part, it was a straightforward meeting, except for the discussion about the dog park.

Our community garden is located in a D.C. park that also includes tennis courts and a children's playground. There is a group of local residents that is trying to get a dog park added in. It would be a fenced-in enclosure where pet owners could let their dogs run freely, off the leash.

Over the past two years, there has been much debate -- quite heated at times -- about the public health and environmental consequences of locating a dog park so close to an organic garden. Nobody wants dogs peeing on their daisies, much less their tomatoes.

The dog park proposal has yet to be approved by city officials. But in the meantime, we'll all have our opinions about it.

For my part, I am not opposed to dog parks, but I wonder why it's not possible to select a site that's away from the garden. I am in favor of creating a place for city dogs to exercise, but I wonder how much more dog traffic -- and along with it, their waste -- this will bring to our garden, as dog walkers pass through on their way to the designated, fenced-in area.

The way I see it, the big challenge is that we are dealing with human nature. Even with the signs that read, "No dogs allowed in the garden," there will always be people who ignore signs. Even with D.C. law requiring dogs to be walked on a leash, there will always be people who insist on letting their dogs run freely. And you know what? I actually don't mind if people come by the garden with their dogs. (I like dogs!) But it's when people let their dogs pee and poop on someone's garden -- that's what bugs me. And then you'll have people who dutifully abide by the Scoop-Your-Pet's-Poop Law, but there will always be those who leave it to fester by the rose bushes.

OK, if I've thoroughly grossed you out with all this dog-poop-in-the-garden stuff, I should finish by saying that our plot is completely fenced in and we are not planting lettuce near the fence anytime soon! All our vegetables and herbs are planted in the middle of the plot. And that's how we are going to keep it, dog park or not.


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