Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nethermead Redux; Confrontation on the Lullwater

From a comment posted on the online article “Dirty Dog Run Makes Pooches Sick”, about the Park Slope dog run:

Hey Brownstoner--take a look at the rule change at prospect park (and city-wide) due to a lawsuit by Committee for Responsible Dog Ownership . I haven't seen any coverage of this...they took away the afternoon dog hours from Prospect park due to some concerned bird watchers.

Well, no. They took them away--on the Nethermead; there were never afternoon dog hours anywhere else-- because or once the DOPR and the Health Department wouldn’t give in to Tupper’s whining that Prospect Park was unique. CREDO had nothing to do with it--we wish they'd listen to us sometime. And we haven’t sued anyone—yet.

From a correspondent:

"Dog Rage" is on the rise. As more and more dog owners identify with their pets and demand the right to let them "run free and socialize" in public spaces as if they were fur children, those who dare to complain about being pawed, sniffed, harassed or otherwise annoyed by other people's off leash pets increasingly find themselves the object of the owner's self-righteous rage. God forbid one should attempt to defend oneself or try to scare the dog away if it insists on invading one's space.

A prime example of this syndrome is "Public Enemy Number One", the crazy lady who likes to put her jack russell terriers into protected Prospect Park natural areas. She is known to rush at people brandishing a hockey stick even if you don't touch her precious animals. A more sinister example is the character who terrorized Inwood Park a few years back with his offleash Ridgebacks, physically threatening people who questioned him for letting them off leash or complained about the dogs approaching them. The same macho man was the prime suspect in the notorious murder of a young woman in the same Upper Manhattan park. If I recall correctly the police never had enough evidence to charge him with the crime, and he may be swaggering along the park pathways still, frightening people with his huge beasts.

I have had my own scary encounter with dog rage, in Prospect Park's Nethermead of all places. Imagine that! It happened in 2002 on a beautiful summer weekend afternoon. I was crossing over from the "dog beach" to the Nethermead with my pit bull on a leash (as usual). Just as we reached the fenced gate of the path, I noticed a white man sitting on the grass across the road with a baby stroller and a large golden retriever. My heart sank as the off leash dog immediately noticed us and romped towards the opening in the fence. The owner screamed at the dog, ineffectually as the dopey animal completely ignored him. The golden was hell bent on "saying hi" to my pit bull, who adores all people but has little use for dogs, especially big stupid ones.

We were trapped. Where could we go? The animal was in my dog's face. Pashelle's hair went up and she started to growl. Blood will tell, and all the canine "socializing" in the world cannot overcome what's bred in the bone. Not caring to be in the middle of a dog fight that would likely result in all three of us getting hurt, I swung the end of my dog's leather leash at the retriever's head.

"Get out! Leave us alone!" The doofus dog thought I was playing a new fun game.

When the white man saw me swing the leash at his dog he went ballistic. "DON'T HIT MY DOG !!! " he screeched, leaving the baby carriage and advancing on us in a most aggressive manner.

"Your dog is going to get hurt if he keeps bothering my dog!" I yelled back.

"DON'T HIT MY DOG!! DON'T HIT MY DOG!!" He was practically foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog himself.

"You IDIOT! Your dog will get BITTEN by my dog. I'm just trying to make it GO AWAY!!"


Now I knew I had left the world of the sane and rational. It was time to make my escape. As I dragged my pitbull out of the gate, the crazed white guy lunged at me with a lacrosse stick, swinging it at my head.


"NOBODY touched your dog! YOU ARE CRAZY!!!!"

He swung at me again, dispelling any illusions that I might have had that my brave and loyal pit bull would come to my rescue if I was ever assaulted by another human.

Two joggers stopped and regarded the crazy man with disbelief. "Why are you trying to hit her with that stick? YOU CAN'T DO THAT!!!!" Their intervention allowed me to make my escape. As I retreated, I tried to get a photograph of him with my dinky little film camera, but this incensed him even more. Naturally there was not a cop or parks enforcement patrol in sight.

I eventually took refuge in a large crowd of Mexican soccer players who were standing in stunned amazement, watching the entire drama play out.

Yes, this is one more reason that the Nethermead should be reserved for soccer players at least part of the time. They make the park a safer place to be, not the dog owners. Who wants to deal with "dog rage" in the Nethermead, especially nowadays when the unleashed dogs outnumber the soccer players?

As we pointed out a while ago, it seems that PE #1’s dogs are rat terriers, not JRs, but otherwise it's all very familiar.

Meanwhile, from another correspondent:

Wanted to share a very negative experience I had in Prospect Park yesterday. I was birding along the Lullwater around 8:30am, and I passed a guy with his dog offleash. I had seen him in the same spot before, also with his dog offleash--that time his dog had run right up to mine and I had to pick [my dog] up to avoid a confrontation ([my dog]'s not always good with new dogs)...I very politely and cooly mentioned that the offleash areas were in the fields only (something like "I don't know if you know, but the offleash areas are the fields only"), he made a snarky comment and walked away. Yesterday I saw him again, and his dog did the same thing. I said something like "Not again" and started to walk away and he yelled something at me. I turned and told him that there was a good reason for having dogs onleash, and that it was bad for the dogs as well as the wildlife in the park. He told me that there was no wildlife in the park, etc, and I told him he was ignorant. At that point he got toe to toe with me and screamed in my face that I was a threat to him and his dog and that he was going to "Break every bone in my body". Being from Brooklyn I took that with a grain of salt. I told him that I wasn't threatening him and that I just want him to leash his dog like everyone else. He started to walk away, we exchanged a couple of more words (no cursing or anger on my part, believe it or not), and then turned back, ran at me and shoved me, and then threw his dog toy at me (that part was kind of silly--it was a nerf toy). At that point I took out my mace and told him to back off and he left.

I didn't go to the police (although I told him I would), since there were no witnesses and I didn't take a photo or recording. However, I think this guy is a problem, and as soon as I see him again I'm planning on photographing him and giving the cops a heads up for the future. I also urge you all to watch out for this guy. He's about 6', slightly doughy, facial hair, wears square rimmed glasses, and has a small brown lab. He has a British accent. I'm sure it's just another Park Sloper with an impotent rage problem, but if I wasn't as big as I am he could have been intimidating.

We have encountered this character before. From other reports, he has previously threatened park personnel who asked him to leash his dog. PE#1 is not unique.

And finally, from a third correspondent:

The Central Park dogs are jumping over the cyclone fences into the areas where people are not supposed to go. I saw a woman let her little dog chase two Robins. It just keeps getting worse.

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