Island Voices: Respect goes both ways in dog debate

Re: “Off-leash dogs make it hard to share the trail,” comment, Aug. 5.

I hike at Thetis Lake every day with my dog Piper, a 14-month-old goldendoodle who loves to run, play, jump, swim and usually runs ahead of me (but always in sight), turns around and comes back to check in with me constantly. Piper plays off the trail, including going into the water for a swim around the lake.

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She returns to me immediately, and if I tell her to go to the edge of the trail on my right because I think someone might be afraid of dogs, she does so. I consider that Piper is very much under my control.

Last week, a woman came toward me and started yelling that I had to get my dog under control because Piper “approached” her. I tried to explain that Piper didn’t touch her and that she was simply turning around to come back to check in with me.

You would not believe how angry she got, how she didn’t listen to my explanation and how quickly it turned into something very negative. She was looking for a fight, in my opinion.

While she was yelling that I was the type of owner who gave dog-owners a bad name, my dog was by my side and was doing everything I asked of her.

The woman kept yelling about how there is a sign at Thetis that says you are not allowed to let your dog approach people. I suggested again that she wasn’t approaching her and that Piper was very much “under control,” which is what the sign says. I admit to being angry at this point and I responded with a comment that I regret, but I was feeling protective of my “girl” and annoyed that the woman wouldn’t listen to my explanation.

If some breeds of dogs had to be leashed for their entire walk, they would likely need three hours of leash-walking to keep them in good condition. They need to run around and have fun. While I might hike for 1.5 hours and for 10,000 steps, I’m sure Piper does at least double that, and by the afternoon she is ready for another couple of hours of activity. It seems that some folks believe that shouldn’t be possible in Victoria.

Over the years, I’ve met bikers on the trails who have kicked my dog for no reason at all, people who are afraid of dogs even though they are at an off-leash park (Thetis), cute little kids who love dogs and want to pat mine, cute little kids who are afraid of dogs and then I make sure mine doesn’t go near them, runners who get angry about dogs being on the trails and getting in their way (I used to run every day and never got upset about a dog being on the trail near me), groups of hikers of all ages who take up the whole trail and expect others to step aside, people who love to chat about my dog and theirs while they are playing on the trail, etc. Just because you are using the trail at a particular time doesn’t mean you have total control over the area.

While you can say unleashed dogs don’t belong on a busy trail because people of all ages use it, it is just not true. The majority of people I see every day, whether they are known to me or new to me, enjoy dogs and even stop to chat while my dog plays with their dog.

I try very hard to respect everyone I meet on the trail, and once I get to a place where I can hike on the “back” trails, I go there, because it is so much easier and more peaceful, and I can allow Piper to get the exercise she needs. The dog-walkers I know at Thetis get off the main trails, as well, to make sure they don’t offend people who are afraid of dogs or are not knowledgeable about dogs.

So don’t leash your dog at an off-leash park. Let it get the exercise it needs, and let’s communicate if you are afraid of dogs or possibly even pick another park if you have mobility issues.

Lynn Elwell lives in View Royal.

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