This is Sprocket.


Well, that’s Sprocket and me, anyway.

Sprocket likes to run and play, like any other dog. And, like any other dog owner, I will say that he is probably the best behaved dog I know. His recall is pretty much 100%. He waits when we get to a street, until I tell him it is okay to cross. If we see someone coming with another dog, or children, we pull off the sidewalk and he sits until I tell him it is okay to say hello, or he waits until they go by. If we see another dog in the park, I make him sit and wait until I have walked up and greeted the dog and asked the dog owner if it is okay for Sprocket to say hello. If not, then I return to Sprocket and release him from his sit. If it is okay, I call him to come play.

We made sure he learned all of these things because Sprocket is primarily an off-leash dog. And I should say that in every city we’ve lived in, the local law enforcement seems to have become used to seeing him off leash. They largely turn the other way.

White Plains has been a challenge. It is by far the most dog-unfriendly city I’ve ever seen. Everywhere there are signs like this:

I am not proud of the fact that law enforcement has to look the other way. I do not ordinarily flaunt the fact that Sprocket can be walked off-leash when most other dogs can’t be. But I am saying this now because I have been made genuinely curious by something that happened on Saturday morning.

It was beautiful out, and Sprocket and I walked down to the local schoolyard to play. There is a track there, one I’ve written about before, and there were kids riding their bikes on the track and people walking around it. Normally, people are having lunch and playing soccer or volleyball and lots of kids are rollerblading around the track or riding their bicycles. Today, though, it was mostly just walkers and one or two bicycles. Sprocket and I were in the middle of the field in the track oval, playing fetch.

I was on my knee, saying something to Sprocket, when I noticed a man coming over. He was not smiling, but he was walking doggedly towards us. Usually people want to say hi. But this man’s face was not friendly. So I stayed where I was.

He got to within a few feet of me and pointed. “There are two signs, one there and one there, that say ‘No dogs allowed,'” he said. He’s right. They look like this:

“I know,” I said. “We’re not bothering anyone.”

“The signs are right there,” he said.

“Uh huh,” I said. “When you see people riding their bikes, or rollerblading, or drinking booze in here or playing soccer or volleyball here, do you go up to them and tell them they’re breaking the law?”

“So you’re saying that their wrong makes you right.”

“No. I’m just asking if you treat them the same way you’re treating me.” Here I point. “That little girl has been here on her bike for awhile. Are you now going to tell her she can’t be here?” [Here I was erroneous. I thought the sign included bicycling too, but it doesn’t, for some weird reason. Bikes on a track are much more dangerous than skates.]

“I’m going to call the cops,” he says. “You can argue with them.”

“I’m not arguing with you,” I say. “I’m just curious.”

After that the situation disintegrated. Sprocket and I left the field with me yelling something about ruining everyone’s Saturday and then I believe I said very loudly that the man was a terrible citizen and that he should be ashamed of himself and that it’s always dog owners who pick up after the riff raff of White Plains.

And it’s true, too. The first sign I posted above, the brown one, is in the park across the street from us. When we first moved here Sprocket and I would go very early in the mornings and play ball or frisbee when there were fewer people. Now, no matter when we go, there are dogs in there. They run here and there while we owners keep a sharp eye out for glass 40s or food containers with leftover fried chicken in them, where people who are stoned or drunk will leave them after they’ve eaten off their binge drinking or whatever.

We pick up after ourselves every time. Sometimes I will pick up after errant dog owners…maybe they didn’t have a plastic bag with them.

Despite our poaching the park, I still feel like a good citizen. But after I’d told the guy out loud that he was being a bad citizen, I had to take a really hard look at myself: Am I being a good citizen?

What do you think?



  1. Dude sounds like a miserable poohead. I’ll bet he parks in handicapped spots.

    I hope a thousand pigeons crap on his car.

  2. defines citizen as follows: “an inhabitant of a city or town, especially one entitled to its privileges or franchises.”
    Your town parks are dog unfriendly and therefore prevent you from fully enjoying the privileges or franchises of your town such as the parks. See if there are any dog parks around or petition your local government to set aside park property for a dog run. I bet you aren’t the only one that would like to enjoy the park with your pet. Maybe mean guy who doesn’t like dogs was just pointing out that for you.

    1. the White Plains dog runs are covered in a dusty gravelly substance. ick. grass is better! i have started looking into having them change the rules for the parks i mentioned above, although it will take second fiddle to everything else, so long as other dog owners also poach the parks. sigh.

  3. was this guy in a position of any authority or just a control freak? was he doing something in the space where sprocket was interferig with his enjoyment?
    clearly he’s rigidly rule-bound. in the end….no harm, no foul, however, might there be another venue that is more dog friendly to avoid such confrontations?

    1. NOT an authority figure. veered from his own trajectory ’round and ’round the track to confront me. every green space in white plains has a No Dogs Allowed sign on it. so sad.

  4. I try to empathize from their point of view. Maybe he just stepped in dog poo..maybe some idiot owner let their dog run wild and was jumping over him. The problem is that for every one responsible dog owner there are a bunch ruining it for everyone else.

  5. This is a toughie. For one thing, if I were you, I’d either get an ordinance passed to allow dogs in public places like parks and schools, or move away. I’ve never seen such dog discrimination…ever. Leashing is another issue. I recently had a woman thank me for keeping Popeye on a leash because just seeing a dog while she’s outside her home terrifies her. She said off-leash dogs in the neighborhood turn her into a prisoner in her own home. I can respect that, because I’ve have dogs whose owners swear that their four legged fiends are harmless–even as their dog is attacking mine. So, chalk one up for stupid people. I’ve also been guilty of letting Pops off leash in a woodsy park where lots of us who live nearby do that sort of thing…but every now and then I run into people like the man you describe, and it’s just turns into a hate fest on both sides. So, even though I don’t have a solution, I can relate. People need to weigh the risk when they see someone “violating” a rule. It sounds as though that’s how your local law enforcement handles it, which is wise. Better to have a dog in the park than a drug dealer.

    1. @Grier: Great comments. Reading these is helping me to shape the attitude I want to adopt in the near future. And yes, I’ve been very lucky with the local law, but something has got to be done. I keep on an eye out for the right people to help me effect a change, but, regrettably, it’s taken second fiddle to almost everything else.

  6. Tim is spot-on – there are a few irresponsible dog owners who have ruined it for the rest (not cleaning up after their dog, etc)… It is a real shame, but this happens in nearly all walks of life – not just the parks. Personally irresponsible, unnaccountable people are the reason there is litany of rules listed almost everywhere you go.

    For instance, in my store (AquaDog Spa), I’ve had to make signs
    • that children under 16 have to remain with their parents (otherwise they destroy the store)
    • for dogs not to pee on the 2 decorative planters next to the front door (there is a huge grass field about 10 feet away)
    • that dogs should pee or poo outside first before entering the store (especially if you know your dog is nervous or a marker)
    • lock their leashes to 3′, lest they wind themselves around the racks and tip everything over.

    I could make many more – but those are the most important. But the part that pisses me off is that I have to post those rules in the first place – WHERE HAS COMMON SENSE GONE?

    1. @Beth: Oh, I see the irresponsible ones all the time. We had a ton who lived in my building, letting their dogs pee ON THE BUILDING itself. Why? Why? Why would you do that? I feel your shop and your signs. Sprocket and I must come in to visit one day! Thanks for reading!

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