85. The Park That Went to the Dogs
When Winnie and Arnold bought their house at the end of a cul-de-sac in 1980, they thought they had died and gone to heaven. There were only four houses on the street. Between their house and their neighbor's house was a dirt pathway. The path led to a city-owned dog park, where dog owners could let their dogs run free. But there was no parking lot for dog owners' cars. Dog owners had to park on the street, and then walk their dogs to the leash-free park.
In 1980 no one seemed to know about the park. The only people who used it were the people who lived in the neighborhood. The neighbors used to joke that they had their own private dog park.
Those were the good old days. Things have changed. The park has become like California in the Gold Rush days. Everyone knows about it. A dog may be man's best friend, but 1,000 dogs certainly are not.
Over the years, the neighborhood association, consisting of about 70 houses nearest to the park, has begged the city council to reduce park hours. It is open from 7:00 to 7:00 seven days a week. But some dog owners actually arrive at 6:00, saying that they needed to beat the rush. To save walking distance, others park in neighborhood driveways. Others bring boom boxes and play music loudly in the park. Others knock on neighborhood doors and ask to use the bathroom. Weekends are even worse than weekdays. Whole families spend the day with their dogs. People, dogs, noise, and trash are everywhere.
"We're stuck here," said Arnold. "I've been trying to sell my place for five years. But when buyers see all this dog traffic, they take off running. What a joke. This place was heaven when we first moved here. Now it's hell."
The city council has ignored the neighborhood association's pleas for help. A council member said, "We have to meet the public demand. This no-leash park is very popular. I'm sorry, but if the homeowners don't like it, they can always move. This is a free country, you know."
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