Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Out and about

orangeBall, originally uploaded by phaird.

I skipped out on my normal visit to the park this Sunday. It was rainy and cold so I decided to enjoy a lazy day at home. It's not so bad though because we went out yesterday and spent a lot of the day outside. I also wasn't sure if Toby would like the park today because when we went to the Acton park, we didn't get 50 yards in before Toby heard the gun shots from the local gun club. As soon as he heard it, he went right back to the car and waited under it until I caught up.

With my lazy Sunday, I ended up reading the newspaper and there was a article by Michael Schaffer called, "The Family Dog, Why we treat our pets like royalty". It is out of his book, "One Nation Under Dog". It talks about how people can "humanize" their experience with their animals. I guess that is true from if we as humans are the center of the universe. It seems to me that there is more of a equality of needs on both sides. We as humans want the companion for any number of reasons and dogs need us for their own reasons. His issue that as society becomes more lonely so we apply human traits, such as a child, to our pets. His view, may not be wrong, but it is only one of many ways of looking at it. With all the time I spend at the park with Toby, it has offered me the opportunity to be more social then anything else I do. The idea that animals have rights and should be treated with compassion applies to the pets we keep as well as the meals we eat. It makes sense to me that as a society, we can consider the other creatures around to better understanding of who we are.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

MayDOG meets Maynard town

As a quick background, I'm on the board of a non-profit called MayDOG in the town I live in Maynard and we are in the process of trying to create a dog park in our little town. Lisa, who spear heads the efforts has done a great job collecting data and finding good examples from other towns that have successfully created dog parks.

So yesterday, after many months of Lisa doing the research and talking with all the people she could, we had our day with the Board of Selectman and it was a unique experience. The board was made of 5 people with different backgrounds. Lisa was given the floor and was able to explain her research and show how it would impact the community of Maynard and the surrounding towns.

Now I'll take into account that this is only the second time I've been at a meeting like this and the general running of towns and cities is a real unknown to me. What was so funny was that after her presentation, they had a conversation with each other about the proposal almost like we (which was only 3 of us) wasn't even there. I would say that on one level there was some positive response to the prospect of a dog park. What was so funny was that they then when back and forth looking for ways to keep it from happening. Now I get that they have to way all the options and considering every angle but it didn't seem like that to me.

Each pulled there different way of shooting down the idea. One selectman was all about money and city time. His view was that the city would not allow any town resources into any further research. Another selectman, who is the insurance industry, said that the town would have to know that the liability to the town would be none before he would approve of it.

And everyone was afraid of the DEP (dept of environmental Protection). As soon as that was brought up, you could see that they all had experience with the DEP and it wasn’t a smooth one.

Then the issue was that it wasn’t their top priority. There have been other recreation or park requests over the years that they haven’t been able to do. They said they had to consider those people before dogs. What was interesting was that a solar farm has been suggested for the same area that MayDOG is looking at and that seems to trump any public recreation area for anyone.

I get that they are suppose to think of the best interest of the town but, even though no one was flat out against the park, no one wanted to take a stand for the park either. Many of there arguments were week. Requiring no liability for the town is completely unreasonable. Anyone could hurt themselves anywhere in the town and some over zealous lawyer could try to sue the town for it. That the city wouldn’t offer to help in any way. Not a phone call, not a helpful suggestion, nothing. Lisa already met with one board member so even the busiest town employee could make some time for guidance if nothing else. Then there is the dreaded DEP. If they only try to find things not to do, then that would be a problem.

Seems to my narrow point of view that this group is trying to represent the town like it’s an individual. If someone represents me, the individual, my own interests come ahead of everyone else. But the town isn’t a person. It’s a place that a group of people reside. The town should support the group as a whole. For those who speak up, make requests of the town, it makes sense that the town would want to help out that group or groups within the group so long as it doesn’t take away from anyone else. Looking into the possibility of making something happen maybe more work but it is the more socially oriented way of approaching an issue. If you start from all the reasons it won’t work, it’s much less work but offers so much less for the community.

The park idea has issues that still need to be resolved and we need to continue searching out those issues and looking at all possible options at our disposal. At this point, the town agrees that MayDOG can continue pursuing this option as long as the town doesn’t have to support it in any way. They did make some good points and brought up some things to consider but I would hope that any town that has residents bring ideas that could strengthen the community would consider all that it takes to make something happen instead of finding all the ways to keep something from happening.

You can read MayDOG's response on their website blog.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Start of spring

first spring 09 in the park, originally uploaded by phaird.

Today started out a bit overcast. Toby and I got to the park early to help him get over his nervousness at the park by walking through the woods. We ended up taking the long trail and 40 minutes later we popped out to see a large group of people and dogs all standing in the sun. It was a great sight to see so many people out. The past few weeks with the weather improving, more and more families are out with their dogs.

There was a air of calm at the park, even with so many dogs running around, everyone just seemed to be at ease. It could be that I just walked 40 minutes and was tired but I'd like to think it the park that was calm. It is too early in the season for the dogs to play in the water and the muddy ground slowed some of the fast dogs down. Many people were just standing around, talking and enjoying the day.

I have to say the funniest moment happened when I watched a regular at the park pet a dog while the dog peed on his leg. he was too far away for me to do anything about it and he didn't know it was happening either. I felt bad for him but couldn't help but chuckle just a bit at it. We've all been peed on one time at the park at least once. Everyone knows not to wear nice clothes to the park. You're guaranteed to get dirty somehow.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fresh air interview - Speaking for Spot

I must be drawn toward everything dog related. I just happen to turn on the radio tonight and on Fresh Air was a interesting interview with vet, Dr. Nancy Kay who just published a book called Speaking for Spot. When I came into the story she was talking about putting down her dog. You could hear in her voice that it was very emotional for her. It is always good though to hear the humane side of caring for pets.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Blue wanting more treats

Blue-031509-wanting more treats, originally uploaded by phaird.

The upside of cancer for Blue is that he gets as many treats as he wants. His owners are just doing what they can to make him comfortable. He is on a pain medication that makes him thirsty and his appetite is as good as ever. He does look thin but he was in good spirits, enjoying himself at the park.

It was a really busy day at the park again. The warmer weather is bringing out lots of dogs and kids. In my quick scan of the park, I would say there were close to 50 dogs within the hour that I was there. It's great to see so many dogs and families out. One woman brought her son (maybe 2 years old) for the first time at the park. He wasn't that interested in the dogs but loved splashing around in the lake and mud. It's a lot of work watching both dog and child but she did it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dog saves dog

A amazing video of compassion from one dog to another. I first saw this and couldn't even watch till I figured out what was really happening. What is even more amazing to me is that these are street dogs that have to struggle every day to survive. It shows me how compassion is not only a human emotion.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Blues cancer is back

licking_for_treat, originally uploaded by phaird.

After a long and expensive fight, Blues cancer is back. For many weeks everything seemed to be going really well. He responded well to the months of constant chemo treatment and it seemed like the cancer was in remission. Well, after all that, his cancer is back and he is at a point that nothing else can be done. Blues owners are feeding him well and taking the best care they can of him but he is at the end of days.

When they told me I was speechless. What can you say that doesn't sound simple or small. I've seen Blue and his family for over a year now and look forward to every week they are there. As regulars at the park, they are the type of family that focuses around their pets and they show there love by doing things they know their dogs love.

For all my friends whose dog has passed away recently, the only consolation that I can give is the knowledge that they have given their dog the best life they could give. A dogs life should be filled with love and if they end their lives with love and compassion, then that is the most any dog (or person) could ask for.

Please feel free to leave a comment to Blue and his owners. I'm sure they would appreciate it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Toby on bench

Toby on bench, originally uploaded by phaird.

Seems like Sundays here in MA has had bad weather for the past few weeks. We didn't make it to the park again but we did show up a few days earlier. Toby was still super nervous about the park but once we got going he was really happy. We did the easy walk for both our sakes and avoided the main hill.

I always love our walks. Specially in the winter. I know it seems odd to like being outside in the winter but It does give me an excuse to go outside. Most of my days are spent in a dark windowless office and those times of days when I can be outside, I really appreciate it. In the summer, I spend more time outdoors and take it for granted. I even complain a bit about being too hot. Not Toby though. He's from Tennessee and ended up in MA. He still wants us to move but as long as we give him the love he asks for, he'll allow us to stay where we're at.