Righteous Indignation

Early Sunday morning, I took Daisy to play fetch in Cadman Plaza. We lined up between a row of lime trees, well away from the walking paths and the playing field, and she began to bark for her ball. Out on the field, a kid jumped off the bike he’d been riding and threw himself at his father in screams. I threw the ball a couple of times before the inevitable ricochet. Daisy scuttled under the park bench, got the ball and wheeled to bring it back to me. The kid was now hysterical.

“Would you please leash your dog?” the boy’s father asked. “This isn’t a dog run.”

“Actually, it is. From nine to nine, the Plaza is off-leash.”

“Where does it say that?” he snapped.

“Just read the signs,” I said as I scooped up the ball and threw it down our alley of trees.  I didn’t add, “…the same signs that prohibit bike-riding on the Astro Turf,” nor did I point out the dogs flittering around at the far end of the field or the sixteen of dogless places he could have taken his kids.  He stomped off and I was left with a slow burn of righteous indignation.

The primary definition of righteous, should you care to know, is ugly in its narrowness: “without sin or guilt”.  I had no right to my anger because I’m not without guilt in handling my dogs.

Word on the street is that someone’s looking for me.  One of the dogs I walk has taken an intense dislike to a woman’s indistinguishable shepherd mix. Recently, in fact, in the midst of untangling leashes, my dog saw it crossing the road and booked on over to taunt it in her usual fashion.  Without going into further details, I’ll leave it as an incident that was terrifying for both humans but blessedly brief. The owner and I crossed paths not long after and she launched into righteous indignation. I apologized but she wanted to hammer it. Apparently it still isn’t over. She either wants my dog’s owners to fire me, get rid of the dog or, more probably, suffer a long harangue of the guiltless addressing the mortally guilty.

In two weeks, I’ll have a year of Lab Lady posts on the Brooklyn Heights Blog. I’ve been treated to some lovely responses and others that run from petty to hateful. I’m pissed off at all the righteousness directed at dogs and, therefore, at their owners and walkers.

Has that generic looking shepherd never been too rough with another dog? Has it never snarled or barked at another dog or a human? Had the owner never dropped its leash and suffered the fear of seeing the dog skip off?

Because I’m on the Most Wanted List, I’ll quote more of the word on the street, which was that the shepherd was yacking its head off at a dog sitting with a ball in its mouth as this conversation took place.

I spend my days weaving dogs in and out of traffic in order to make the Brooklyn Heights sidewalks as dog-free as possible. Sometimes I f**k up and sometimes I’m right.  It feels a whole lot better to be in the wrong because I can apologize and learn from it, while wallowing in the love of my righteousness means I don’t have room for something more honest and more entertaining in my brain.

If you want to learn about people, get a dog. If you want to know the depths of people, become a walker.

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  • Publius

    It’s not clear from your post exactly where you were offleash in Cadman Plaza Park, so this is not directed at Frances, but it’s important for everyone to know that all of the park is not a Designated off-leash area (DOLA) from 9pm-9am.

    The entire Cadman Plaza Park used to be a 9pm-9am DOLA but that changed about 1.5 years ago when the Parks Dept put in the astroturf.

    Now, the only area in Cadman Plaza that’s a 9-9 DOLA is the area the Parks Department calls “Brooklyn War Memorial”, which is the oval on the north end of Cadman Plaza on other side of the WWII Memorial, where the 9-9 dog leash signs are on display.

    A complete list of official Designated 9pm-9am offleash hours park areas is available from the Parks Department Website here: http://tinyurl.com/ctqbme

    When you go to this page, just click on the Brooklyn tab.

    This online list used to indicate Cadman Plaza Park as a DOLA, but was changed after the astroturf was put in to read just Brooklyn War Memorial. I inquired at the time with the Parks Department which has a district office inside the War Memorial Building.

  • Neighborhood Observer

    Publius – I am glad for this clarification, which I hope all dog owners/walkers will read (unlikely!). It is troublesome to be walking a dog on leash in CPP when other dogs are off-leash and come running up — scares me, too. Also, I am really tired of the risk of stepping into poop along the South end of CPP. I love dogs, have a dog, but hate the sense of entitlement of many owners — in the parks, on the sidewalks, in front of stores….can’t we just all get along?

  • No One Of Consequence

    You didn’t specify what time of day the event in CPP occurred.

    Also worth noting:
    With proof of current dog license and rabies vaccination, owners can allow dogs to run off-leash in certain designated areas from the time the park opens until 9 a.m. AND from 9 p.m. until the park closes.

    I think that amounts to a dog tag and an incredibly small annual fee. But without that license, you’re not supposed to have a dog in the city, period.

  • jay

    is this written by the vespa dog “walker”?

    this line makes me so: “I spend my days weaving dogs in and out of traffic in order to make the Brooklyn Heights sidewalks as dog-free as possible”

    “weaving dogs in and out of traffic” doesn’t sound very safe (or legal) for you or the dogs.

  • weatherman

    is there any place for a cat run in the heights? usually i walk mine and like to let him run free at some point.

  • Jane

    Thank you for writing this! I hope people read it and take it to heart.

  • grateful to not live in Brooklyn anymore

    They should institute off-leash laws for Brooklyn kids, and make them brief! Say, two hours every other Thursday……

  • Neighborhood Observer

    Weatherman – What a hoot! Actually, many cats in the nabe do run free. You would be happy to know that several of them love to torment dogs by sitting just out of range, looking smug while the poor dogs pull at their leashes. Maybe we need licensing and a leash law for cats….

  • nabeguy

    We’re grateful as well.

  • bornhere

    I don’t get the references to “indistinguishable” and “generic looking.” Are you seriously being critical of a dog’s appearance?

  • Okamura

    Ok, here is one thing I do not understand.
    Frances, you obviously saw that the kid was afraid of dogs (quote:”threw himself at his father in screams, the kid was now hysterical”), why didn’t you leashed up your dog? Especially if the father asked you politely. Beside of being at a wrong place with an unleashed dog (all right, you did not know then), how about being considerate? Or just nice.Understanding. Or is it just about “it is my right and the children can play somewhere else if they mind dogs”? As for the kid being on his bike where he is not supposed to be–that is clearly his father’s failure and a bad example, but not the child’s.
    So we have a kid who is scared of dogs, then we have you having your “right” keep the dog off-leash (wrong place), and the father who allowed his child on the astroturf with a bike, probably being punished for that by you not leashing the dog. At the end – no winners and a scared kid. If it was just about principles in your part, that is disappointing…
    Btw, I have no kids and yes, I have a (big) dog.

    Oh and one more thing, as a dog walker you should never “sometimes f**k up” when it comes to dogs you are walking. You should be always right, since you are in charge of your client’s dogs and also being paid for it. My opinion.

  • http://franceskuffel.net frances

    It was, if you read the post, about 8 a.m. in the morning, off-leash time. I didn’t know the kid was scared until the ball was in-play. It would have been a LOT easier for Dad to move his kids 10 feet away from us because I won’t let my dog play on the toxic Astro Turf.

    I weave in and out of traffic because the sidewalks are jammed or there are other dogs coming & I want to avoid any incident. When there’s room or a light, obviously I don’t take them willy-nilly into traffic. But moms & nannies are not, trust me, known to fall back for several dogs.

    Of COURSE I mess up occasionally. I’ve been in E.R. misdiagnosed within an inch of my life because someone got it wrong. Nobody — NOBODY — is perfect even at what they do best. Even, I’d wager, you.

  • max

    Your dogs scare many kids. I know you take the time to be patient with all the children in the area but kids get scared. Ignore psycho parent but be aware of the kids.
    You are a kind woman. We all know that.

  • Okamura

    Frances, I am willing to apologize and take back my comment if you were that early morning at the designated off- leash area–the oval on the north end of Cadman plaza. But you weren’t, at least relying on the description in your post. Lining up between a row of lime trees doesn’t sound that way. And of course, if you could see the kid playing on the astroturf, no way you were with your dog where you are supposed to be if the dog is off the leash. So again, right time-wrong place.
    And again, the father COULD take the kid somewhere else, but the astroturf is for people to play, not for the dogs. It is on the sign, too.

  • jiker

    i think kids in the neighborhood should have leash hours. a lot of those stroller moms and nannies have no control over their kids. leash those rugrats!

  • No One Of Consequence

    Talk about righteous indignation…

    “It was, if you read the post, about 8 a.m. in the morning, off-leash time.”

    “Early Sunday morning, I took Daisy to play fetch in Cadman Plaza.”

    Oh, I see it now.

  • Anonmyous

    @ Publius: I checked this morning. If I go by the signs posted at every entrance the whole park is called Cadman Plaza Park. The building only has signs on it calling it Brooklyn War Memorial. The parks dept may certainly call the oval north of the Memorial Brooklyn War Memorial, but the signs posted speak otherwise. And if we go by the signs announcing DOLA’s those are not quite clear as well in terms where the DOLA actually begins and end…

  • Publius

    I agree that the signage is somewhat confusing–especially since historically the entire CPP was a DOLA between 9pm-9am. However, for the past 1.5 years since the change, the police and Park Enforcement Police officers can and do ticket offleash dogs at all times if you’re in Cadman Plaza Park on the south side of the Brooklyn War Memorial building.

    They do not ticket between 9pm-9am on the north side of the War Memorial building because, according to the Parks Department, this is the only Designated Off-leash Area in Cadman Plaza Park.

    You may wish to get directly in touch with the Parks Department officials and complain about the ambiguity. You can walk right into the Brooklyn War Memorial building on the side that faces the north oval during business hours. Our Parks district manager works in that building and reports directly to the Parks Borough Commissioner, who is in a position to clarify the DOPR’s Website and the signage in the park.

  • animal lover

    I am a dog lover and owner and am glad to see that someone has pointed out that dogs aren’t allowed on the astro turf. It makes me feel badly when I see owners bring their dogs there to play because I know that people use that area believing that dogs will not have peed and pooped on it and I don’t want people to dislike dogs in general because a few owners don’t follow this rule. That said, I want to add that I am impressed by the general level of respectfulness and decorum that people who have commented in this discussion have maintained. It reaffirms to me what a great neighborhood we all live in.