Dear Joan: Recently while in my backyard my dog chased what he thought was a cat and what turned out to be a raccoon. The raccoon was twice the size of my dog and didn't back down. Miraculously my little dog didn't get hurt and I chased the raccoon off. If I had not been there could the raccoon have killed my dog?
DEAR BUTCH: Raccoons don't "hunt" dogs, but when they are threatened, they will defend themselves, which likely would mean your small dog could be injured or killed. That's why my dog is always on a leash even when we are in the backyard.
DEAR JOAN: I'm requesting that you not use my name but I feel the need to reply to the letter about dogs in parks.
I, for one, am glad for the restrictions and wish there were more. I do not hate dogs, but there are a lot of dog owners I dislike. I spend a lot of time in parks, I hike or ride my bike several days a week. I can't think of a single trail that is free from dog waste. Many just leave it there (it's natural) and many leave feces filled plastic bags on the side of the trail.
Most people who have their dogs off leash cannot control their dogs. Some are capable of yelling the dog's name repeatedly and then giving you a "sorry" look. Others don't even pretend to care that trail users may not want strange dogs jumping on them or smelling them.
I have seen runners chased by dogs. In fact, my mother-in-law was bitten by a dog when she was running. I have had to stop my bike to avoid hitting dogs because the owner can't control them.
Frequently the owners are listening to iPods or talking on the phone and they don't even notice their dog is in peril or is menacing someone.
I've seen dogs off leash in parks requiring leashes. I've also seen dogs catch squirrels in those parks. It's a park; it's where wildlife is supposed to be protected.
We have a lot of wildlife refuges where dogs are not welcome. Nonetheless, I've seen dogs in those areas and off leash to boot. The refuges are places where birds nest or winter. These areas are specifically set aside for wildlife, not wild pets. A friend of mine confronted a man with an off leash dog at one of these places and he told her he would do whatever he wanted.
I am tired of people saying that dogs are a natural part of the ecosystem. They are not. They are a domesticated animal. Without humans, they would not exist in the numbers they do today. If they did, we would also have more bears, wolves and wildcats to keep the dogs' numbers in check.
Why do people think it is cruel to keep a pet on a leash but not cruel to have their pet chase wild birds who are trying to survive? If you haven't seen this happen at the beach, you haven't been paying attention.
I have also seen dogs off leash romp in poison oak and then come up and rub against people they do not know. The oil can be transferred from fur to skin.
Lastly, a dog on a leash is less likely to get ticks or foxtails.
I could lose a lot of friends and my family might disown me if they knew I wrote this. I love dogs, really, but I am so glad there are still wild places I can get away from their guardians.
DEAR ANONYMOUS: As "parents," we don't like to hear this but just as there are places unsuitable for children, there are places that dogs don't belong. Where they are welcome, we must follow the rules for the sake of everyone.
Contact Joan Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.