Across the street from Dog Park is the site of an enormous condominium complex under construction. I was out of town for only a week, but the building is progressing rapidly. We Dog Parkers have been trying to gauge the effect that the condos, once opened, will have on our little community, and we are not optimistic.
The view of the condo project from Dog Park
Before the condos, there were two little apartment complexes on the site, filled mostly with college students and the recently divorced, folks who needed a cheap, convenient place to live. A handful of those folks had dogs and were Dog Park regulars. I hate to fall into that trap that long-term Austinites often do of reminiscing about how things were better back when; but the folks who lived in those apartments were usually interesting, and they understood what a great resource Dog Park was. (I, too, once lived across the street from Dog Park, though not in those apartments. Dog Park is one of the reasons I chose to buy a house just half a mile north.)
In talking to people about the condos, I discover two distinct fears—one is that the people who move into those expensive condos will not be the kind of people we want at Dog Park, and the other is that in a complex as huge as this new one, we will be overrun by hundreds of new people and their animals. This fear of new people is old news at Dog Park. When I first started coming to DP, I was often asked how I found out about it, as if it it were an exclusive restaurant. I never felt unwanted, but I heard talk that some of the more established Dog Parkers were upset by the introduction of new people and animals and wanted to somehow limit or screen new attendees.
As I've mentioned in earlier posts, Dog Park is an organic, free-flowing community. Like a river, it is never the same park twice. People and dogs come and go as they wish. To suggest that there ought to be a gate on our community offends me, even as I cross my fingers in hope that any new people from the condominiums are "like us"—smart, responsible dog owners who pick up poop and make sure their dogs behave. We like to think of ourselves as a liberal-minded group, not only or strictly in the political sense, but in the sense that we all know that we need to get along. Minor differences of opinion and dog-owning practices we can deal with through dialogue and, when that does not work, snubbing. (Dog Park is like high school, remember?)
To enforce dog park rules is impossible because we don't officially have any. We are not an official park. Yet there are surprisingly few disputes or troubles at DP because most of us respect three unspoken principles:
1) Pick up the poop.
2) Keep an eye on your dog at all times. (Cell phone users, you are not as attentive as you think!)
3) Leash up or leave if your dog is a biter, a serious trouble-maker, or a runner.
So, I guess the question is, if we current Parkers figured out these basic principles, why won't the new arrivals from the condos do so, too—especially when the DP is already full of old-school Parkers like ourselves to set them straight? Please let me know what you think, Fellow Parkers. More on this later. . . --zia