Dogs aren’t as colour blind as we were once told but the orangeness of Sandy’s leash is as meaningless to them as its ‘No Dogs’ warning.

Behest of the West: Leashing them is loving them

Some of you are staying at home while your dogs roam and we need to talk about that.

The only reason I became an adult is because I met Sandy.

I don’t know how old she is, nor do I know which, or how many, breeds make up her DNA. I do know though that she is the rock that kept me tethered while I floated through the various problems we all face on the road to maturity.

Sandy and I didn’t immediately get along when we first met and it’s impossible to pinpoint the moment when the volume of memories we’d shared welded our lives into one mutual experience but, for whatever reason, we became necessary to each other.

I am the first place she goes when she is hungry. She is the first place I go when I’m down and need to talk about it. She doesn’t necessarily listen, but she takes the time to feign interest, lick my face and somehow assure me everything will be fine without saying a word. My love for her is irrationally unconditional.

Our connection to our pets is valuable and wonderful, but it’s also personal. The experiences we’ve shared with them are our own and we shouldn’t get so perplexed when others don’t immediately love them as much as we do. Sandy, for one, doesn’t like your dog at all.

It’s nothing personal. She’s just not a fan of dogs; she sees them as enemies.

She qualifies for the bright orange ‘No Dogs’ leash and wears a muzzle whenever we’re going somewhere we think other dogs might be. These aren’t fashion accessories; these are necessary tools to keep your dog safe and my dog out of trouble. They let you know Sandy’s best left alone but your dog doesn’t understand what they mean. Dogs aren’t as colour blind as we were once told but the orangeness of Sandy’s leash is as meaningless to them as its ‘No Dogs’ warning.

That’s fine if your dog is attached to you, but some of you are staying at home while your dogs roam and we need to talk about that. The topical reason is wolves.

Wolves attack off-leash dogs here. You know that. You know about six times a year you’ll read about a wolf attacking a dog somewhere on this Coast. It’s nothing personal, wolves just aren’t fans of dogs; they see them as food. Often those stories are followed up with ones about a wolf being shot. You’ve never read about a wolf attacking a dog on a leash.

Whether you chose to move here or chose to stay here, you chose a life surrounded by wildlife. This paradise is a lion’s den for the irresponsible.

You can blame habituation. You can blame your neighbour for leaving their garbage unsecured. But, if a wolf takes your dog, blaming others won’t fill that void.

Wolves will remain a topical leashing-reason, but another will soon join them. Summer is here and that means our annual dog poop issue is about to pop up.

I don’t believe anyone who allows their dog to roam through town subsequently spends hours scouring for places their dog might have pooped.

This is likely a key reason why Tofino adopted an Animal Control Bylaw in 2000 that requires all dogs to be attached to a person whenever they’re outside.

Anyone who’s ever been attached to a defecating dog in a small town like ours’ understands you can’t just walk away from that. Even the most squeamish locals would rather pick up after their pets than be known as someone who doesn’t.

If you’ve spent any time in Tofino, you know this bylaw is enforced enough that no dog owner fears it. But, it’s there if the district office ever decides to notice. The problem with enforcing it though, is there’s nowhere dogs can legally run and celebrate supervised play in Tofino.

Leashing them is loving them but if dogs can never be outside without a leash, we’re going to have a lot of sullen animals.

A designated leash-free area in Tofino would put dog owners in each others’ sightlines, prompting them to pick up their pet’s poop. It would also nix local excuses for letting dogs leashlessly tour the town. It might even lower the number of locals illegally letting their dogs loose on the beach.

Our shorebirds would be forever grateful for that.


Andrew Bailey is the editor of the Westerly News. You can find his weekly column ‘Behest of the West’ on page 4 of our print edition every Wednesday.