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Getting a dog’s opinion on park sharing in Vancouver

Canine conversations: Help Vancouver Park Board discover the best ways for people and dogs to share parks. People, Parks and Dogs: A strategy for sharing Vancouver's parks is the most ambitious review of dogs in parks in Park Board history.

An advisory group comprised of dog owners, residents without dogs, industry representatives, seniors, cyclists, community gardeners and environmental groups is providing input on the strategy.

– Vancouver Park Board News release.

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There is, of course, one group missing from the list of stakeholders – dogs themselves.

Which is why I felt it necessary to interview a six-year-old mongrel who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity. Let's just call him "Rex." We met in a local park.

I notice you're running around the park off-leash. This isn't an off-leash park. What gives?

Rex: See that guy over there playing Pokemon Go on his phone? The guy with the Americano? That's my owner. He's an idiot. I've been over here for 15 minutes waiting for him to fling the ball my way and he's just standing there with the flinger between his knees. [Unintelligible barking]

But this park has no off-leash area. Are you a bad dog?

Rex: No, there are no bad dogs – only bad dog owners. Okay, pit bulls and rottweilers are pretty gangsta, but they're only as bad as the people who own them. See, I know I'm a good dog because my owner tells me so all the time. When I sit, when I heel, when I chase away toddlers and especially when I bring the ball back. If he would ever fling the stupid thing.

I'm wondering what you think about the fact that the Park Board wants to hear from cyclists and community gardeners and environmental groups but isn't interested what dogs have to say about sharing parks?

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Rex: Typical Park Board consultation. Talk to everyone around the problem except those who are most affected. Colour me not surprised.

Wow, that's pretty cynical, isn't it?

Rex: Look, they've tried to tackle this one before. It's intractable. Do you know what the definition of insanity is?

Uh, doing something over and over again. …

Rex: That's right … expecting a different result! Remember what happened to the Park Board's Dog Task Force back in 2007? After 19 months it imploded. Okay, officially "the members could not reach consensus." Even I know what that means. They fought like cats, those people. The city can't even get people to license dogs. There are 145,000 of us in this town. Only 15 per cent of us are legal.

But this is the most ambitious review of dogs in parks in Park Board history. It even says so in the news release. Are you suggesting it's an exercise in futility?

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Rex: Are you even listening to a single word I'm saying? Of course it's futile. [Looks at owner] God, look at him. Now he's on the phone. Pathetic. [More unintelligible barking] Throw the freakin' ball, stupid! There are already plenty of rules. Did you know that I'm not allowed to be off-leash anywhere that isn't a designated off-leash area? That means sidewalks, park paths, most beaches, the sea wall – pretty much anywhere that isn't a designated dog run or my own backyard.

But isn't your owner worried about getting a ticket?

Rex: Are you freaking kidding me? What – so the animal-control van shows up, the leashes come out and we all walk away.

What about the idea of fencing in dog parks? You know, setting aside a corner of the park?

Rex: How about you and all your friends relieve yourselves on your lawn for a year? Been to Emery Barnes? That place is like, prison-yard-meets-cesspool.

So when the Park Board says this is ambitious they're not kidding.

Rex: You know who was ambitious? Julius Caesar, that's who. Where'd that get him? Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!

Well, thanks so much for your time.

Rex: Hey, no prob… [Owner finally flings ball] Get the ball! Get the ball! Get the ball! Get the ball! [Unintelligible barking].

Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One, 690 AM and 88.1 FM in Vancouver.

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