Lessons Learned At School

I was glancing through my FB posts recently. We all know the variety of opinions that we can find there.  Some, in my opinion, are intelligently expressed and some are downright rude. I usually decline to respond fearing a lengthy on-going litany of unappreciated remarks that typically fail to enlighten anyone. Often the only outcome is a ranting contest geared to blame and blow off steam.

A post I read yesterday expressed dismay from a dog owner who, with the so-called permission of teachers, had been exercising their dog daily on nearby school grounds. The breed of the dog is medium to large and does have a reputation that many find alarming, particularly off-leash. The post went on to explain someone must have contacted local authorities and complained. The police then responded to the location and advised the dog owner that the activity was not acceptable and they could be cited for an off-leash animal in public. They were not cited. That is an expensive ticket to receive and requires a court appearance I believe. But the dog owner was not pleased.

Here is where I admit I have also enjoyed watching my dog frolic freely on the expansive yet fenced safety of a large grassy area at my local school’s playground. While my particular dog’s breed usually incites giggles and awes as well uninvited outstretched hands, she is 64 pounds and nonetheless capable of biting when feeling threatened.

Over a year ago I stopped letting my dog off-leash in my local neighborhood school grounds after receiving a rather stern talking to by the school’s custodian. It was after hours. I was not intent on mingling with the daily throngs of those whose designated purpose was to be there. I was reminded that the next time I was seen there, even after hours and while the gates were unlocked, I would be locked in and left to figure out how to hoist mself and a 60 plus pound animal over the tall locked gates. Additionally I  would probably need to contact local authorities for assistance and the result would be a citation or two for my continued behavior.

Meanwhile, let me get back with the follow up FB comments to the original post. Most were wondering why “Joe Public” had nothing better to do than make it their business to complain to authorities. Many suspected the breed in question had prompted the call. Still others believed the police should have something better to do like focusing on more significant criminal activity. After all it was the dog owner’s belief they had teachers’ permission to be there in the first place.

I admit to being astounded at the outcry of responses laying blame on the person who reported the owner and their dog on school property, the nasty and unreasonable police as well as the misunderstood breed. Only one of the 20 replying to the post, besides me, suggested that the pet owner take their pet to the appropriate “Dog Park” for the desired off-leash exercise. It seems many are willing to attack those who see this behavior as  inappropriate. It saddens me that we are so quick to name call the authority we expect to protect and serve us. When will we, as I since have, take a hard look at ourselves and wonder why we are selfishly choosing behavior that is clearly only convenient for us, party of one?

While my dog is well behaved I never let her out of my sight. I remember the days at my own school when a student would come to class unknowingly tracking in a shoe-bottom full of grassy stuck on excrement. It took a moment for the odor to waft about the room causing the groans and gags of students expecting to accomplish the day’s lesson(s). Usually not until or after traipsing the offensive attached bundle around the classroom is it noticed and a finger then pointed at the innocent offender who is mocked mercilessly.

The same teacher that spends valuable time trying to calm a classroom rather than teaching our children now has to summon custodial services to help with the poo-trail. I am guessing that teacher, who may have found it easier to offer permission to the after school activity of a friend and their dog, is now faced with a smelly classroom. Why? Because it is easier to offer unauthorized permission rather than trying to explain to a friend or fellow pet owner that a school yard is not the place to exercise a dog, or ten, or twenty, no matter what the breed. Especially when you consider the many who do not even have the desire or readiness to clean up after their pets.

I would invite each of us to stop the name calling and take a good look at ourselves. I have had to ask myself what my motivation is for the many things I choose to do each day. Is it for the benefit of many or just myself? Would I love to have a fenced in acre or two to let my pet run free? Of course. Would it be practical? No. I would be asking for snake bites, poisoness plant encounters and other uncontrollable situations, but in a perfect world it would be lovely. That does not make it right. That does not make someone trying to stop me wrong. It just is what it is. Our fantasy. Usually I find that it means we are looking for the easy solution to our wants and desires, with little or no regards for much else in reality.

I remember working at a large equestrian facility’s many years ago. It was huge and full of wonderful amenities. When potential boarders came to inquire about the possibility of housing their fine steeds there it seemed like heaven on earth at first blush. I was quick to remind them that they were going to be sharing that facility with 600+ others, all who believed their needs to be the most important. Perhaps that backyard horse facility for one was better suited to their liking? It was a notion I reminded them of often yet it was exasperating for them to hear, particularly considering the price they paid for their place in a facility that, albeit beautiful and well appointed, was often restricted in their enjoyment of it. It would have been easier for me to simply paint a rosey picture, but that was not the reality we would all be dealing with.

School is now out for today but let us remind ourselves of the lesson I believe we can all benefit from. There is a place and a time for everything. We should be careful what we wish for – not only for ourselves but for each other. It is our responsibility to regard our actions with our own integrity and bring personal accountability to our conduct. Do not assume that others have our worst interests at heart. Try to see the bigger picture and align personal agendas with those we know others would wish for as well.

Pit Bulls and Labradoodles aren’t really that different.  Neither are you or I.

Class Dismissed.

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