Author: Campbell, Bruce

Is There a Dog?

One of my more recent columns was about me getting a dog, and coincidentally, the subject of canis lupus familaris has come up in CBA news as well. In case you’ve been away, the CBA will allow dogs at the Father’s Day Festival this year, under a pilot program designed to ensure dog owners AND non-dog owners will all have a positive festival experience (along with the dogs, I suppose).

In my five-or-so years on the CBA Board, I can’t think of a more emotional, divisive or controversial topic. It comes up every single year, and it doesn’t tend to come up dispassionately, either. Our communications do not tend to be of the “Perhaps we can revisit the issue of dogs at Grass Valley”, but instead tend to be more like “Why does the CBA hate dogs?”

It is my gift to see (and, I think, understand) both sides of the issue, and my curse to not have a strong stand on either side.

On the “no dogs” side of things, that rule was never, repeat, NEVER motivated by a lack of love or appreciation for dogs, and anyone that thinks so simply hasn’t taken the time to get to know the folks on the Board of Directors. Instead, the Board views the logistical challenges of introducing dogs into the fairly crowded, temporary city that is the Father’s Day Festival.

Most cities have an infrastructure for dealing with the realities of pet ownership in their jurisdiction, and this includes mechanisms for ensuring pets are vaccinated, properly controlled, and their waste properly disposed of. This same infrastructure must alsoprovide for enforcement of the statutes governing pet ownership, and mete out consequences for those who fail to follow the statutes.

The concern was, the temporary town of the Father’s Day Festival doesn’t have any such infrastructure. There is a chance that dogs could be allowed, and every single dog owner would be responsible, and every single pet would be well-controlled, and well-behaved. But the law of averages are against that, and the CBA’s responsibility to its members and anyone at the festival is to ensure that they can swiftly deal with issues that might adversely affect the festival attendees’ experience. We were told time and time again of other festivals that allow dogs with no issues, and when we look into this, it seems that most of those other festivals aren’t of the same size, and/or population density of the Grass Valley Festival. So, for many years, not wanting to create that extra separate infrastructure to deal with the myriad foreseeable (and unforeseeable) consequences of allowing dogs, we just didn’t allow dogs.

But dog owners are passionate about their pets, and the subset of dog owners who want to bring their pets to Grass Valley are even more passionate and vocal. The CBA Board exists to try and ensure that the Association reflects the will of the membership (insofar as it can be determined – and don’t think THAT’S an easy task!), and every year, we did discuss the possibility of coming up with a program to allow dogs, and came darn close a few times. And this year, we’re trying a program (a pilot program) to allow dogs. There are risks in doing this, but we believe our program will mitigate those risks and everyone will have a good time.

So, now we’re finding out that just as there are members who wouldn’t (or felt they couldn’t) come to Grass Valley unless they could bring their dogs, there are some members who won’t come to Grass Valley because dogs are allowed. It was inevitable I guess – everyone has their wedge issues.

I am proposing that everyone, on both sides of the issue step up and make peace with the situation. If you wish we weren’t allowing dogs, don’t let that keep you away. Give the program a chance to work.

After the Festival, let us know how well we did and what changes, (if any) you think we should implement for 2013. If you’re one of those dog lovers who have lobbied for this for years, then please, show us how wrong we were to not allow dogs until now. Make sure your pets are kept happy, make sure they’re always under control – don’t allow them to go (in any sense of that word) where they shouldn’t. Be considerate of those who don’t want your dogs’ festival experience to intrude on theirs. Make sure nobody is put off by a dog that won’t stop barking, and for heaven’s sake, make sure nobody steps in a “gift” your dog leaves on the ground.

If your dog doesn’t like crowds, strangers, other dogs, odd noises, or unfamiliar places, then please, leave that dog at home. If you expect to be leaving your dog alone for long stretches of time, don’t bring the dog. Don’t bring your dog just because YOU want him there – consider what the dog’s experience will be, and the experience of those around you.

The Father’s Day Festival is a small enough community that we can work together and accommodate these opposing viewpoints without anyone having to give up what we all really want: A great time at a great festival. Those who would prefer that dogs not be allowed can find ways to scarcely be aware of their presence, and those who do bring dogs can find ways to enjoy their pet companions without infringing on anybody else’s enjoyment. Will this fragile détente succeed? It’s up to you.

Posted:  1/18/2012

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