Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Minneapolis Parks Are Better Than Buffalo's - Part I

It's true.

As much as it pains me to admit it, the City of Buffalo's vaunted park system, designed by the one and only Frederick Law Olmstead is inferior to the park system in Minneapolis.

Part of the reason for this is the fact that the voters in the City of Minneapolis would not tolerate the kind of underhanded double-dealing and cronyism that is rampant in Western New York politics.

The photo above was taken by me last night at Lake Harriet, which I gain access to by walking through Lyndale Park, about five blocks from my apartment. It's big enough to accommodate both sailors and fishermen, and the city takes steps to make sure that the lakes in their park system remain pristine.

My Buffalo readers are all old enough to remember the Hoyt Lake debacle under Jimmy Griffin's mayoral administration. I'll give my Minneapolis readers the abridged version of those events. A political crony of Mayor Griffin, one Robert Delano, took it upon himself to "punish" Buffalo's city council, who had ordered an unauthorized and illegal concession stand operated by parks workers shut down.

Delano's way of "punishing" the City Council was reported in the Buffalo News on January 13, 1990.

The Buffalo News reported that parks workers said Mr. Delano had ordered them to dump barrels of an anti-icing compound, calcium chloride, on the ice of Delaware Park Lake during the winter of 1987-88 to ruin it for skating after the Buffalo Common Council closed an unauthorized concession stand operated by parks workers.

The lake disclosure brought new demands for Mr. Delano's resignation from public officials, environmentalists and park lovers concerned about the once-polluted lake, which in 1984 underwent a $7.2 million cleanup.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation announced it would join the F.B.I.'s investigation of the claim that the lake had been deliberately polluted.

Other accusations made by parks workers in the case include complaints:

* That parks employees had been forced to work on the home of Mr. Delano and others with political connections.

* That a quarter-mile-long trench had been dug through the city's Front Park so the Parks Commissioner could enjoy cable television at a city-owned apartment.

* That the Parks Department had bought 11 tons of powdered chlorine, which is used primarily for home swimming pools. Several pool maintenance specialists said the chemical in that form is impractical for municipal pools.

Some who have questioned the policies of the Parks Department, including parks workers, reporters and elected officials, have found windows in their homes and automobiles smashed. Joseph Thompson, a 74-year-old parks laborer who had clashed with Mr. Delano over a softball league, said he had been told to report to a locked building in freezing weather, waiting for assignments that included cleaning toilets, chipping ice and picking up litter along an expressway in the rain.

There have also been news reports that records showed Mr. Delano is not a high school graduate and a Vietnam veteran, as he claimed. His discharge from the Marine Corps in 1958 was under ''other than honorable'' conditions, a discharge record says. Mr. Delano did end up serving a jail sentence due to his actions, however the punishment most certainly did not fit the crime.

This type of behavior would NOT be tolerated by the voters in Minneapolis. While the Olmstead park system in Buffalo has shown improvement in recent years, it is because of the work of the volunteers of the Olmstead Park Conservancy, NOT the Buffalo Parks Department. If a similar situation were to occur in Minneapolis, Mr. Delano and quite possibly Mayor Griffin would find themselves both still sitting in jail, nearly twenty years later.

I often hear Minneapolis residents complaining about how high their taxes are. When I do, I do not hesitate to point out that while their taxes may be high, they actually see what their tax dollars pay for. It's evident in the condition and upkeep of their parks.

In my opinion, Buffalo's Mayor Byron Brown could do wonders for his image by gutting the Parks Department, hiring the people of the Olmstead Parks Conservancy to replace them and sending a team HERE to learn how they get things done.

Wishful thinking, I know.

Byron Brown is not part of the solution. He's the same old way of doing things, just with an African-American face.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Baby, It's COLD Outside

The past week has shown me that like Western New York, the Twin Cities region is capable of giving you samples of weather from all four seasons in a single seven day stretch. Last Thursday evening, I wore shorts and a t-shirt while I walked the dogs, and was sweaty enough when we got home, that I immediately took a shower, as opposed to getting sweat stains all over my fly suede couch.

Did I just use "fly" as a descriptive word?


Those of you who are regular readers know I don't often use slang when I write... especially ghetto slang that has been appropriated by suburban white kids, making it even LESS cool. Some pasty-white Scandinavian kid said "what up holms?" to me not too long after I moved to the TC... I didn't know whether I should correct his grammar, laugh in his face, punch him in the mouth, or just curl up into a little ball and start sobbing.

Instead, I ignored him and continued walking.

Back on topic...

When I woke up this morning, I realized that the tip of my nose was cold. I sat up, turned on the light, and realized that it was chilly in the room. I immediately turned on the television, and flipped to the Weather Channel. Of course, I had just missed the "Weather On The Eights", and true to form they were running a series of commercials without the little time and temperature doohickey in the bottom right corner of the screen.

I got up, pulled on my sporty "Life Is Good" lounge pants, stepped into a pair of sneakers and went out my kitchen door into the back hall to look at the thermometer mounted just outside the side door of the house that leads to the backyard and deck.

It read thirty-nine degrees.

It's only the end of September.

Back home, we normally don't see late night, or early morning temperatures like that until the end of October, and usually don't start seeing our first hard frosts until then, and get our first snow flurries during or after the first week of November. The photo above is Victor and Roxie in the backyard at the old house. I took it in mid-December, and the air temperature that day was minus 3. The old adage "it's too cold to snow" is just an old wives tale. Minnesota proves that, as I've seen it snow here when the air temperatures were in the minus 15 to minus twenty range.

One of the things that I find interesting wherever I've traveled, is that when people find out that I'm from Buffalo, New York the FIRST thing they say to me is either:

1. "Buffalo? Wow... you guys get a lot of snow there!"


2. "Buffalo? Wow... it's really cold there!"

I find myself constantly explaining to complete strangers that while Buffalo is snowy, it is most certainly NOT at the top of the list. The Buffalo Metropolitan area receives on average 93.6 inches of snow each year. This figure is easily eclipsed by number one on the list 115.6 inches, Syracuse, NY... which is more than two hours to the east. I often hear Minnesotans complain about shoveling snow. They honestly have NO IDEA. With the exception of the Duluth area, which sits on Lake Superior, and therefore receives Buffalo-like weather conditions in the winter, snowfall amounts in Minnesota are really nothing to complain about.

More about shoveling snow in a moment...

It quite simply astonishes me that a Minnesotan will look me straight in the face and comment on how cold Buffalo is. One on one conversations I have had with them about winter weather go something like this:

Random Minnesotan: "So you're from Buffalo? It's pretty cold there."

Me: "I take it you've never been there."

Random Minnesotan: "No, but I see it on the news all the time. I bet being here is a welcome relief from spending the winter there!"

Keep in mind that I'm standing in line in a supermarket or coffee shop when these conversations take place. What drives me up the wall is the fact that while said Random Minnesotan who has never been to Buffalo, New York is telling me how cold it is there, they seem to be oblivious to the fact that it's fifteen to twenty degrees below zero outside the building we're standing in. That's air temperature by the way, I'm not even factoring in the wind. When I try to explain to them that while we're suffering from Arctic-like weather conditions here, back in Buffalo it's 36 degrees and sunny, I get one of two responses:

1. Either they don't believe me, which leads to me pulling out my cell phone, and calling WIVB-TV's weatherline, and putting it on speaker.


2. They immediately bring up the snowfall amounts.

Back to my point about shoveling snow.

Because it gets so cold here, and only a very small percentage of the state of Minnesota is ever subject to the Lake Effect snow phenomenon, most of the snowfall here is of the light, powdery variety. You can't make a snowball worth a damn with it, but in many instances, you can clear your sidewalks and driveways with a leaf blower if you get out there before it has time to pack down. A twelve-inch snowfall in Minnesota can be easily cleared from your average driveway by one person, in just a few minutes. A twelve-inch Buffalo Lake Effect snowfall can be cleared from your average driveway by one person, but most of you know it's going to take the better part of an afternoon, and you're going to be whipped for the rest of the day. Anyone from back home has a horror story they vividly remember of having to move several tons of wet, heavy snow from their driveway just to get their car in or out... the kind of snow that renders a snowblower useless. One of the reasons there are so many old-timers still alive and kicking here is because they don't end up dropping dead clutching a snow shovel. As stubborn as these old Swedish and Norwegian men are, if they had to move Buffalo snow, they'd be dropping dead wholesale from Thanksgiving to Valentine's Day. I just shake my head when I hear someone here complaining about their 49.9 inches of fluffy, powdery "snow".

Tonight's low is supposed to get down to 34 degrees, from what I understand, those of you back in Buffalo are going to be experiencing similar temperatures... for Buffalo, that's unseasonably cold. For here it's just the norm.

It looks like I will be test-driving one of my ceramic heaters tonight... all utilities included in my rent means it will be a nice and toasty winter for me regardless of the outside temperature... Bring it on Jack Frost!

This year, you're my bitch.

NEXT: Minneapolis Parks Are Better Than Buffalo's

Monday, September 28, 2009

Weekend Wanderings

It was a quiet weekend here in the Twin Cities. After the rain and general weather misery of Friday turned into a cloudy and cool Saturday, I decided that I would just stay inside. After I took the dogs for their morning walk, I busied myself cleaning the apartment and doing laundry.

When those tasks were complete, I put on a second pot of coffee and settled down on the couch with my feet up and an indulgence I haven't allowed myself in quite some time, a horribly written Clive Cussler novel, starring his hero character, the one and only Dirk Pitt.

I know.

It doesn't get more exciting than that.

When you're me, you don't live life... you strap yourself in and feel the G's!

Anyway, the combination of a second pot of coffee, and the daring exploits of Dirk Pitt had me wired after a couple of hours, so I selected a hoodie from what my friend Vicki from my high school days has referred to as my "never-ending collection" and picked up the dogs leashes. Both Victor and Roxie started dancing around me as only two large and excited dogs can do. There was much joyful leaping about and barking. I don't care what anyone else says... dogs are capable of reading their owners minds. Only someone who has never lived closely with dogs would believe otherwise. I didn't give them any verbal or physical indication that this was going to be anything more than a walk on one of the two neighborhood routes we normally follow, but somehow they figured out that this unexpected early afternoon outing was something special.

I had the first indication that Victor knew it was going to be a "special" walk by this interesting thing he does with his jaw when he's excited about something. He snaps his jaw open and closed, but not in a way that anyone would think is aggressive... it makes a sort of muted percussive sound that I refer to as "clicking", but it actually sounds more like a "clomp".

I opened the door, and inserted my key into the deadbolt on the outside. (My front door opens to 40th street, and there is no fence between the door and the sidewalk and street beyond. Getting the two of them out the door without anyone, namely ME getting injured can sort of be... challenging, as I discovered on my first walk with them here that retrieving my keys from my pocket cannot be done as they attempt to drag me down the sidewalk in their initial excitement.) I heard Victor behind me: "Clomp... clomp..." I quickly checked the cargo pocket on my shorts and discovered that there was only one poop bag there (I HATE people who don't pick up after their dogs in public), so I went into the kitchen to get more.

Victor followed.

"Clomp... clomp... clomp... clomp..."

Roxie decided to get into the act.


(Their vocalizations are a constant source of amusement to me. Sometimes I think they're actually trying to form words.)

I still haven't given them any hint that this is going to be anything more than a normal walk, yet as I start going through my mental checklist, they're becoming more and more excited:

Me: "Keys in door, check."

Victor: "Clomp... clomp... clomp... arrowowo!"

Roxie: "Aroooooooooahhhh?"

Me: "Poop bags, check."

Roxie: "Arf?? Aroo?"

Victor: "Clomp."

Me: "Cell phone, got it."

Victor: "WOOF!!!"

Me: "Chill!"

Roxie: "Arowhoawhoa?"

Me: "Okay guys, are you ready?"

Roxie: "ARF! ARF!!! ARF!!!! Arrooooowwowwoowwoo!"


I picked up their soft water dish (It's made out of nylon, and a truly wonderful thing to have for long walks), fastened it to Victor's collar, and by this act they figured out that this was going to be the most special of ALL walks:

"He's taking us to Lake Harriet!!!"

Cue more leaping and dancing as I steeled myself for the possible shoulder dislocation I knew could occur as soon as I opened the door. Keep in mind, because of my bad right shoulder, I have to hold BOTH leashes in my left hand, and until I aggravated it, I was strictly a right hand leash guy. It's a carefully choreographed procedure to get the dogs out the door with the leashes in my left hand, while I close and lock it with my right... without any humans or dogs being injured. It has to be seen in person to be completely understood.

We got outside without any major pain on my part, and the fact that the dogs knew where we were going without my telling them was further evidenced by the fact that as soon as we hit the sidewalk they turned left immediately. Our normal morning and evening routes start by turning right.

Damn, they're intuitive.

I gripped both leashes tightly as the dogs tried their best to drag me west along 40th Street on my face. We crossed several side streets, and then Lyndale Avenue, with Dupont Avenue, and the enormous Lakewood Cemetery ahead. I was curious as to how good the dogs sense of direction was, as turning right at the cemetery would take us to Lake Calhoun, which they have only been to once, while turning left would take us to our desired destination. Lake Calhoun is okay, but the walking paths are a bit too crowded for my liking. Lake Nokomis is our second choice, but it's to the southeast of my new place, and way too far to walk.

I shouldn't have wondered, we got to Dupont Avenue, and both dogs immediately turned left, noses pointed at Lake Harriet. When we came upon the path around the Lake, I was mildly surprised that even though it was cloudy and cool, there were still just as many people and dogs as you would expect to find on a sunny, warmer Saturday. We started around the lake when I heard a voice:


I turned and looked, it was my neighbors Stephen and Jessica, and their dogs Turner, a German Shepherd/Siberian Husky mix, and Abercrombie, who is hands down the friendliest, goofiest brindle Pit Bull I have ever met. All four dogs get along quite well with each other, which is an added bonus. While the canine contingent busied themselves sniffing each others butts, Stephen, Jessica and myself had an in depth discussion of foreign policy, and European Economics.

Actually, we stood there and watched the dogs, who had quickly segued from butt-sniffing to a four way wrestling match which with the addition of four leashes quickly became rather amusing. We ended up walking around the lake as a three-person, four-dog posse, and they invited me to join them at Cafe Ena for dinner. It's a very good restaurant at the intersection of Grand and 46th (six blocks from my house), that specializes in something called "Latin Fusion". I don't know where the "fusion" part of the menu came in, but it was a surprisingly reasonably priced restaurant in a city full of restaurants that are WAY too overpriced. They also had an impressive, reasonably priced wine list, and offer half-price bottles Sunday-Thursday... When they told our server that I was new in the neighborhood, AND a dog person, we got not one but TWO bottles of a surprisingly good Chilean Pinot Noir for half price! I am now a BIG fan of Cafe Ena.

Sunday morning started out sunny, and a bit warmer than Saturday. After my morning exercise with Victor and Roxie, I grabbed my camera and headed back out alone, this time to the Kingfield Farmers Market. The Hmong (Vietnamese) farmer and his family I have been making most of my purchases from have now figured out my buying pattern, and as I approached their stall, the wife smiled and waved at me and promptly began putting Roma tomatoes in a bag for me, while her husband set a bushel of red onions on the table for me to pick through, and then reached under the table and pulled out a bundle of cilantro with black Minnesota topsoil still clinging to the roots.

"Just picked this morning, just for you." he said.

He wasn't kidding. The rest of their cilantro was in smaller bundles in a bushel in front of their stall and the roots were neatly trimmed away.

"New batch of sweet peppers and chiles next week... you want?" he said.

"Yes I want! Orange and yellow if you have them, and green chiles?"

"Ya. We have green chiles for you next week."

I LOVE this neighborhood.

I chatted with a few neighbors, took some photos of a not-so-scary clown making balloon animals for a group of children, and made the acquaintance of a chocolate lab puppy whose personality reminded me of Sophie in the comic strip "Dog Eat Doug".

Afterwards, I walked back up Nicollet Avenue to 40th Street and home. (Pictured at top) For those who are wondering, the building you can see peeking above the treetops in the photo is Minneapolis' IDS Center.

*** Trivia Interlude***
Apparently, at one time it's 55 stories made it the tallest building in the United States west of the Mississippi. You've seen it at the beginning of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" when she twirls around, and throws her hat into the air, she's standing in front of the Crystal Court Atrium of the IDS Center. There is now a bronze statue of her throwing her hat into the air on the spot where she did it on the TV show
***End Trivia Interlude***

Since I now reside in the Midwest, it's next to impossible to see a Bills game on TV, so I settled back in with my horrible pulp novel.

Judging from the final score of the game, I guess I didn't miss much. I guess not being able to see yesterday's game saved my neighbors from hearing a LOT of profanity emanating from my apartment.

Good comes with bad, I guess.

NEXT: Baby It's COLD Outside

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Rainy Friday - Twin Cities Style

This morning started out gray and cool. As I walked north on Pleasant Avenue with the dogs, I noticed that the leaves were changing, and some trees had already begun losing them wholesale. This was evidenced by small drifts of already dry leaves that crunched under my feet from time to time as we slowly meandered our way towards 36th Street.

My original plan for this morning was to wander over to the Washburn Park Water Tower, and take some photos of that impressive structure. It was built out of stone in the early 20th century, and is considered a marvel of hydro engineering to this day. The main attraction of it to me are the sixteen stone carvings integrated into the structure, eight ten-foot tall eagles surrounding the base of the crown and below them, eight eighteen-foot tall men with swords known as "The Guardians of Health". Even though it stands on one of the highest points of the city, there are very few locations in Minneapolis it is visible from. I had no idea it even existed, and it's located roughly halfway between my old neighborhood, and my new one. I spotted it purely by chance from the top of the hill at the intersection of my street, Grand Avenue South, and West 49th Street, where the Kingfield neighborhood ends, and the Tangletown neighborhood begins.

I asked a man watering his lawn what the domed structure in the distance was and he gave me a brief history of it, and mentioned that where we were standing was one of the few locations in the city it could be clearly seen from. My curiosity was piqued, so I made plans to grab my camera, a coffee from Cafe Tempo and stroll over to take photos of it after I dropped the dogs off at home this morning.

Instead, after I returned home with the dogs, I noticed a breeze had kicked up, and the sky to the west was turning ominously dark, and there were a few tentative rumbles in the distance.

It was definitely going to rain, and quite possibly turn into one of those borderline terrifying midwest thunderstorms, so I decided that climbing to the highest point in South Minneapolis for the purpose of photographing a nearly one hundred foot tall water tower with the threat of lightning might not be in my best interests.

Best to leave that for another day... maybe I'll wait a week or two and when we start to get the really impressive fall colors, I'll be able to do the location justice.

Instead, I decided I would go downtown. I needed to purchase envelopes anyway, and going downtown gave me an excuse to stop and eat breakfast at a Minneapolis institution known as Hell's Kitchen for breakfast. They make a concoction there called "Mahnomin Porridge", consisting of Native-harvested, hand-parched wild rice from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibway Indians, dried blueberries, sweetened cranberries, heavy cream, and real maple syrup... a perfect breakfast on a cool morning, and something I hadn't treated myself to since I relocated here. I took my camera along anyway, and after I ate and walked over to Target to purchase my envelopes, I proceeded to wander down to Mill Ruins Park and took the photograph of the Stone Arch Bridge, and abandoned Pillsbury Flour Mill on the opposite side of the Mississippi River you see above.

Afterwards, I returned home to determine what I should do with the rest of my day. Since it's not the most inviting day outside, today will be an inside day. There is currently some drama with my previous landlord... his twenty-one day window to return the security deposit has come and gone, and he has not yet returned it. He indicated that he doesn't have the money to pay back right now... which means that ol' Tony has misappropriated those funds. That's a bigger no-no in Minnesota than it is in New York. Security deposits are to be held in escrow... according to Minnesota housing law, monies paid for security deposits are not considered received by landlords, but held.

I guess he didn't hold it for very long.

Too bad for him.

Looks like I'm going to get the chance to flex a little legal muscle if he doesn't have the money today, and this douchebag has apparently just given me the opportunity to rake his sleazy little ass over the coals. Someone else about to learn the hard way that you don't fuck with a New Yorker.

Especially one that used to manage a law firm.

I guess in the meantime, I'll fire up the DVD player, watch a movie and fire off a quick entry on the ol' blog while I wait to hear what he has to say.

Rainy days don't get me down... they never have.

I guess I'm lucky in that aspect.

Stay safe this weekend, I'll see you all back here on Monday.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Dog's Life In The Twin Cities Part II - Why Are There So Many Little Dogs Here?

Even though the Twin Cities are one of the most dog-friendly places I've ever had the pleasure of living, I noticed something about a year ago that I found rather disturbing. When I would walk Victor (pictured above) people would often comment on how big he is.

Now Victor is a fairly large dog, weighing in at a bit over 100 pounds, but by no means is he the biggest dog that's ever lived with me. For a little while in the in late '90's, I had three Caucasian Ovcharkas, Alexis, who weighed 170 pounds, and two of her puppies, Antares, who maxed out at 180 pounds, and Eltanin, who went on to a career with the Ontario Provincial Police as a takedown dog who at 11 months, tipped the scales at a rather impressive 175 pounds, with seven months of growing still in him.

What I found interesting was the number of people that would comment on what a big dog Roxie is.

Roxie isn't big.

In fact, Roxie, even though she's a Rottweiler stands smaller at the shoulder than the average Labrador Retriever. I mentioned yesterday that she only weighs around seventy pounds, which is less than the average Lab weighs.

After I'd been here a couple of months, it dawned on me.

Minnesota is the small dog capital of the world.

It became more apparent to me when I moved into my new neighborhood, which is chock-full of dogs... on some nearby streets judging from the amount of barking I hear when I walk by with my two faithful companions every third house is occupied by one or more dogs in addition to the human residents. After a week or so here, I noticed that the far and away majority of barking I was hearing was the high-pitched, yappy type that to me is the same as the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard.

The kind of barking that can only be produced by little dogs.

Little, tiny dogs.

(Mike's dog Murphy is not a little dog. He is a Doberman that happens to trapped in the body of a Boston Terrier)

Paris Hilton and that medium-sized rat she carries around in her purse that is supposedly a Chihuahua make me roll my eyes. That slutty pseudo-celebrity is personally responsible for the veritable explosion of trampy teenage girls with Chihuahuas as pets in this country over the last seven or eight years.

Dogs are not a fashion accessory.

At least they're not supposed to be.

The more time I spent walking my dogs over the last few months, the more I noticed how many "fashion accessory" dogs there are here... The aforementioned Chihuahuas, West Highland Terriers, (having an all-white dog is like having white carpeting in your house... it's going to be clean for about fifteen minutes, and then it will never be clean again, no matter how hard you try) Toy Yorkshire Terriers, Teacup Poodles, Havanese, Shih Tzu, Pomeranians, Maltese, Lhasa Apso, Brussels Griffon, Pekingese... the list goes on, including something that I've never seen before moving here... a seven pound abomination called a Norwegian Lundehund. Apparently, Norwegian Lundehunds have been nearly decimated by distemper on two occasions. In 1963 only six were alive in the entire world... five of them were from the same mother. Through a strict and careful breeding program, this breed is slowly growing in number again. Right now, there are somewhere between 1500 and 2000 of these dogs in the world... 1100 in Norway, and 350 in the United States. I would guess that most of that 350 are in Minnesota, because there at least ten in my neighborhood alone.

All of which are territorial little bastards.

This leads me to my first question:

1. Why is it that the smaller the dog is, the more shit it talks when it encounters a larger dog?

On our after-dinner walk each evening, Victor, Roxie and I follow the same route religiously. There is one house we pass where a truly evil Chihuahua lives, along with it's completely clueless owners. This little bastard has figured out that we will be passing by at roughly the same time every evening, and waits at a side window for us.

We hear the barking begin from a block away.

It increases in volume and intensity the closer we get.

As we pass the house, the "dog" races from room to room, barking furiously at us from every window it can reach.

The clueless owner is aware that we are walking by, and for reasons I cannot fathom, like clockwork, every evening the owner opens the door and lets her dog into the yard.

Now there is a four pound dog throwing itself against the fence, barking, growling and snapping, doing everything in its power to get through the fence so it can attack the three of us and run us out of its territory.

Each evening, I idly wondered what the owners reaction would be if her dog ever DID figure out a way to get through the fence and my two got hold of it. I wonder how mentally deficient she is to let her dog out when we walk by each evening... does she not realize that if her dog got out it would be dead within seconds?

A few days ago I decided to experiment, and see for myself if she was truly crazy, or just stupid.

We passed by, her dog followed us from window to window, and just like every other night, the side door opened, and mini-Cujo came storming up to the fence.

This time I stopped about ten feet past her fence.

Her dog, who by now was used to the three of us leaving it's territory while it talked shit at our retreating backs was driven to new heights of fury. My two had been ignoring the noise the little bastard made for a couple of weeks, and didn't even look in it's direction when we passed the fence. When I stopped, they both looked back at me quizzically.

I said: "Hold on guys, we're not going to get run off so easily this time. Sit."

They both sat. Victor ignored the little dog, Roxie alternated between glancing at the little dog, and a squirrel in a tree in the next yard.

Little dog was practically going into convulsions in it's attempt to drive away the "intruders".

After about 30 seconds the side door of the house opened, and the woman yelled "What are you doing to my dog?"


She's crazy.

I said: "I'm not doing anything to your dog. Why do you let it out when you see us walking past EVERY NIGHT? It's obviously too aggressive for it's own good."

She said: "Oh, he just wants to play!"


She doesn't even know the difference between play behavior and pure aggression.

I said: "Your dog is not trying to play, if your dog could get through your fence I guarantee it would try to attack MY dogs, which wouldn't go very well for him..."

She said: "Then you shouldn't be walking vicious dogs without muzzles!"

Ah, yes. The completely clueless dog owner. The type of person who has a dog but shouldn't. The type of person whose dog usually ends up being hit by a car, or mauled by a larger dog it has attacked.

This leads to my second question:

2. Why do people who don't have a clue insist on walking their dogs off-leash?

There ARE dogs that are capable of being walked off-leash and kept under control by their owners through verbal commands alone. I know this, because I had this luxury with several dogs I have lived with in the past.

However, there are places where this is okay, and places it isn't. I had the opportunity to spend some time in rural Yellow Medicine County with Victor and Roxie over the last year, and it gave me great pleasure to allow the two of them the opportunity to run free, unencumbered by leashes, and get the chance to really get a good hard run:

My ex's sister is a dog owner who has a clue. Her family lives with a Collie named Botti who is easily the most obedient, well-trained dog I have had the pleasure of encountering in Minnesota. Victor & Roxie had the pleasure of off-leash runs with Botti on holidays, and several other occasions. However, if she were to be walking her dog off leash, and encountered another person walking their dog on leash at a distance I don't doubt for a second that if the other person requested that she leash Botti, she would do so immediately, even though Botti poses NO threat. She is aware of the fact that the OTHER person walking the dog doesn't know that and would accommodate that person's request.

This is in stark contrast to an encounter I had with a complete MORON about a week after I moved here.

The ONE redeeming factor to the crappy neighborhood I just moved away from was access to the walking and bike paths that follow Minnehaha Creek, and are a part of the Grand Rounds, a positively beautiful system of paved walking and bike trails that crisscross the city and connect most of the neighborhoods.

In the two weeks before Roxie joined us, I had started taking Victor for morning walks on this system of trails, and we had settled into a nice routine of exploring, and seeing where they went. Each morning, we encountered joggers, bicyclists, and yes, many other people walking leashed dogs. Keeping your dog leashed on the walking paths was a necessity, because the paths were heavily wooded, and because this particular one followed the creek, there were dozens of blind corners.

This particular morning Victor and I were about a third of the way into our walk and were on a relatively straight section of path that went through a heavily wooded area. Suddenly, from around a curve about one hundred yards ahead of us a large Golden Retriever appeared.

Off leash.

I immediately stopped and said: "Victor, sit."

He sat and looked up at me, his big plume of a tail gently swishing back and forth, while I watched the other dog, waiting to see if it was alone, or if there was a not very vigilant owner behind it.

The other dog spotted us, froze, and raised its tail straight up into the air like a flag. (For those who don't know, when a dog does this, it is doing so to make itself more visible. It is a sign of dominance.)

Victor sees this, and immediately stands up, raising his own tail, and his hackles as well.


Where the hell is this dog's owner?

I am now caught in a situation I am not happy with. I can't turn and go the other way, as the other dog will take it as a sign of submission, and will "chase" us out of what it considers to be "its" territory. Victor of course by this time considers these trails "his" territory, and also wants to protect me, the Alpha Male of his "pack" from what he now perceives as an intruder and possible threat.

He let out a low growl.

I said: "Quiet you."

He stopped growling, but took a step forward. I looked at the other dog, which had now begun to approach us slowly.

Where the hell is this dog's owner?

I was now beginning to weigh my options. Retreat was not one, as from the other dog's aggressive posture, it was going to start chasing us if we turned to go in the other direction. Sensing the potential for battle, getting Victor to willingly go in the opposite direction was going to be difficult.

Suddenly, a man in his 50's appeared from around the corner, talking on a cell phone. The other dog looked back at him, and waved it's tail back and forth once, a greeting wag, not an aggressive wag.

Incident averted, I thought. He'll call his dog back and leash him.

He didn't. He continued to walk towards Victor and I, still carrying on his cell phone conversation.

I raised my voice and said: "Sir! Would you mind leashing your dog?"

He ignored me, and continued to walk closer.


Maybe he didn't hear me.

"SIR!!! Will you please leash your dog?"

His dog was now about one hundred feet away from Victor and I and was baring it's teeth. Victor was now straining against his leash, and growling.


I decided to try giving the other dog commands, to see if I could at least get it to stop approaching.

"NO!!! NO!!! YOU STAY!!!"

He stopped, but didn't back off and held his aggressive posture.

His owner continued to walk towards us, still talking on his phone. His dog had again begun moving closer, about ninety feet away, and was no longer listening to me. The owner was close enough for me to hear his side of the phone conversation. He was talking about gardening of all things.

Now I was annoyed.


What happened next is something I will never forget.

He said to the person he was talking to: "Jim, hold on a second, I've just come across someone who's not sure about his dog."

I lost it.


He looked at me, his mouth agape. Apparently he had never encountered someone willing to confront him about what he was doing.

He said: "I don't leash my dog when I walk him."


He said: "Jim, let me call you back..."

By this time another person with a dog had appeared around the corner behind him and come to a stop. It was an older woman I had encountered on previous morning walks, she had a well-behaved Bassett Hound that ignored Victor, and he ignored right back.

I took a deep breath and said: "Please grab your dog's collar and hold him so we can walk past you, and for the record, it's a law in this city that dogs have to be leashed if they are not in your fenced yard. I will be an even bigger pain in your ass if this ever happens again. You didn't even KNOW where your dog was for nearly a minute because you couldn't see him."

He grabbed his dog's collar, and I walked Victor around him. He looked at me with what appeared to be a strange combination of anger and defiance.

Of course, being from New York, I wasn't going to let that slide.

"Are you actually going to be stupid and say something you'll regret? Are you going to try to justify your illegal actions? Do yourself a favor and just keep your fucking mouth shut, you're out here with your dog unleashed, I don't see a rabies tag on his collar and you've managed to piss me off with your casual attitude. If the police get involved I see this ending with you getting a couple of tickets."

I pulled out my cell phone.

"Shall I call them and we can have them settle this?"

He said: "I don't think that will be necessary..."

I said: "Next time, I see you, your dog better be on a leash... asshole."

I walked on, a slightly evil smile spreading across my face.

As I got closer to the woman with the Bassett Hound, I could see that she was grinning from ear to ear. I felt a little bad, because I knew that she had heard everything I said to the guy, and it was liberally laced with profanity.

She said: "Thank you for doing that, he's out here every day, he never puts his dog on a leash, and his dog really isn't very friendly to other dogs."

I said: "Sorry about my language, but he just wasn't getting it..."

She said: "No, no... he deserved every word of it. I can't wait to tell people what you did!"

I never saw the guy or his dog again, other people I encountered over the next few days, said that he now walked his dog in the afternoon... and it was always leashed.

Sometimes, the New York Way of dealing with people is the best way... Even in the Midwest.

Next: Something Totally Random