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Kyle Eller: Keep your dog on a leash for everyone's sake

Hoping to spot some early migrating waterfowl during one of last month's unseasonable warm spells, I took myself and Tia, my 8-pound Pomeranian, on a walk along the Western Waterfront Trail along the St. Louis River.

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Hoping to spot some early migrating waterfowl during one of last month's unseasonable warm spells, I took myself and Tia, my 8-pound Pomeranian, on a walk along the Western Waterfront Trail along the St. Louis River.
On this beautiful day for a hike, we made our way around Indian Point Campground. Tia explored every corner and pranced along, having fun. I enjoyed the fresh air. I also made a mental note of a dog running around the campground above us.
As we rounded to a junction with a campground spur trail, the dog came charging down the spur toward Tia and me.
"Don't worry -- it won't hurt anyone!" the owner called from atop the hill.
"Yeah, right -- I'll just gamble on that," I thought, picking Tia up. The offending dog, now circling around us, was easily five times the size of mine, no leash in sight.
I watched as the owner sauntered down the hill and took the dog in the direction I'd come -- making it clear the choice of direction was forced by my presence, as though I were the inconvenience.
This dog wasn't done inserting itself into our walk. Two minutes later, it charged back, still under the voice "control" of its owner.
Finally free of this animal, more fun was to come. We didn't see much waterfowl -- it was still too early and icy -- but about 20 minutes later, as we walked back to the car along the road toward Indian Point, another uncontrolled dog, even larger and more aggressive than the first, leaped from behind a nearby house and charged us so quickly I barely had time to protect Tia.
It was all I could do to chase the monster back to its yard, while several young children pedaled around on bikes less than a block away. This is not the kind of wildlife I had bargained for.
If this were just one walk or one place, fine. But it's not. Even the Lakewalk some days is just bustling with unleashed mutts.
Here's the usual scenario: Up ahead, you see the uncontrolled animal, just before or just after it sees you. It spots you or your leashed animal, and its eyes glaze over.
Head down, it breaks into a gallop and is on you in seconds, the owner yelling "Rover, come!" Rover, of course, ignores these calls.
If you're lucky, the dog wants a pat behind the ears, not a chunk of your hide or a fight with your pet. You never know until the animal arrives.
Then the owner meanders up and smiles, expecting you to understand. "Oh, he won't hurt anyone. He's just friendly."
Maybe it's just me, but I thought dog owners were supposed to be smarter than their pets. It's enough to make one wonder who needs the leash after all.
Even as an unabashed dog lover, this behavior makes me sick. My dog is as friendly as any, plus cute as the dickens. She's even well behaved, mostly. But I know she'll want to greet everyone she sees. Though many feel the same way about her, I'm not stupid or insensitive enough to think everyone does.
So I use a leash.
Apparently, many dog owners either vastly overrate their animals' obedience, or they simply don't care about the people around them.
The problem is spreading: In the latest issue of Backpacker magazine, a writer details battles taking place in some regions to restrict dogs even on wilderness trails. While some of the reasons for this battle are environmental, it mostly boils down to complaints about aggressive dogs harassing innocent people.
Rude dog owners are making life tough for both other dog owners and the general public.
City trails and streets are not appropriate places for unleashed dogs. City ordinances say that, and so do common sense and common courtesy. Give Fido as much freedom as possible -- it's good for both owner and canine companion -- but don't do it at everyone else's expense.
Kyle Eller is a reporter for the Budgeteer News and the owner of a pet that is always leashed when it leaves the house.

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