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James Fitzhenry: '_ _it happens' can apply to dogs in parks

4:08 PM, Jun. 21, 2013  |  Comments
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About the time I fret about how slow things seem to change in Oshkosh, I'm reminded that some of the best things about our fair city are the things that don't change and should do so only after careful thought and demonstration that such changes can work.

These seemingly contradictory thoughts came into focus walking down a tree-lined street as the reflexes were tested by a unique display of dog droppings that resembled something like a mini Stonehenge on the sidewalk. The authenticity of this can be verified by my companions, one on leash and the other at my side. The charm of Oshkosh's classic neighborhoods is that they have, with some notable exceptions, remained largely the same for generations, with well-kept homes of many shapes, sizes and varieties.

Before our nightly strolls, the pre-walk routine always includes a "bag" check to ensure that we can clean up after our pet. Our friend, Joe, has pointed out the irony of picking up after our pets, usually with his critters in tow enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the neighborhood, and a chance to reconnect after a long winter and cold spring.

Yet my last-second acrobatics to avoid soiling the sneakers on Stonehenge are undoubtedly part of the reason the common council has been moving slowly to allow dogs in city parks despite evidence that other communities have been able to make the transition with few problems. There are all sorts of treasures to be found on sidewalks that soil the reputation of pet owners and lead to a natural reflex to continue the ban in city parks.

Still, Menominee Park's trails are as inviting as ever on weeks such as this, when Wisconsin earns the right to be called God's Country. It's a source of frustration that prime times to experience our parks are still off-limits to the legions of us who would respect the need to keep-it-clean and keep our pets leashed.

The good news is that the council's approval of a measure allowing dogs on the new river walk trail system presents pet owners with an opportunity to minimize scenes like the one in the Tom Hanks classic "Forrest Gump" where Forrest steps in a big pile while running and exclaims, "_ _ it happens." Of course, life quickly teaches us that "it" happens all the time; most of us like to prevent it if we have the chance for there's no fun way to dig it out of the notches in the Nike's.

So the challenge is to demonstrate that the vast majority of dog owners will be responsible on the trail, leashing and picking up after their pets. Some pet cleanup stations along the route might help if the "bag" check fails or a Good Samaritan decides to clear a mess left behind. Change may sometimes come slower than we like, but as long as "_ _ it happens" is kept to a minimum, there's no reason "it" happens will apply to dogs in city parks.

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