By Carol (and Maggie) Tannenhauser
“Why are you keeping me on the leash? Hey! Wake up! This is the spot where you always let me off. We avoided the maniac cyclists. We’re safe now. I’m not moving.”
“Oh, Maggie, I’m sorry, I can’t. There are these poor raccoons running around with distemper. I don’t trust that you won’t go after one — even though your distemper shots are up to date. I called the vet twice to check. Come on, we’ll take a nice, long walk.”
“Hey, look! Bailey’s off the leash, and so is Goldie and Ringo and Popcorn! Why am I the only one tethered?”
“Come on!” my human dog-mates cajoled, as their dogs played freely.
I stood, frozen with indecision. Maggie looked up at me, panting. Our Eden awaited; our friends beckoned. But the Parks Department and Central Park Conservancy had issued a joint advisory saying keep your dogs on the leash at all times. Two people had been attacked by raccoons — although, in truth, their dogs had attacked the raccoons first, and the owners were trying to pry them apart when they were scratched or bitten.
“Come on,” my friends urged.
What to do?
I had already talked to several other dog owners, most of whom were also choosing to ignore the advisory.
“Aren’t you worried?” I asked the first one I came upon. Her answer reminded me why I love New York City.
“I used to work for an international relief organization. I’ve seen some of the worst conditions in the world. Raccoons with distemper when my dog is vaccinated? I don’t think so.”
“What about you?” I asked a man, who called his dog “Big Nose”?
“He never goes further away from me than that.”
He pointed at Big Nose, who was trotting further away.
“Come, Big Nose! Right this minute! Come!” he shouted, frantically, running after him.
“The bottom line is, you’ve got to know your dog,” another woman observed. “Mine’s 15. She’s not going anywhere.”
Later, I emailed the Health Department. They responded “[We are] continuing to monitor the duration and extent of the situation and the advisory will be lifted once the situation deescalates.”
I’m not sure Maggie can wait.