I expected some response from the blind community after my July 24 column about the attack on my guide dog several years ago and a continuing problem of unattended animals. But I was not prepared for the volume I received from sighted folk.
Several have called me to report their feelings and all want more done concerning loose dogs. Some go further, to even cats and having too many animals in one yard, causing hours of barking and leaving a stink for neighbors.
While I really don't have an answer to the dog problem, it is encouraging to hear such responses. I can't include all the replies I've received in the past several weeks, but suffice it to say I have heard from many blind and sighted people locally and across this vast land.
Everyone spoke in favor of better control concerning loose dogs.
Here are a few comments from guide dog users in the greater Walla Walla and College Place area:
"Loose dogs have disoriented me more times than I can count and 'friendly' seems to be pretty irrelevant!" said one.
"My guide dog and I have had too many dog encounters, fortunately with no injury so far," reported another.
"The biggest problems I have," commented a third, "are loose dogs that run up to my guide which can cause me to get very disorientated. So far my dog hasn't been attacked but it's only a matter of time. We have a leash law in the city and county for a reason. Another problem is aggressive dogs behind fences that are right at the sidewalk. These fences are often only 3 feet tall and most dogs are big enough to at least seem to be coming over the top of the fence."
A person with good eyesight also thanked me for writing about the problem: "It really helps to open folks' eyes that are blinded by their own desires."
So how many of you have felt threatened or been attacked by loose animals? How many of you want to enjoy the evening in your back yard but can't because a neighbor has too many dogs and never cleans up after them?
In this area we have four people with guide dogs: I live in the county, one lives in College Place and two live in Walla Walla. Not one of us have been spared the threat from loose dogs as we go about our lives outside our homes, whether just a distraction or an actual attack.
One lady with limited eyesight slipped on a pile of dog feces and fell to the sidewalk. Fortunately a caring neighbor was in her front yard and rushed to her aid.
Scary for her, but still these kinds of things continue to occur. And I wonder about sufficient, effective animal control enforcement.
It has been around eight years since my first guide dog, Melita, and I were attacked by a neighbor's loose dog while we were out for a walk. But the shock remains glued in my mind. I learned afterward the sheriff's deputy who answered my call apparently didn't even notify the animal control officer.
The officer was off duty that day, and when I called her early in the week to follow up on the attack she was surprised to learn of the incident and said she had to go to the sheriff's office to get the report. Maybe because there were no bite marks the deputy thought there was no need to file a report with animal control.
But being that a guide dog was attacked, the case was eventually sent to the prosecuting attorney's office. Although the attacking dog's owner was officially reprimanded, the offender continued to ignore the law and allowed that dog and another dog the person owned to run free. Until, that is, the home owner's insurance was notified.
After the attack on Melita there've been still other instances of loose dogs out our way. I complained to another animal control officer, one I didn't know, who promised to notify people in the vicinity about letting dogs run loose. But instead the message was that owners had to keep their dogs on a lead because there was a blind man in their area -- and, naturally, I was the culprit.
Thus I backed off reporting loose dogs because I didn't want more neighbor problems.
I hasten to add that the present county animal control officer is not the one I just referred to; he has been both supportive and, I feel, doing what he can to rectify the problem. He told me he is enforcing law and the fact I am blind makes no difference.
"The leash law is for everyone's safety," he said.
And, I will add, seeing that dogs are properly restrained is the responsibility of every dog owner.
So I ask for your help in giving everyone a safe place to walk, and may our streets and county roads be truly safe.
Ernie Jones, a registered nurse who retired due to vision loss, can be reached at 529-9252 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.