The official term "dogs at large" accords way too much status to the loose, uncontrolled, unpredictable hounds plaguing our neighborhoods. They seldom wear collars, rarely display rabies tags and never seem good-natured. Their owners remain adamantly indifferent to the damage their dogs can inflict.
A woman was recently accosted on Main Street by "dogs at large." A friend of mine had "dogs at large" get into her corral and kill her pony. And (recently) two "dogs at large" chased my wonderful blue-eyed, 22-pound cat, Cloud Cotton, out of my front yard and killed him. I found him dead in a ditch, horribly damaged.
From the moment he chose me at the Phoenix Humane Society over eight years ago, I knew Cloud was an exceptional animal. As I walked into the Humane Society Cat House, this rather large, white, cross-eyed stray immediately rolled on his back and stretched his front legs through the bars of his cage right toward me. As engaging as he was, I was not looking for a male cat, certainly not a white cat and definitely not a cross-eyed cat. I visited all the cats and kittens, considering some real beauties, but kept gravitating back to this one fellow who was practically turning himself inside out to get my attention. Thirty minutes later, I was lugging my cat carrier filled with the white, male, cross-eyed cat to the car. On his adoption papers I read the veterinarians comments: "lover kitty!"
For over eight years Cloud lived up to his sobriquet of "lover kitty." This gentle giant was everyone's friend. I always suspected that people who came to visit me really wanted to see Cloud. His enormous size, affable disposition and sociable nature made him the center of attention.
He was always ready to "take a pet" or "give a nose." His rumbling purr box strengthened my body and filled my soul. I could not plant a flower, sew a seam or put a piece in a puzzle without his constant, quiet presence.
He was my best buddy, my favorite boy, even my computer password. And now this healthy, happy animal is lying in the ground all because of "dogs at large," dangerous dogs whose irresponsible owners did not bother to close their gate.
My grief is so deep that there are moments when I can hardly breathe. It is not enough to say that I am angry; I am beyond mad.
What can I do? What can any of us do when we try to walk in our neighborhoods and find we need to carry a piece of rebar or a golf club for protection from dogs at large? How do we protect our pets in our own yards or on a leash from these threatening dogs at large?
We need to take a zero-tolerance approach to these miserable curs and their owners. Sure, we know that Animal Control is overburdened and cannot answer every call every time, but they can rid us of some of these problem animals by making the owners responsible.
Every dog needs to be confined or on a leash. Every dog needs to have a license and current rabies tag. Every dog, like the ones safely behind their closed gates who cheer me on my morning walks: White Dog and Bailey, Ozzie and Bear, Traveler and Rosie, Chowsie and Gunner, deserves this. And Rim country residents deserve to enjoy the scenery and the pleasure of their own pets without the menace of dogs at large.