I am sorry that Mr. Ainsworth has felt uncomfortable with off-leash dogs at the beach. As dog owners, a letter like this, in all honesty, helps us be more aware that not everyone is “cool with dogs”. I’m a West-Coaster born and bred (Seattle, now Victoria) and, in my experience, dogs have always been a part of public life. We bring our dogs with us camping, boating, to soccer games, to drop our kids off at school, in the car to run errands, and even to events at others’ houses. This is a common practice all up the coast from California all the way up through BC. It’s a cultural practice. Along with the culture comes the expectation that the dogs are well-socialized, which I think is generally true, at least on this beach.
Many communication difficulties are due to a difference in perception. Unfortunately, when the majority of people feel a certain way, we naturally believe that all do. If the dominant culture is dog-literate, we assume everyone is familiar with dog behaviour. This is a mistake. Mr. Ainsworth was treated rudely, and he should be certain that he will be met with an apology as no person has the right to interfere with the enjoyment of another’s at our beautiful public beach. What I think happens is that dog owners assume other West Coasters also know about dogs, have grown up with dogs, and tolerate dogs as members of their community. I am sure the dog owner felt shocked at Mr. Ainsworth’s reaction and, caught off guard or having a bad day, responded inappropriately. And although this story makes for great reading regarding this hot issue, this kind of nastiness (being rude) is escalating more and more during the pandemic. I think we all can agree that everyone’s nerves are frayed.
What I do not accept about Mr. Ainsworth’s thoughtful letter, however, is his inflammatory language. “Assault” is a serious word indeed. Was he assaulted or was he jumped on? An assault by definition has the intention to harm. Was the dog owner wishing harm on Mr. Ainsworth? Had the dog missed a meal and was planning to eat him? We can only guess. But in fourteen years of going to this beach daily I have seen only a handful of events between dogs that could be described as “scuffles”, and never any dog attack on a person. In this way it seems really remarkable- newsworthy even- that Mr. Ainsworth was assaulted on two occasions recently.
The beach is for residents, the beach is for non-residents, the beach is for students, the beach is for tourists. It’s for everybody. We pay the taxes, everybody enjoys the beach. We each have a right to enjoy it, so let’s learn to share better.
I think the system in place at the beach now- that has been in place ever since at least my perfectly-behaved pooch Gimel first got his shots about 14 years ago- works as long as it is enforced by us as a community.