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Pet control is the big lesson in poodle saga


The characters in today's morality play are:

Janice Tippett, the 37-year- old Edgewater woman who owns a toy poodle.

Jacquelyn, the toy poodle who was drop-kicked by a jogger after she nipped at his heels.

The jogger, who, since he won't be charged, is best left unnamed.

In this play, the jogger was running along when Jacquelyn escaped the tender and safe clutches of her owner. She chased the jogger and "nipped at his ankles," according to a story by Sun reporter Annie Linskey.

Facing several options, the jogger went with what might be called the "punt on second nip" response. He kicked the dog about 10 feet, which resulted in several injuries that Tippett says cost thousands of dollars in veterinary treatments.

Tippett is outraged. The jogger isn't talking. The Anne Arundel County state's attorney's office decided late last week not to charge him. Is there a lesson to be learned from this?

Oh, several.

The first lesson is for Tippett: Jacquelyn is a poodle, madam, not your "little girl," as you referred to her in the news story. Dogs, while they have a reputation as bright animals, do have some limitations on their intelligence.

If I had been in the jogger's spot, I might not have kicked Jacquelyn. But I would have tried to explain the situation to the pooch in clear English.

"I'm a 200-pound man. You're a 4-pound poodle. I have a large foot that can kick you several feet. Do the math, dog. Do the math." The math for humans versus poodles confrontations comes to, I suspect, something like Humans 3,247, Poodles 0.

But dogs can't do math. That's the point. That's why we have leash laws. They exist to protect people like the jogger. They also exist to protect other animals, including and especially dogs.

I'm not sure how things go in Tippett's neck of Anne Arundel County. But I've had my fill of Baltimore's irresponsible dog owners who let their critters roam as free as the bison on America's 19th-century prairie. Here's only a partial list of offenses I've seen.

I hear a ruckus outside my house one night. It's the growls and howls of three dogs, who were busy tearing a cat to pieces.

One day a neighborhood child ran up to me, frantically asking me to chase away some dog that had sunk its teeth deeply into her dog's neck.

"And just how might I do that, kid?" I wondered. "By shootin' him?"

Fortunately, the owner of the aggressive dog arrived in time to force the pooch to release his bite, which she had to do with some difficulty, I might add.

A common sight in my neighborhood is a pack of male dogs following one female dog. We know what's going on there, so enough said. But in the most recent episode, a fight broke out between the male dogs, proving, I guess, that males of all species are pretty much the same.

(Tippett might want to consider what might have happened to her "little girl" if Jacquelyn had run across a posse of such male dogs, as opposed to the jogger.)

One day I was baby-sitting my grandkids when my second-oldest grandchild, Spencer, was outside playing waiting for his sister Kaila to join him. Spencer ran to the door and tried to open it. The panic was discernible in his voice.

I opened the door to see two giant Rottweilers chasing my grandson. I ran up to them and shoved them aside.

"Back off of the grandson!" I shouted at them. They did. Somehow they must have known my next step was to reach for a baseball bat.

How can we explain these instances of dogs running around unleashed in clear violation of leash laws? One is weak law enforcement. Baltimore's animal control department could have a field day picking up unleashed dogs if they sent people to my neighborhood any given morning. But you have to call animal control before they come out, by which time the unleashed canines are usually long gone.

Baltimore honchos in charge of the folks who troll our city looking for parking violations should have them put their little ticket books in their pockets and go on stray-dog duty instead. I suspect this will happen about half past when hell freezes over.

The other reason for the surplus of unleashed pooches in our neighborhoods is that select minority of annoying dog owners who feel leash laws apply to all dogs but theirs. Such folks need to heed a message, loud and clear:

Leash laws do apply to your dog. So keep the critter leashed, not only for the safety of others, but for your dog's. The next time some dog goes ankle-nipping, whether it's a poodle or a Rottweiler, it might not be some jogger armed with only running shoes.

It just might be some guy with an attitude and a Glock.

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