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Incessant barking at dog barking again raises hackles

GRF continues to receive complaints from neighbors

By Sam Richards

Staff writer

It was a warm Friday morning, and the dog park was teeming with activity – about 15 dogs, most of them no bigger than a new roll of Brawny towels, along with their owners. The humans were talking among themselves, and that was more noise than the dogs were making.

Several folks at the dog park that morning acknowledged there are still complaints being made about prolonged barking that does occur at times (though one visitor saw little barking of any kind on separate Friday morning and Tuesday afternoon visits). People there during both those times described people yelling from the houses above the dog park, even someone blowing a whistle at them.

“The whistle just makes the situation worse,” said Ariel Owen, whose dogs Fiona and Phoebe were getting social with other canines on this Friday morning.

But there have been complaints, and not just from the closest residences.

Approximately 100 people attended an hour-long “town hall” meeting on Oct. 25 in the Fireside Room to go over dog park issues, one of them being excessive barking. Conflicts between large and small dogs, untrained dogs and people who bring in more than a couple of pets were also mentioned.

In a letter about two weeks ago to attendees of that town hall meeting, Jeff Matheson, GRF’s director of resident services, said he had received several complaints from neighbors about the barking at the dog park, as well as an audio recording of “prolonged barking sessions” there.

“The disturbing aspect of the audio recording was the lack of audible owner interaction with the barking dogs to attempt to quiet them quickly,” the letter stated. “Instead, the barking continued uninterrupted.”

Matheson said he believes most dog owners have been responsible about stopping such barking before it roils nerves and tests patience. People need to expect that dogs are going to bark, he said in the letter, and that barking dogs come with any dog park.

But it is the prolonged, uninterrupted barking, Matheson said in a Feb. 18 email, that is particularly annoying to people living within earshot of the park.

“The neighbors have a right to enjoyment of their outdoor property,” Matheson said in that email. “We need to find a happy medium.”

To that end, after the town hall meeting, a dog park advisory committee was formed to meet quarterly about concerns related to the dog park, near the Tice Creek Fitness Center. Matheson said he, GRF Recreation Manager Kelly Berto and several residents have pledged to be part of that effort. The committee’s third meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, March 2.

In the recent letter to dog park users, Matheson said that to maintain the park for the enjoyment of all residents and their dogs, owners whose dogs continually bark need to be identified and given a warning. After that, if incessant barking continues, the owners of such dogs could be suspended from further use of the park. Possible installation of cameras at the dog park was expected to be discussed at the March 2 committee meeting.

“Our goal would be to never close the dog park but instead actively try and find reasonable solutions,” Matheson said.

Phyllis Erickson, who was at the dog park recently with her dogs Quinly and Brady, stressed that owners she’s seen have intervened quickly – by grabbing their little friends, by using vibrating “bark collars,” maybe the occasional spritz from a spray bottle – when they won’t stop barking. She and others said that, while dogs will be dogs, those she’s seen at the dog park rarely bark to the point of being obnoxious, and when they do, are quickly controlled.

Erickson said the presence of a dog park was one reason she moved to Rossmoor last June. She doesn’t want anything to jeopardize it.

“If it wasn’t for the dog park, I wouldn’t know a soul in the community, because everything’s been shut down,” she said.