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07 February 2012

Letter to the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)

After reading over my blog post again, I decided it probably made more sense to add the whole letter. I sent this to the Governor, the mayor and police (animal control officer) of the City it happened in, the DCR, my representative in the State House, the Boston Herald, The Boston Globe, and the non-profit "Friends of the Fells" (of which I am a member). I got a response from the Chairman and Executive Director of Friends of the Fells expressing concern over the issue within 24 hours, and a few hours later I heard back from the DCR Ranger who is in charge of the area. As I said, it was great that he responded, and he was serious about addressing the issue, but we'll see if they follow through...

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To whom it may concern;

I have been running in the Middlesex Fells for about a year now, and in that time, I have watched the number of off-leash dogs increase exponentially. The problem has increased to the point where, in the last few months, when I get chased by an off-leash dog and confront its owner, I have been told numerous times that I am absolutely incorrect. "Everyone knows the Fells is an off-leash park!" "This is the first I've heard about it," or, my personal favorite -- "It's illegal for you to even confront me about this!"

Today, on a typical two-hour run on the Reservoir trail, I stopped counting off-leash dogs when I reached 30. At one point, there were two dogs sitting on one of the narrow bridges, completely blocking me from passing, with no owner(s) in sight. I had to wait until they became bored and trotted off on their own accord before I could pass, and I never did see the owner(s).

On the final stretch of my run, as I was in the Winthrop Hill area on the Skyline Trail, I saw a woman standing on the trail throwing a tennis ball far off trail for her German Sheppard to fetch and return to her. Both she and the dog saw me approaching. She took the ball from the dog and threw it down the hill (away from the trail) for the dog to fetch, and I ran by. Suddenly, just as I passed her, I heard the dog came charging out of the woods barking at me and growling while she yelled at it to stop. I kept running. Before I knew it, the dog was immediately behind me. I felt the dog nip my skin and claw at me through my shorts, then, as suddenly as it started, it stopped and ran back to the owner. I stopped, noticed the owner's (male) partner sitting on a rock typing on his phone. He said (and I can't tell you how many times I've heard it before) "Hm.. She's never done that before." I lifted my shorts and said "She just bit me -- am I bleeding?" He looked, then said, "Nah, she just jumped up on you. Just keep going."

That's exactly what I did. I don't know what I was supposed to do, but I really didn't feel like confronting a guy with a dog who just attacked me, who witnessed the whole thing and still didn't feel like he needed to even stand up to apologize. I have no doubt in my mind that if I had fallen, the dog would have bitten me somewhere other than on my butt.

When I got home and took a shower, I found a six-inch scratch where the dog did break the skin, and a tooth shaped bruise where he bit me, but didn't break the skin.

Here's my question: Why can't the DCR do its job and enforce the leash laws in the Middlesex Fells? I'm so tired of hearing that it's because of staffing shortages. The tickets alone would easily fund the position, instead, irresponsible dog owners know that the DCR doesn't care, so it breeds exactly this kind of attitude. If there were teenagers drinking in the woods, or god forbid, someone swimming in one of the reservoirs, I'm sure the DCR would be out there in a flash, but when it comes to this, nobody seems to care. I pay my state taxes, I pay my taxes in the City of Medford, but nobody wants to take care of this problem.

Over 30 off-leash dogs on a single February day on the narrow trails in the Fells. Not the Sheepfold, but the Skyline and Reservoir Trails. Nobody wants to do anything about it. At the very least, advise us (especially runners) on what kind of weapon you would prefer we carry when we run. Please, stop with all the excuses and get in there to DO YOUR JOB. There is no point in having rules if you're not going to enforce them.

Sincerely,

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I don't think I was too harsh, but I'm still waiting to see if I get back even a form letter from anyone else.. I'll keep you posted on this if anything does happen.. 

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