GREG RAY: Unleashing pets’ rights

APPARENTLY they are going to rename the Bogey Hole the Doggy Hole.

Adamstown reader Catherine Graham asked, in the letters to the editor column in this newspaper on Tuesday, for Newcastle City Council to erect a ‘‘no dogs’’ sign at the recently overhauled swimming spot.

She applauded the revamp but complained that several times recently she’d gone to the Bogey Hole to swim, only to find that dog owners had unleashed their pets into the pool.

Whitebridge correspondent Brad Robb was quick to point out the next day that people who don’t want to swim with dogs can always go to Merewether or Newcastle Ocean Baths.

‘‘Maybe you could swim there and let the dogs enjoy their swim at the Bogey Hole,’’ he retorted in the Short takes column.

My question is, who really enjoys swimming with somebody else’s dogs?

Definitely not me.

But then again, maybe I’m not the best person to venture an opinion on this. 

I once wrote about a swim I had at Karuah, spoiled for me by the arrival of a dog. 

This comment of mine caused much unhappiness, both among dog owners and among some Karuah residents, who felt I was unfairly slighting their excellent swimming baths. 

It was brought forcibly home to me that many dog owners are as vehemently passionate about their pets’ rights – real and perceived – as some people might sometimes be about their large motor vehicles.

I actually thought the only public places in Newcastle you could legally take your dog to swim were the beach formerly known as Horseshoe Beach (now known to many as Dogs--t Beach, or to others as simply the Dog Beach), or that other one over at Lake Macquarie.

We’ve taken our silly mutt to both those places and he likes them a lot.

I couldn’t bring myself to let him in at the Bogey Hole, though. I’d feel awful about imposing him on the human users of the baths. The way I see it, those baths have been the domain of people since the early 1800s when Major Morisset had convicts cut them from the living rock for his personal pleasure. 

And whilst I am totally certain that most dogs that are sent in by their owners to swim among other people are comfortably free from fleas, worms and other parasites, I couldn’t always be sure that our canine companion has such a clean bill of health.

I know that most other dogs’ owners rapidly swoop on their pets’ droppings with the plastic bags they always carry but I’ve sometimes failed to promptly notice our dog’s indiscretions and have been embarrassingly confronted by irritated people, who haven’t appreciated my tardiness. 

So I try to avoid the issue by keeping him away from places where his contributions might offend, just in case I’m looking the wrong way when he does it.

It’s a well-established fact that most people who let their dogs off leashes in public places do so because they know for certain that their pets are perfectly trained and would never bite or harm another living creature, unless it was a threatening intruder.

Sadly, I’ve learnt the hard way that our mostly sweet-natured and happy dog can sometimes, without the slightest warning, take a dangerous and alarming dislike to particular people – usually little children.

So for all those reasons I couldn’t put him in the Bogey Hole.

The other reason I couldn’t do it is that I think swimming with dogs in confined and contained places is a bit yucky and I’d feel rude and inconsiderate forcing other people to have our dog in the water alongside them.

Not to suggest that other people who might choose to send their dogs into swimming pools among strangers are being rude or inconsiderate, of course.

They know their own dogs, and I’m sure they know what they’re doing.

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