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Toddling Through the Silicon Valley

By Cheryl Bac

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About this blog: I'm a wife, stay-at-home mom, home cook, marathon runner, and PhD. I recently moved to the Silicon Valley after completing my PhD in Social Psychology and becoming a mother one month apart. Before that, I ran seven marathons incl...  (More)

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Dogs and Kids

Uploaded: May 17, 2016
Last week I read an article titled, "Dear Person Whose Dog Just Wants to Say Hi." The author talked about respecting a dog's personal space. And giving the dog's owner a chance to say "no" before another dog, adult, or kid entered that personal space.

Even though we don't have a dog, I enjoyed reading the article. Most of our interactions with dogs have been pleasant, but a handful have been uncomfortable.

Usually, these uncomfortable situations happened when a parent brought both their kids and their dog to the park at the same time. This can leave the kids mostly unsupervised at the playground. Or leave a dog tied to a fence or table barking at the kids, eager to join in.

Of course, kids and dogs both need places to run around, but it can be very scary for a young child (and that child's parent) when a dog, even a friendly one, unexpectedly runs up to them. I, personally, used to pick up our son when a stranger's dog ran up to us. However, with two kids, it's not as easy to avoid an unexpected dog.

Yes, we all need to share the park. But I think many uncomfortable situations between dogs and kids could be avoided if everyone (dog owner, parent, kid, etc) had a chance to say "no" before someone else (dog, kid, stranger, etc) entered their personal space.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by a parent, a resident of South of Midtown,
on May 17, 2016 at 8:37 pm

Fellow parents - please call 911 to report off-leash dogs in parks where leashes are required. Don't try to argue with the dog owners (if you can find them). Call 911 before a tragedy happens.

I won't get into dog cr@p on playgrounds for now.

Posted by Mother of 4 , a resident of Palo Verde School,
on May 18, 2016 at 10:40 am

In the UK playground areas in parks have to be fenced in by law. This keeps the toddlers safe as they can't get out, particularly if the mother has more than one child to watch and also keeps unleashed dogs out. Here we have playgrounds right beside roads with no secure fences and it scares me that a toddler could so easily wander off and go into the road while a parent is changing a diaper or sorting a fracas between another child.

I spend most of my time at the playground counting kids. I wish we had a safer system here.

Posted by 911, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on May 18, 2016 at 1:26 pm

I don't think it is appropriate to call 911 for a dog off it's leash. 911 is for EMERGENCIES, a dog off a leash is not. Call animal control if you are concerned.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 18, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

A parent and 911 - The city of Palo Alto's website has instructions for what you can do if you see a dog off-leash.

Mother of 4 - Thanks for sharing your knowledge about parks in the UK. Yes, enclosed parks can be very helpful when watching a toddler or multiple kids.

Posted by Dog lover, a resident of Menlo Park,
on May 18, 2016 at 5:48 pm

As a dog owner who obeys leash laws, I have to say it is also quite unpleasant for leashed dogs to be approached by unleashed dogs. And why people think it is ok to allow their dogs off-leash in fenced-in playground areas is completely beyond me (I see this regularly at Burgess Park in Menlo Park).

In an ideal world, kids would grow up respecting and liking dogs, which I agree is not helped by unplanned encounters with off-leash dogs. Dogs have so much to offer to kids of all ages, especially to those who may not fit perfectly into societal norms. A dog can really be a child's best friend. Hopefully, parents don't let unpleasant experiences with irresponsible dog owners cloud this big picture.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 18, 2016 at 6:54 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Dog Lover - Thank you for sharing your experiences as a dog owner. And for pointing out the big picture. Yes, absolutely, dogs and kids can be wonderful friends. I had a dog growing up and have lots of fond memories.

Posted by a parent, a resident of South of Midtown,
on May 18, 2016 at 8:31 pm

Cheryl - the link you provide only talks about off-leash dogs in parks with on-site rangers who can respond quickly. In unstaffed parks, I still recommend calling the police if there is an off-leash dog roaming near an area used by small children. It is unfortunate that some parks (eg Hoover Park) have a dog play area adjacent to the children's play area and some dog owners don't leash their dogs as they take them to the dog area. Some of those dogs can get very aggressive around strangers, including children.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 18, 2016 at 10:07 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

A parent - Here is a link for 2 local off-leash dog parks (Nealon and Willow Oaks):

Posted by green Meadow Mom, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on May 20, 2016 at 8:36 am

As a dog-lover and dog-owner and mother of two I have to chime in in defense of dog-owners: yes, we should obey leash laws and be aware of our dog's whereabouts. But to us, our dogs are like our children too...they need exercise, socialization, and free play as well...Improve the kids' playgrounds by fencing them? sure, but how about improving dog parks/off leash play areas as well? (so then dog owners won't let their dogs loose in children areas...) most of the dog parks in palo Alto are gross/small/and inadequate. Why not designate an hour or two on the two ends of the day (usually earlier or later than when kids are present) as off leash hours...or why not have an area (such as the Dish off of Stanford Ave.) be a designated off-leash area where people can go walk/hike with their dogs off leash? maybe dog owners can pay a fee along with their license to get access to these off-leash hours/areas...that money can then be used for maintenance and cleanup...although I think anyone who does not clean up after their dog should be fined. There is plenty of space for everyone to co-exist and saying things like dogs should be banned or call 911 does not help this situation...better amenities and creative solutions for dogs as well as children are needed.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 20, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Green Meadow Mom - Thank you for sharing your creative suggestions. Yes, making changes to both the playgrounds and the dog parks could help everyone stay safe.

Posted by SEA_SEELAM REDDY, a resident of College Terrace,
on May 22, 2016 at 4:34 am

SEA_SEELAM REDDY is a registered user.

I was bit by a dog when I was twelve.
It was very hurtful and took 45 days to recover.

Also, for the sake of children, dog owners, dogs must be leashed and be very careful when interacting with humans and children.


Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 22, 2016 at 1:27 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Sea_Seelam Reddy - Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm so sorry to hear that you were bit by a dog. 45 days is a long recovery. Thank you for reminding us how important it is for dog owners to make sure their dogs are careful when interacting with children.

Posted by Dog lover, a resident of Mountain View,
on May 22, 2016 at 1:45 pm

Sea Reddy's experience also implicitly highlights a grave problem for dog owners if their dog bites a person or other animal. It goes beyond any direct liabilities for harm done by the injury.

The only accurate and fast method to decisively rule out the lethal rabies virus in a biting animal (a virus that would dictate immediate and unpleasant therapy for the human -- the "unpleasant" aspect I got from a local veterinarian who has been through it) requires killing and dissecting the animal, and bite victims customarily are empowered (and advised) to insist on that course. This prevails even in places like populations the US where rabies in dogs is rare, because, among other reasons, the disease remains endemic in wild-animal that potentially can infect pets. So even a healthy and otherwise well-behaved pet can be at serious indirect risk if it bites a stranger.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 22, 2016 at 6:31 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Dog lover - Thank you for sharing that information about dog bites and rabies.

Posted by James Barrett, a resident of Portola Valley: other,
on May 24, 2016 at 3:09 pm

Any dog that bites, should be put down - they obviously have a behavioral issue that you can't "discuss with them" and ask them to behave better in the future. Despite being a dog lover, I subscribe to the "one strike you're out" policy.

But GreenMeadowMom is correct - the current facilities for dogs are completely unacceptable which is why keeping a dog on a leash at all times is unworkable.

To Sea_Seelam Reddy's point, yes it's absolutely terrible that you got bitten by a dog when you were 12. I did too when I was 7 or 8 - but it was my fault for putting my hand inside a gate. However the fact that you read this website suggests it happened a long time ago(based on their demographic data). Sometimes bad things happen in life - and it was likely a freak event then as it would be if it happened now. Terrible, no doubt, but so are car accidents, bee sting & food poisoning and we don't ban cars, kill all bees and not eat food, to stop it from happening ever again.

The vast majority of off-leash dogs are perfectly well behaved, because in this litigious state, if they were not, you wouldn't take the risk. Anecdotally it appears the dogs on leash are the most grumpy ones. Are they on-leash because they were acting grumpy, or acting grumpy because they're on leash?

To "a parent" suggesting that we should call 911 when a dog is off a leash is just ridiculous. I had a recent experience at a local park where there was an old woman with a small yapping dog(on-leash) shouting that she was going to call the police because my dog was off-leash. There was other parents and kids around and she used "colorful" expletives, that I would have preferred my children hadn't heard. My dog completely ignored her and her dog, and strolled by, as did my kids and I, but it was ironic that the old woman and yet yapping dog were the one disturbing the peace. Maybe I should have called 911 to report her foul language:)

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 24, 2016 at 9:30 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

James Barrett- Thank you for commenting and for sharing your opinions. I haven't checked out the local dog parks. But from the comments, it sounds like they are not fitting all dogs and dog-owners needs.

Posted by Fd, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Aug 21, 2016 at 5:13 pm

Hi, I am an English mum living in Palo Alto and have 4 children and a puppy. As a new dog owner I am aghast at how unfriendly Palo Alto is towards dogs compared to San Francisco or Carmel.

Calling 911 when you see a dog unleashed is ridiculous. The police have better things to do. You might stop an emergency call getting through. Very petty. Say something to the owner instead. Dog owners should be courtesy towards all users of the answer is obviously improve the dog exercising areas to become larger and more inviting and then this problem wouldn't arise.

Yes English playgrounds are fenced and dogs not allowed in them. It's a valid point. Fence in playgrounds. Dog owners don't tend to be hanging around them. It's the open space they require.

I agree that the dog parks here in Palo Alto are woefully inadequate which is why so many dog owners need to exercise off leash in the wide open spaces sadly. . I noted that none of them are lit for winter evenings and are poorly maintained. Very little seating areas... Too small, too shady and just dirt. San antionio village dog park in mountain view is an example of how nice it could be. I would happily pay more as a dog license to have such a nice facility for a dog park in Palo Alto.

. Mitchell park dog park is the only decent sized one. But hardly any benches... No nice art statues or anything to make it attractive.....Too much dirt...unattractive and no winter or nightlights.. What happens if you want to exercise your dog inside as a woman during the winter months when it gets dark by 5pm?

You can't use it. The reason- people are worried about the dogs barking disturbing residents....dogs playing together rarely make that much noise an most people don't have a problem with it unless residents who complain and are over cautious....

. Ridiculous. There is not much noise from the dog park. Interesting
Y.......the magical bridge playground is amazingly lit up with lights to encourage playing after dark... Noises children!!!!

And the kids are much noiser, but lights are ok for night time playing....and investing in nice facilities.....yet no one dares say a mum with 4 kids I observe this and see it a lot.

Hoover dog park is too shady and just dirt. Put some fake grass in and lights! And benches. in....please!

Greer park dog park is toooo tiny and ridiculously awful... No one would ever use it. Stick fake grass in it, put benches and water facilities and modern art statues please....

Put some money into the dog parks please! See San antionio village dog park as a good example which doesn't upset residents and is lovely to spend time in.....

Let us pay more as dog owners to invest into the dog parks, add more... Organize a fund raiser, bake sale, pot luck party anything to inject funds inside it and be more considerate of the dog owners instead of the local residents fears about noise or popularity.

Dogs need exercise, they need socialization, and they need to be off leash in a dog park!

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 21, 2016 at 6:10 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Fd - Thank you for sharing your frustrations with the local dog parks and ways the parks could be improved.

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