San Francisco is the city of the Supercitizen. As a citizen you follow the laws and are conscientious about the space you share. But the Supercitizen’s heart is larger. It has the capacity for more. The Supercitizen is aware that there are also many unwritten laws that you must follow and do your part to enforce wherever possible. You don’t just recycle, you recycle and compost. You tote reusable water bottles with you wherever you go. You bring your own bags. You eat healthy (Supercitizen himself is vegan) and organically. You take public transportation. As a Supercitizen you must even have a responsible amount of children.
(I often get guarded glances from Supercitizen as she looks, looks again, and then counts my children. The resources are everybody’s resources, after all, and reserving more than your fair share for your drippy nosed progeny is just greedy. I have never been referred to as a “brood” more than I have in the past two months.)
Well, one of these unwritten laws is that we are brother to all creatures, not a bad one, yet, it often lies in direct conflict with the written and, mind you written everywhere, law of “Dogs must be on leash”. Somehow this rule seems to be generally ignored by everyone in San Francisco. That is to say, everyone’s dogs in the entire city of San Francisco are so special and well-behaved that the rule does not apply to them.
The first time I took the kids to the beach by myself I spread a blanket and nursed the baby on the sand while the other two danced in the crashing waves. It was a blissful moment marred only by the sudden appearance of three dogs who ran around and over our blanket, sniffing my baby while he was attached to my boob, getting sand over all of the shoes, clothes, water bottles, myself and baby. Sitting and nursing is a rather vulnerable position to be found in when approached by three fearless strange dogs. I looked helplessly around for the owners who I discovered behind me, sitting quietly, leashes in hand, indulgently watching their dogs say hello.
It causes problems occasionally as my daughter is rather terrified of dogs, well, just their heads. She’ll pet their backsides all day long. But she’ll run right out into the street to avoid their heads. So when your big jolly dog comes up and sniffs her and she runs out into the street because I don’t have any hands free it doesn’t much matter how friendly your dog’s intentions.
Now, I realize it sounds like I have a big problem with this and I don’t, for the most part. I understand some people see their dogs as their children. And I have seen many extremely well-trained dogs. But sometimes the rules are not just there to be restrictive, people, but protective.
For example, at Ocean Beach there are many many leashes, and none of them are actually attached to anything. We were there once and it felt like it was going to be a problem. Like so many preschoolers unsupervised. And the little dog next to us was asking for it, yapping and nipping at the heels of every dog that went past. Sure enough, after a while we saw a large dog grab the little pup and wrestle it under the water trying to drown it. There was splashing. There was yelling. There was a whole crowd of Supercitizens who rushed to save the little dog, who glowered at the owners of the big dog, who protested outrage and disbelief. There was no way to reach the little dog or pull off the big dog because neither one was wearing a leash. And, mind you, neither dog walked away with a leash on. My kids were lucky enough to witness this outbreak of survival-of-the-fittest, with all of its subsequent inquiries. “Mommy, why was the dog doing that?” The owner of the small dog who was camped out next to us tried to initiate an indignant conversation with me about the big dog’s behavior. I settled on squinting dubiously.
And today, we went to Mountain Lake Park. I was down by the lake watching the kids and conversing with Supercitizen who was watching his kids. Supercitizen was very concerned about a small container of cake that had been left for the pigeons. He made reference numerous times to the sign stating “Do Not Feed the Animals”. But, remember now, a citizen may be concerned about the rules not being followed, but this was Supercitizen. And Supercitizen was very concerned about the unhealthiness of the cake for the pigeons. “I mean, are they supposed to eat cake?” Like in the wild, Mr. Supercitizen? No, I doubt they eat cake in the wild.
And along comes a jogger, leashes wrapped decoratively around her arm. Two dachshunds and beagle pup ran along beside her. The beagle pup, though, decided suddenly to go the other way. She had to run after him yelling his name as if he were a runaway toddler, only with two more legs and faster. We entertained the dachshunds for the lady until she returned with the beagle that at this point saw the pigeons. He did what any beagle pup would do when faced with a cooing pile of pigeons. Indeed, he did what my five year-old son does when confronted with a cooing pile of pigeons. He ran at them. Only, the beagle’s instincts run a little deeper. I doubt my son would know what to do with a pigeon if he actually caught one, but the beagle knew. The beagle was all teeth and going for lunch.
Supercitizen intervened immediately. Defender of pigeons, their diet, and all laws pertaining to them, written and unwritten placed himself between the beagle and the birds. The words were sharp. As well, the looks exchanged between the jogger and Supercitizen.
Supercitizen shook his head at the dog’s behavior. Jogger lady shook her head and took her dogs further down the shore. Supercitizen took a parting look at the gluten-loaded-trans-fatty cake that would be the death of the pigeons. Jogger lady adjusted the leashes around her arm. And we went home from the park, just another day in the city.