Leash laws can save a friend's life

Published 9:12 am Wednesday, February 19, 2003

It has been said that there are two types of people in this world - cat people and dog people. Well, that's not necessarily true as we have seen the rise of iguana people, gerbil people and even snake people in recent years.
While I tend to like animals in general, there is no doubt where my loyalties lie. Since I was a child I have always been among the "dog people." Between uncles searching for the best coon dogs and reruns of "Lassie," my destiny as a dog loyalist was clear.
I'm not alone. There are millions of us in the dog camp. Most of us probably have similar stories about dogs and why they are better friends than cats, fish, birds, iguanas and, well, let's face it, a lot of people.
I have had several dogs - little ones, dark ones, feisty ones, slobbery ones and dirty ones. While they were all animals, each had their own personality and their own way of doing things. Despite those differences, each had the familiar trait of being completely devoted and great friends.
The first dog in my life was Red. He wasn't my dog, but was my grandfather's. He was huge and was chained to his dog house in the back yard. I still carry the scars on my forehead from the stitches I received after tripping over his chain and landing on the corner of a cinder block. I know that old Red felt worse than I did about what happened.
When my little brother was about three or four-years-old, the folks decided that it was time for him to get his own puppy. My mother who is a Beatles fan ("except for their drug songs") named the dog JoJo from the song "Get Back."
Now, my brother and the entire family loved that dog, but the truth is he became my dog. My brother was too young to do the things that JoJo enjoyed like riding bikes, adventuring through the woods and digging. In those days I traveled by bike and I could always count on JoJo running along about five to 10 feet behind me. We were a familiar sight throughout the neighborhood and on into town.
JoJo was a part of our family for a long time. He had survived being hit by several cars, including a school bus. He died suddenly one day and, while he was just a dog, I still remember the sorrow I felt that day.
My brother befriended the next few dogs we had. Of course, none could match JoJo's loyalty and fun-loving nature. I didn't get another dog until a few years ago when I finally gave my wife my blessing to get a Bassett Hound. She had always wanted one and we just moved into a house with a fenced yard. We named him Shortstop after Snoopy who played shortstop on the Peanuts gang's baseball team.
As a puppy, we kept Shortstop indoors as we lived on Main Street in Atmore. As he got older we put him in the back yard. Soon he was digging holes under the fence and escaping. We purchased a leash to keep him from getting loose.
When we moved to Brewton, Shortstop was happy because we had a nice neighborhood to walk around in and the traffic was not as heavy. Also, the yard we had was perfect for fetch.
We kept Shortstop on a leash, but last week he managed to free himself and he adventured over to Sowell Road. He did not return.
I wish that Shortstop could have lived like JoJo. We never put JoJo on a leash, he was able to come and go as he pleased. Shortstop lived his life at the end of a rope, knowing only those few yards of grass as home.
But, had JoJo been on a leash he might have lived longer. If Shortstop had not been on a leash he would likely have died earlier.
While we often think of leash laws as protecting the public - which they do - we should also consider these laws in terms of the dog's safety. Some of us know what it feels like to hit a dog while most others have at least come close. It is an awful feeling to think that you may have run over somebody's pet. For those who live in the city, the leash law can save your dog from being injured or killed. While most dogs' instinct will look for ways to escape the leash, owners must do what they must to protect them.
I don't know where Shortstop and JoJo are now, but I like to think they are somewhere running at the back wheels of a bicycle peddled by a child who, like them, left their family and friends way too early. In this place there is no need for a leash law.