Dog Days on the Greenway

                The moment Watson, our goldendoodle, pounced into the bushes off the side of the Hansville Greenway trail, my husband, Tom, seized his leash with two hands. Watson pulled like a sled dog to catch the frantic frog that hopped onto the trail, but Tom held tight and the frog eventually disappeared into a sea of sword ferns. We laughed, thoroughly entertained until we learned that Watson could have destroyed a breeding area or terrorized a frog that was probably just surviving.

                “It’s a wildlife preserve,” says Michael Szerlog, president of the Hansville Greenway Association. “Dogs that go off trail are a challenge to wildlife.”

                Despite signs that direct people to leash their dogs, many dogs travel the trails untethered. Most are trained well and respond to their owners’ commands. But some stray off the trails and can scare ground-nesting birds from their nests, leaving eggs unprotected from predators. When dogs play in ponds, they can tromp through amphibian breeding grounds. Just their presence can force animals to expend energy they need to find food and survive.

                And then there’s the hunting instinct. Even the best trained dog can’t resist the urge to chase a rabbit or deer, squirrel or mouse.

                “My dog is 15 and hardly walking anymore, but it sees a rabbit and tries to go after it,” Michael says.

                Off leash dogs bounding along the trails can scare children or knock over unsuspecting hikers. Unattended poop leaves messes for hikers and pathogens that can infect wildlife. The Greenway, like most of Kitsap County, is dog-friendly and provides Mutt Mitts at most entrances. Protecting the Greenway means owners pick up after their dogs and take the bag with them.

                “Dogs are allowed and that’s a good thing. We don’t want that to change,” Michael says. “But you have to be responsible about leashing them, for your own sake, the dog’s sake, and the protection of other people and wildlife.”

By Cynthia Taggart