About 10 years ago I adopted a pair of small dogs from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Phoenix that had been seized in raids of illegal puppy mills.
One of them was a 7-year-old miniature poodle-shih tzu mix named Baby, who to my disappointment, would not and will not walk on a leash and still sits on her haunches as soon as one is placed on her collar. Fortunately there was a dog park less than two miles from my home, one of ten in the city of approximately 1.5 million residents.
When I moved to Mission in October I was disappointed to find I had to travel 6.5 miles to McAllen to the nearest dog park. On weekends I don’t mind the trip but on weekdays I got into the habit of rising at 4 a.m. so I could walk my dogs off leash between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. on the typically quiet streets of my neighborhood near the Shary Municipal Golf Course west of Bryan Road. And though a middle class, lovely neighborhood, there are no sidewalks.
At that hour there is an occasional passing car that can be heard in plenty of time to herd my dogs to the street side. Although I have to admit even at that early hour we’ve had a few close calls with some vehicles speeding through stop signs.
That’s one reason I identified with the image of Mission businessman Oscar Garza, captured on a neighbor’s surveillance camera, setting out in the early morning darkness to walk his three dogs along Bryan Road on December 22, shortly before he and his German Shepherd were struck and killed by a passing vehicle. It could have been me or any other person who attempts to walk their dogs in Mission. As Police Chief Robert Dominguez told me, it isn’t safe to walk your dog in Mission at midnight or midday.
What happened to Garza and his dog saddens me. Even more so because what happened was a tragedy that might have been avoided if the city had a dog park where residents can allow their pets to exercise freely in a confined, safe environment instead of along city streets, the majority of which, like Bryan Road, have no sidewalks.
Sure, I could take my dogs to the hike and bike path but we still have to contend with bicycles. And I have taken them to Oblate Park where we must contend with joggers, baby strollers and pedestrians. The same would be true at any park with a walking path. What I wish for is a local dog park; one with a sidewalk around it where I can safely walk my dogs or let them run free, just like in McAllen and Phoenix.
Isn’t it time the city set aside a parcel of land for a park where man and dog can get their exercise in a safe environment instead of subjecting themselves to the hazards of the street. I think so. And I think to honor his tragic death it should be named the Oscar Garza Memorial Dog Park. I hope the majority of our city council agrees.