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John Howell Column

John Howell Sr.

Park space stage for leash law clash on Laurel Street

Folks around us on Laurel Street in New Orleans are opinionated about leashes on pets also. [See Taylor Ivy’s column, Covenant limits cat’s freedom, June 19, the ensuing letter to editor and online comments]

During the last year the block across the street from our house that is Wisner Playground has been rehabilitated from its post-Katrina status as a FEMA trailer camp. The baseball field has been restored — new grass, fences, everything.

Dog owners have loved it. Dog ownership in New Orleans is just as illogical as most things there. Leashed Great Danes leap from tiny apartment doors pulling owners barely able to restrain them. Chihuahuas on leashes lead their owners from mansions.

And since new grass and fences have been installed onto Wisner Playground, every dog somebody has been converging there to loose their canines. From the vantage point of our front porch we see many happy dogs and happy people. Dogs chasing balls, dogs chasing and racing each other, dogs of every description and breed — pure and mongrel. And owners very happy to have a place to turn them off their leashes.

The dog owners seemed to be so appreciative of the space that they not only picked up after their animals, they placed plastic bags at the entrance gates for use by other dog owners.

Meanwhile, folks with a larger view of the playground have eyed the space not taken up by ball field and envisioned better uses than the steel pipe frames that once held swings and the dilapidated pavilion with a falling in roof housing a large colony of pigeons. (Talking about an animal needing a leash? Yuck.)

Meetings have been held about the future of the play area where the many opinions expressed about the space’s use have been so varied that the playground sounds as diverse as the description of the elephant given by the blind men after they had each explored by touch a different aspect of the giant animal anatomy.

There’s an element at those meetings who express objections to dogs unleashed in defiance of city ordinances, and last weekend we watched as a policeman stopped his car and called through the fence to a lady who had released two for a romp.  Of course, the two mutts obliged by running up on their side of the fence, barking to try to match his voice of authority. She soon re-leashed her dogs.

Earlier, we’d watched when the lady had first arrived with her dogs. Two dubious-looking characters who had settled on a dugout bench made a hasty departure when the dogs came romping up to check them out.

Running out of space here. I’ll continue tales online at www.panolian.com about life on Laurel Street, where the hoods don’t outnumber the neighbors as bad as they used to.