What upsets cemetery visitor René Paz, he said Saturday, is the
"lack of privacy" that comes with dog park users and gravesite visitors entering
along the same road.
~ Davis Enterprise report
TODAY on TV
DOGGIES vs. DEATH
15 April 2004
It this had been a cartoon, there would have been smoke coming out the womans ears. In fact, Im not entirely sure that there WASNT smoke coming out the womans ears.
She sat in the front row, juggling a sheaf of papers, a small card, and a huge poster. She was wearing the most fierce scowl Id ever seen and her mouth was set so tightly it looked like it had been sealed with SuperGlue.
There were about 30 people in the room. What in the world was I doing there, at a meeting of the Davis Cemetery Board of Directors.
Well, there has been a brouhaha about the dogs who are allowed to walk off leash on the unused land which borders the cemetery. Dog walkers drive into the cemetery, park at the far end, and walk their dogs up over a hill, where they can then run off leash. (I talked about this dog walking area in an entry a month ago.)
Some time after my discovery of the park, there was an angry...nay...furious letter to the editor about how terrible it was to have a dog park in a cemetery and I felt moved to respond. I wrote the following letter:
This letter prompted a call from a dog walker, who thanked me for my support and who alerted me to a meeting of the cemetery board and how much he hoped I'd come to be "a voice of reason."
Now...I am not a political person, though I sometimes play one on the Internet. I hate speaking in public and I am terrible at it. I wanted to go to this meeting about as much as I wanted to beg my dentist to please let me have more root canal. But I did feel some sort of bond with my friends, the dogs of the dog walk area, and guilty if I said no to my caller. I reluctantly agreed to "try" to attend.
Then I told Ellen about the meeting and she, too, had an opinion, wanting to save the dog park, so she agreed to come with me and give me courage....reinforcing my guilt if I decided to conveniently "forget" to go!
As the meeting began, The Angry Woman fairly shook as the president of the board spoke. She tried to interrupt frequently and when he asked for comments from the audience, she was on her feet in an instant. She unrolled a big poster on which she had pasted the cemetery's mission statement, which included "provide respectful, affordable interment services that meet the cultural, economic, religious and social needs of the community." She talked about the first anniversary of her son's death this past year, when a dog lifted his leg on a nearby headstone and threatened her husband. She held her deceased son's driver's license up as she talked. She read from the sheaf of materials, and ended by demanding an end to the dog park.
Other more rational people spoke in favor of the park, including one woman who asked for time to raise funds to build a fence to make certain that dogs would not be able to get to the grave area.
At some point a Sacramento TV crew had arrived and began filming the proceedings. The whole question had been the subject of a Sacramento editorial and they were there to see how it was all going to play out.
One squeaky clean man stood to point out--several times--that dogs urinate and defecate and that when the cemetery eventually expands to the area which is now occupied by the dog walkers, he wouldn't want to be buried in ground that had been defecated and urinated on by dogs for decades--and he asked if the dog walk area supporters would like to install bidets in their kitchens (the relevance kind of escaped me)
A older woman, whose daughter is buried in the cemetery, struggled to her feet and said, in a voice almost too soft to be heard, that she hated to speak in public, but she then launched into a monologue that would put William Shatner to shame for its dramatic presentation. Her eyes flashed and her tone and inflection rose and fell as she repeatedly berated the board for allowing this desecration of the cemetery to continue (remember that dogs are not permitted ON cemetery grounds!).
One of the neighbors of the cemetery stood and stated that prior to the opening of the dog park, there had been problems with vagrants settling on the land and that one homeowner's home had been burgled, but that with dogs coming and going throughout the day, there had not been any problem like that in a long time. He spoke in favor of keeping the park.
Finally it was my turn and I stood up to pretty much say what I'd said in my letter to the editor. I sat down quickly. Ellen said I had done fine.
The angry woman repeatedly raised her hand to make rebuttal statements to new speakers, and was ignored by the board president, who said that everyone only got one chance.
As Ellen had her say, she was filmed by the TV crew. She laughed later, saying that she was usually filmed talking about gay rights issues and this was the first time she'd been filmed while discussing something like a dog park.
The board members started to give their, quite unbiased and fair statements while the angry woman continued to hold her dead son's driver's license aloft and scowl even deeper, if possible.
We weren't able to stay until the end of the meeting because Ellen had an event she had to get to, so I don't know what recommendations were finally made, but as we left, Ellen laughed, "Davis, where no issue is too small for public debate."
At least I did make my voice heard, amazingly. I've now become part of Davis politics. Whoda thunk?
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