Dogs ruling the roost?By
There has been so much madness-by-the-metric-ton here lately that it might have been easy to miss a small but perfectly formed fragment of recent craziness.
The stories in the Gazzettino kept the city apprised, moment by moment (translated by me):
STOP THE CHILDREN’S BIRTHDAY PARTIES AT THE PARCO GROGGIA THEY DISTURB THE DOGS
Not made up, I’m sorry to say.
There is a large, luxuriously verdant park in the farther reaches of Cannaregio known as the Parco of the Villa Groggia. It is understandably a favorite place for families, children, and the occasional canine to frolic and gambol. You might have thought that this would be the Venetian version of the Peaceable Kingdom, missing only a chorus of singing begonias, but you would have thought wrong.
I have expounded elsewhere on the passion of Venetians for their dogs. But there is a subtle line that divides passion from obsession and some people have clearly crossed it.
Many dog owners — which is not a correct term, because it’s obvious that many dogs own the people — firmly believe that their pets were born with certain inalienable rights, including running around off the leash and often doing more tangible and disagreeable things. But apart from the repulsive and unhealthy reminders of this fabulous freedom, there is also the potential for an uncontrolled dog to harm a child. This may seem obvious to you and me, but not to a dog’s bipedal slave. The kind of person who refers to herself as the dog’s “mamma.” I heard it just this morning. I don’t know how men of this mentality — and there must be some — characterize themselves. Maybe they call themselves “Uncle” or “Cousin.”
This conflict at the Parco Groggia started a while back, when a balloon, pursued by a tyke, popped, thereby “terrorizing” a certain lady’s little dog. “From that moment,” said Tiffi, a mother of three who has a dog, too, “everything the kids do is under attack.”
The dog slaves — or at least this one belligerent lady — have made many complaints about the children to Franca Caltarossa, the director of the local playroom called the “Grasshopper and the Ant.” They want the children to play inside, preferably (I’m imagining this) in the dark, in the cold, with the windows shut and sealed by duct tape.
NOW THERE IS A PETITION FOR THE VILLA GROGGIA
Citizens and mothers, to the number of 120, signed a petition protesting the requested ban on alfresco birthday parties. It’s not easy to find nice green open public space here, for one thing. For another, Franca Caltarossa revealed that this is only the latest in a series of disagreements with certain neighbors. “This isn’t the first time that we’ve had problems with the dog owners. We’ve had to call the police more than once because they let their dogs run free, endangering the children.”
While the dog-slaves are fixated on how disturbing children can be, they evince no awareness of how phenomenally disturbing their dogs can be to most of the rest of us, even if we love dogs, on the whole. They bark, they shriek, they scuffle, while their human lackeys either ignore or abet them by smiling. It would take Nanny McPhee with a blunderbuss to re-educate them to the notion of living civilly with other people.
Speaking of armaments and their usefulness in re-educating the neighbors, just the other day an unidentified man living at Stra, up the Brenta River toward Padova, decided to handle things his own way.
The headline yesterday was: “Stabs to death the dog that attacked his.” Two mutts leaped on his Springer spaniel and he couldn’t get them to stop, so he pulled out a knife and stabbed both of the dogs, killing one. The carabinieri arrived before he could play an encore on the enraged owner of the two dogs. He has been cited for illegally carrying a dangerous weapon and for killing an animal, while the owner of the victims was charged with not controlling his dogs.
But of course, things would never reach that point in the Parco Groggia, especially if we were to herd the little kiddies into a cellar and push a big stone on top of the door.
Is there a special circle in hell for the Grinch, Ebenezer Scrooge, Silas Marner, Captain Ahab, Edward Murdstone, and their ilk? There must be plenty of room left for the dog-owners of Cannaregio. Or rather, “owner.” A statement from the Comune referred to “complaints from a user of the park.” It doesn’t take many to get the wild rumpus started and evidently this person is already well-known for his or her grievances.
The first official voice of reason was heard from Erminio Viero, president of the municipality. “The park of Villa Groggia is for everybody,” he said. “The park is under our responsibility and there is no preclusion of children. Dogs can circulate only on the walkways and on the leash.” This must be the first time many of the dog-people have ever heard of these rules and I’m sure they think it’s a fable.
“THE ALARM” WITHDRAWN FOR THE PARTIES AT THE VILLA GROGGIA
The city’s statement on all this is: “There has never been a prohibition (against children in the park). Children’s parties will continue to be organized by “The Grasshopper and the Ant” utilizing the park of Villa Groggia, just as it has been established by the City Council deliberation of October 2, 2003 which is still in effect, which permits and regulates the parties, even for birthdays, of the city’s playrooms (“ludoteca“).
That’s pretty clear, but Mr. Viero couldn’t resist chiming in, with all the ardor of a Russian provincial functionary in a story by Chekhov: He denied “in the most absolute manner that there is any provision whatever put out by the municipality with the purpose of prohibiting or limiting the children’s parties at Villa Groggia, parties which the municipality is more than happy to host in its territory. Common sense and the most elementary civic manners suggest to the owners of dogs to always keep them on a leash.” (For those dog owners who may lack common sense and the most elementary civic manners, there is also a city ordinance — see above.)
The last word goes to Tiziana Agostini, city councilor for education: “If there is a happy place for children , it’s Venice, and in Venice, it’s the Parco Groggia.”