Your Dog Is Not Your Child

The ongoing war between dog owners and kid owners is being raged anew in West Hollywood, where pissed pet parents are insisting that their furbabies deserve more space than human children in a brand new luxury park. They even have the mayor's support.

To be clear: This isn't a rant against people with dogs, or for people with kids, or vice versa. Nor is it an attempt to prove that one endeavor matters "more." It's a plea to get you to stop comparing the two as if they are in competition for Most Valid Form of Love, or for the same resources. Admit it: This whole thing is really just about park space.

Yes, dogs and children both need sunlight, fresh air, and a place to run around. They both shit in weird places, but kids only do that for a few years, and dogs will do that forever. Also, dogs can eat shit, but children, alas, cannot. As a result, it's in the best interest of most people, including dog lovers, to limit that shit space to a minimum, or at least to areas where children will not be rolling around. It's not a value judgment. As it stands, that shit- and piss-space is every square inch of unfenced greenery in Los Angeles, including every tiny little square around every single tree in Los Angeles.

In Los Angeles there are many many parks. There are fewer off-leash dog parks. People with dogs are always complaining about not just the lack of dog parks (which I get), but also the quality of the existing ones. Why is the people-park better than the dog-park? they ask, often when the people park has grass and the dog park has only dirt. The answer is simple, and it's the same reason the cars, food, houses, and general life amenities are better. Dogs so far have not really expressed aesthetic preferences for grass over dirt, for Hemingway over Faulkner, for wine over beer, for cashmere over polyester. It's the dog owners who care about this stuff. Also: Because the dogs are going to piss and shit everywhere.

This issue is not about dogs vs kids. That is a straw dog! Dogs and kids, though different, can live in harmony! It is about adult dog owners who want more stuff for their dogs and feel they can't get it unless they insist the relationship is just like parenting a human. Dogs and kids are not the same thing! You don't have to do that! So why must dog owners INSIST that it is the same thing? Duh: park space.

Case in point: West Hollywood, where we learn from the LA Times that excitement over the most badass new public park you have probably ever even imagined is being marred by dismay that there are three parks for kids and zero parks for dogs. To wit:

The city of West Hollywood has spared no expense in a lavish makeover of its central park. First came a chic library and rooftop tennis courts, to the tune of $61 million. Just approved is an additional $86 million in amenities, including two rooftop swimming pools, a $3-million "grand staircase" and a landscaped rooftop "respite deck."

West Hollywood Park, officials say, will be an urban oasis the likes of which has never been seen. So why does the city's mayor object to the new plans so much that he wants to see them revised?

The answer: too much room for children and not enough for dogs.

Get this: No one is saying there is too much room for a grand staircase, two rooftop pools, tennis courts, or a library. It's the kids getting in the way here. The fucking kids! Straw dog!

Why should a city famous for its fairness have a showplace park with three children's play areas but nowhere for its dogs to run free? Mayor John D'Amico calls it a "sort of institutional fetishization of kids."

Great question but sorry WTF institutional whudja-ma-whatta of whudja-what? What could that possibly mean? That we treat kids as some kind of precious commodity that should be spoiled and catered to when there is something more important we should be doing that for, like dogs? Um are we talking about the same West Hollywood?

And this is in a city that loves its dogs enough to officially designate the humans who live with them as "guardians," not owners. (The mayor is the guardian of two rescues, Cody and Dodger.)

Dogs roam freely at outdoor cafe patios and sometimes attend City Council meetings. The city's tourism agency boasts pet-friendly shopping and dining as well as a canine country club that allows "LA's most powerful dogs" to enjoy workouts and Jacuzzi soaks. Fido can then get a bite to eat at JustFoodForDogs, a gourmet dog food kitchen where the chef cooks up options like beef liver sprinkles and frozen "pupsicle" treats.

I've never even heard of a gourmet kid food kitchen. Children are not welcome at bars or City Council meetings! But the author of the piece says there are "probably more dogs than kids," saying that for the 34,000 residents in the city, there are 1,100 kids under 14, and 1,000 licensed dogs.

For the record: I have nothing against dogs and agree they should have more dog parks, especially in this plan because there is clearly more than enough money and room. Also, West Hollywood is a beautiful city. But the pitting of dogs against kids is fallacious: those kids gobbling up all the park space ostensibly have owner-guardians, too, called adults. Adults who also live in West Hollywood?

Nearby, Angela Solorzano, a nanny from Echo Park, was watching two West Hollywood children as they ran around the park's existing playground.

The area, she said, doesn't have enough playgrounds for children, and they should not be the underdogs in this fight.

"We don't have many parks around here," Solorzano said. "There are people who don't live here who will drive to this park because it's a safe neighborhood."

D'Amico said that's part of the problem.

"I've spoken to many, many people who come [to the park] with children, and they're typically nannies from nowhere nearby," he said.

Are there 1,100 kids in the city or not? Straw nanny!

In seriousness: From the plans I can't tell what kind of kid park it really is, and this matters: There are parks with kid areas. There are enclosed parks which consist ONLY of kid play space (some versions of both have no dogs allowed signs). Some also state that no adults without kids should be hanging around either.

But people totally ignore those posted signs constantly. Dog owners are like IDGAF, me and my dog are gettin' some of this. Says the LA Times piece:

In West Hollywood Park last week, Bridget Klotz and girlfriend Jenna Mormelo lay on towels on the grass. Ignoring park rules, they allowed their five Yorkshire terrier-mix dogs — Bodhi, Ella, Zoe, Chet and Sunny — to play off their leashes nearby.

But Klotz complained, "The kids kind of rule the park." It's tricky to let the dogs off leash with them around, she said. "The weekends are really hard."

This is a public safety issue for kids and also dogs. We keep dogs and kids apart in these spaces often because dogs and because kids. Also: Shit. Most people don't want to sit on, around, or eat shit and/or piss. LA Times:

But there are few other options, said the women, who bring their dogs several times a week.

"They're our kids," Mormelo said. "I think a lot of people who have dogs feel that way."

1. If dogs and kids really were the same thing, we could share all the parks and wallow in our dog's and kid's shit and piss together, right?

2. I don't think the lack of dog parks is due to a misunderstanding that people don't love their dogs enough. I doubt city planners are like, if only we knew how much people love their dogs…

Also, how come no one ever says about their kids, "They're our dogs." If the experience were truly equal, shouldn't you be able to? As it stands, though, that would be grounds for a CPS investigation. So how about we just agree that both experiences are valid, important, intense, demanding, and worthy, and…say it with me…different.

Alternately, we could have kids and dogs fight this out, Kiddie Hunger Games style. Whoever wins gets all the park space.

Your Dog Is Not Your Child

Image by Jim Cooke