For the past month, a community that is important to me has been working its way through some changes. New possibilities have been opened up by a small group of people, and the larger group isn’t necessarily happy with the adjustments taking place. Perhaps the larger group would have done things differently, but the small group members are the only ones who were willing to undertake the work.
I’m writing about the dog owners who bring their pets to the Valley Street Dog Park in Portland. We didn’t have dogs back in the days when this community formed on the grounds of the Western Cemetery, although I remember reading about the conflict between the dog owners and the historic preservationists. The effort to find another place for dogs to play off-leash, and for their owners to visit with each other, brought the dog folk even closer together.
But the Valley Street Dog Park, much as I have enjoyed gathering there and watching the dogs play, is kind of a dirty, sandy pit of a place. Volunteers organized a group called POOCH (Portlanders Organizing Off-Leash Canine Habitats) to coordinate with the city on maintaining and improving Valley Street, and later to look for a better place for dogs to exercise.
Now we have a lovely spot off Ocean Avenue; probably the only drawback is that it’s on the old landfill, and you don’t want your dogs to play in the water! But I’ve noticed that the new dog park is pretty empty, while Valley Street remains full. Change is hard. People don’t want to drive to the new location; there’s no running water there yet for the dogs to drink; the trash cans are too far from the fence, so you can’t just toss over the bags when you clean up after your dogs. The bottom line: it’s still too new.
The time will come that the new park feels like someplace we’ve known for a long time, and the friends we made at Valley Street will mix with the new friends we have begun to meet, and both places will be a familiar part of the doggy routine. But we’re not there yet.