The Chinook from hell is blowing across Monte Vista right now, evaporating snow, drying mud and throwing spring in our faces. It might snow tomorrow, but it won’t last. Temps last night were in the 40s — normal for May.
I took the dogs for a walk on the golf course yesterday afternoon so Bear could enjoy the last bits of snow. The course will open as soon as the ground is dry and the snow is gone. As soon as we set foot on the course, the groundskeeper — a nice young guy I like and whom my dogs love — came out of his shed to talk to me, to give me the news that dogs are no longer going to be allowed on the course.
He felt bad about telling me, that was clear, but it was also clear that he’s pretty pissed off at people who walk their dogs and let them poop everywhere. I can’t say Dusty has never pooped on the golf course or that I’ve always picked it up, but it’s rare. Dusty’s preferred locales for pooping are the alley or the street. Bear never has. I know this because she’s always leashed.
“I have to clean up all that poop,” he said, exasperated. “People let their dogs poop on the greens.”
“My dogs don’t poop on the course,” I said, an irrelevant statement. “And, I carry bags.” I reached around to my back pocket for an illustration and remembered I’d used it already. I shrugged. “But that doesn’t matter.”
“You’re not the only one who walks their dogs here.”
“I know. It’s OK. I love this golf course. I love to see people playing here sometimes a whole family, kid in a stroller. There’s a guy who plays with his golden retriever.” Ooops, I think.
“Yeah, that dog doesn’t poop on the course, either. Great dog. I’m sorry,” he said, standing there petting Bear. “I’d like to let you keep walking your dogs here, but if I did, then how could I keep anyone else off?”
“No, it’s OK. I really understand. It’s been great all these years to have this, but it’s a golf course, not a park.”
“The city wants to turn it into a park.”
Ah, finally I get to the bottom of the feud between the golf course and the city. I, personally, think my town needs a real, legit, large park with a trail around it, a long trail, not the silly little walkways that exist on the other park(lets) ALL on HWY 160 and NONE of them fenced. But even I don’t think “my” golf course should be a park. I think “my” golf course should be a golf course. I’m even OK being forbidden to walk my dogs on it. I never thought it would last.
We talk about the animals who regard the golf course as a giant empty field for easy predation. The foxes who live in the wood pile belonging to the man who lives just north of the course and how they kill the hawks while the hawks are busy hunting for worms on the grass. The deer this past fall. The deer, elk, moose, coyotes, raccoons, beavers and, allegedly, a badger. “I don’t mind them,” he said. “They’re supposed to be here.” I realized then that poop was occupying his mind. The course IS full of various kinds of animal poop. What do you do with a golf course that is bordered by the Infinite Wild?
“You can walk your dogs here for the next two weeks,” he said, remorseful, scratching Dusty’s ears. “I’ll just pretend I haven’t talked to you about it. I’m really sorry.”
No one is invisible in Monte Vista. I don’t think we can pull that off. I can hear some of the other people, people I KNOW take their dogs there to poop, say, “I saw that white haired lady with the two big dogs. Why can’t I?” Probably they know my name.
I told him thanks and said it had been great for us during the time we had it and I’d see him next time we had a real snow. He looked sad. “Go ahead today. Have fun with them.” Bear was leaning against him.
The dogs and I had a great walk, Dusty even went two miles without pain. We walked our favorite walk (we don’t even walk ON the course but on the roads laid out for carts) out into the Big Empty. I watched the storm come over the mountains and thought about the four paintings I’ve done of that scene, each one better than the one before.
As we walked, I was thinking of other ways to get out there. That’s why god made maps.
At home I posted what happened on Facebook partly to let people know about the new rule and partly, naturally, to garner sympathy. What happened from that is the opening of a discussion. The young woman who introduced Bear to me is busy organizing pet loving people and rescue organizations in the San Luis Valley. Another friend has forty acres just outside of town. She owns the kennel where Dusty and Bear stay when I leave town. My story put a bug in her ear that maybe she could build a dog park. It could be that this will all lead to the construction of something my town really needs.
Meanwhile, I now have a mountain car and lots of anti-nausea meds for my big white dog.