Jenny Burman Jenny Burman
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from Echo Park

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Oh, she's friendly!

Talk about the flip side. Last week I wrote about aging hipsters and their elderly pit bulls and how I was amused by the shouted reassurances of “(S)he’s friendly!” as the dogs came creaking my way. This morning, I had the opposite experience. I was walking with my own aging dog companion – Rosie, who is half border collie, half golden retriever – when I saw a young woman on a cell phone: dressed in black for exercise. She was walking a small, taupe-and-white, unleashed pit bull, also young. The dog saw me and bolted silently, creepy in its silence, at top speed straight at me. I froze. The dog’s “guardian” took the trouble to lift the phone from her ear. “Oh, she’s friendly!” she called out. And what if she isn't? The dog's owner is fifty yards back. This time I was not amused.

The woman continued her phone conversation, her dog ran ahead of her -- and me -- and both disappeared from view. I know that pit owners think their dogs are the victims of discrimination, but I have never seen any other kind of dog run at me that way – with such speed and purpose.* I remember feeling badly for a young woman at the Lincoln Park dog park/social scene in Washington, DC. She had her dog on a leash. It was covered in cigarette burns, and its ears were shredded. She said she had rescued it; she kept the dog, who was quiet, on the leash, but people shunned dog and guardian alike. They shouldn't have, because her dog was not charging full speed at anyone, dog or human.

In any case, this morning's dog owner reminded me of a certain "new guard" in Echo Park: young hipsters who barrell down Echo Park's narrow, winding streets in SUVs; in their outsized cars and disregard they are more of a physical threat than almost any of the low riders ever were (or are). One exception: They keep company with a middle-class, middle-aged Latina mom who owns a brand new white Jag. She lives near me, and she tears up the road on our small street, accelerating on a blind curve as though she were on a racetrack. She used to own a white pit bull, who never seemed to have the good fortune of being walked. The dog used to escape (she was quite friendly, and approached people slwoly enough, with her head turned).

In any case, my can't-run-too-fast dog and I continued our walk. We turned a corner in the trail – a little north and west of the giant Peter Shire sculpture on the other side of the canyon, a monument to Grace Simons and Frank Glass -- and I saw a white rabbit, smallish, nibbling on some fresh grass. It was either wandering from its home on Park Drive – the closest houses were probably 150 yards away -- or someone had dumped it. I tried to catch the rabbit while a friend of mine, Kelly Witmer, whom I had just run into, held my dog on a leash. The rabbit got away, after almost letting me nab it. It will be lucky if someone takes it home before the coyotes or owls do.

Farther up the trail – my dog unleashed again – a man and woman passing us said, “Ranger’s coming.” Word went up and down the trail. “Ranger’s coming, ranger’s coming.”** Leashes came out. Free run was over.

*Most pit bull owners leash their dogs on the loop in Elysian Park.
**Tickets for walking a dog unleashed in Elysian Park can be hefty.

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