At the end of Hollenbeck Avenue in Great Barrington is the beautiful Lake Mansfield. If you walk to the lake, you will first get to the boat launch. That title may be a bit of a misnomer. While small sailboats and rowboats are allowed in the lake, as are various kinds of canoes and boards, motorized boats aren’t permitted.
Recently, the town replaced the so-called boat launch with a much “improved” cement access to the lake and we are now faced with competition for access to the water itself. Moms and dads often take their toddlers to go wading in there, and fishermen stand on the cement lip and cast their lines into the water. In the past, my dog Murray and his friend Henry loved to play there, wading and swimming in the water. But now they can’t because we all know that toddlers and dogs do not always peacefully coexist. Not only that, fisherpersons can, as our mothers sometimes told us, “take your eye out” with their dangerous hooks. It seems as though every time our town officials find a way to “improve” things, you end up with complications. So what to do?
It is true that the town’s selectboard allows people to have their say at meetings and sometimes people do speak up. On the other hand, it takes a little courage for some people to get up there, not only in front of the inveterate folks who always show up to every meeting, but in front of all the people who are watching on their televisions at home. It isn’t always easy to stand up in front of other people and air your thoughts. Let me be clear: I encourage everyone to take their problems public. So, in the case of a dog owner whose charge can no longer wade and swim in the lake, it might be even better if the dog were allowed to speak up at the meeting.
It might go something like this: “Hi, my name is Henry the Dog and it is a real pleasure for me to bark out my unhappiness at what’s going on at the boat launch. I can no longer be the well-balanced, happy dog that I have always been. Yes, I realize that you have improved the so-called boat launch, but in doing so, you have made it worse for those of us who have always loved that spot. All you have to do to make me happy is tell the mothers and fathers to walk or push their strollers to the beach where all the kids seem so happy. That way, I can play with my dog friends, like Murray the Westie, and my father and mother can throw sticks and balls into the water. I can get my exercise and the proper rewards and encouragement, and the kids can do their thing down at the beach. Don’t you see?”
I can only imagine a senior selectperson turning to Henry and saying, “You are just a dog, so you have no standing to complain. We have even placed dog poop bags at the lake so that you don’t mess up the neighborhood. You complainers are a pain in my butt. You are always thinking of ways to ruin our improvements. I mean, we found the money to fix the landing up and this is what we get in return for our hard work?!”
But Henry, for his part, will shake his head in dismay and suggest that the selectpersons have a little more compassion for our dog community. Henry will suggest that all the dog owners, of which there are hundreds, would make quite a voting block. If Henry gets all the dog owners together, there could be a lot of political barking.