Patrick Murphy

I have had three dogs in my life and look forward to the time I no longer travel so much and can have another.

We had our first dog when I was three. She was a Weimaraner named Mitzi.  I don't have any pictures.

Our next dog was a standard French poodle named Jacque - Very Smart dog, used to sleep under my baby brothers crib and growl no matter who came in the room until he was sure who it was.

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Poco was my third dog and he was an American mongrel and maybe a golden retriever/German shepard mix.  He entered the national Frisbee competition when it came to Boulder, and probably would have won but I didn't follow the rules.  I took second in accuracy and third in throw-run-and-catch.

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The reason why I bothered to include this page is that I am often called a dog-hater - I am not a dog hater, I am a dog lover.  One of the letters from Mr. Russ Holcomb is presented below and he feels I am poop-obsessed.  Sometimes focus and commitment can be called obsession.  A letter of support from Lee Klinger, and my Guest Commentary response to Mr. Holcomb's letter (submitted to the Boulder Camera), can be found below.  I respect the Camera's desire not to print it because they feel that response to personal attacks is not the function of the Guest Commentary section. I have no problem with that point-of-view. Onward.  I will eventually rewrite the letter and resubmit it.   If you support me or not, please write to the Boulder Daily Camera, and voice your opinion.  Remember, the real issue is learning to be aware of, and dealing with, negative impacts of dogs.

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Patrick Murphy

April 22, 2001

Mr. Russ Holcomb recently indicated that I was poop-obsessed (Open Forum, April 22). He seems to have lost his tolerance of focus and facts, and dwells in a defensive prison. I will provide an apology to him, and others who still think as he does, based on the first definition of apology as a "formal defense". Perhaps my defense will open the gates to his prison. Remember, the real issue is learning to be aware of, and dealing with, negative impacts of dogs. Denial is one hurdle that must be overcome. I am just a messenger.

My goal is to affect Mr. Holcomb's, and others, behavior when it comes to dog guardian responsibilities. I have pursued this after observing and documenting the negative impacts of dogs on Open Space and City Space. I am a plant ecologist, I have lived in Boulder for 32 years, and I have had three dogs in my life. I don't hate dogs, I love dogs. Although I have repeated this many times in the past, this issue will run through many cycles of resistance, awareness, reevaluation, and I am confident, ultimate change for the better. As Clay Evans has so personally demonstrated in his article "The Courage to Criticize" (Camera, March 18) direct confrontation sometimes hurts the one who is confronted with their bad behavior, and in his words, "...thank God".

Dog excrement is not my obsession. It is however a direct, real, quantifiable, and most importantly, a symbolic representation of human ability to use the dog as an excuse for bad behavior. I have observed that the dog is often used as a symbol of "niceness" that has also become a huge commercial icon. The possession of a dog sometimes seems to suspend the rules of common sense and common courtesy. Is it OK to have a dog jump on someone who is not comfortable or allergic to dogs? Of course not, but this happens on Open Space trails. Is it OK to leave dog excrement behind or allow dogs off-leash in the city? Of course not, but this happens. These kinds of behaviors occurring under the pretext of, "they are OK because no harm is done, and I have a dog and therefore I am nice", create a community that is not really "tolerant of others" but rather demands that others "tolerate me and my bad behavior".

The domesticated dog has been with mankind for a long time. The dog has been, and currently is, used as a way to defend against and harvest nature, and as a companion. Just like the humans with whom the dog has coevolved, they have made a split with wild nature, and now are teammates in the domination of nature. We as humans, and as humans who own dogs, must be aware of our impacts, not deny or marginalize them. The negative impacts of dogs are real. Many dog owners are fully aware of this and actually (versus sort-of and sometimes) take responsibility to minimize the impacts. Thanks to you, and may the irresponsible dog owners learn to be just like you. In the mean time, if I meet a dog owner who is breaking the law I will talk with them, and report them, and perhaps meet them in Court. I hope they will learn to tolerate me and others like me. I am focused, I use facts, I am persistent, I am human, and I am tolerant. Tolerance is so important and complicated. On the other hand the rules and laws are quite simple. Do not allow your dog to jump on or bother others, pick up the dog poop - immediately and always, and notice if dogs are damaging the vegetation on trails and creeks.

I used to work at a summer camp and outdoor education center that has as its motto - Love and Awareness. This motto acknowledges that there really isn't any love without awareness. If you love others, be aware of the impacts of your dog on others. If you love nature, be aware of the impacts of your dog on nature. If you love your dog, be aware that they can not know their impacts. If you love yourself, be aware that your life will be better if you act responsibly.

I end with a quote that addresses Mr. Holcomb's point that this issue is trivial and "dust in the wind". This issue is not only linked to environmental issues, but social issues of behavior and responsibility. As the poet, Francis Thompson, expresses it in "The Mistress of Vision"-

All things by immortal power,
Near or far,
To each other linkèd are,
That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star

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  Definition of Ecotone - a transition zone between two ecological communities usually exhibiting competition between organisms common to both.  In terms of biological communities, these "in between" areas are typically the most productive and diverse zones on the landscape.