Something that has been on my mind for the past few days is the noises that come deep from within Clementine. When we enter into “green spaces” I rile her up and encourage the smokey barks that she possess to flee her mouth. Just the other day during one of our outing’s we were approached by 3 separate people/couplings to “hush”, “keep your dog quiet” and asked to physically move away from a recreational tennis court within the park due to her barks causing a distraction (perhaps their game just wasn’t that strong and they were looking for an excuse).
But the thing is- we were in a public park that welcomes dogs. In fact, the park welcomes all sorts of folks, creatures and has the infrastructure to support all sorts of activities including baseball diamonds, tennis courts, water fountains, climbers, benches, picnic tables, bathroom facilities and much more. The park is very alive, that is until 11pm when the park “closes” and the park police drive around ‘clearing’ out the looming delinquents.
This brings me back to think about Jane Jacob’s tale of the “intricate side walk ballet” in The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961). Jacob’s focus was to talk about the vibrancy and liveliness of urban cities before the modernization and building up that was in the process in the 1960’s. This process removed fundamental principles of city living, from the favours you could ask of shop owners to the very sounds you would encounter. During this time there was also a need for urban planners to keep up with the encroaching industrial noises especially in prime green spaces. For example, installing grand water foundations in parks significantly masked the sounds of street cars and construction to create an escapist illusion.
The concern at the time was to provide some sort of sonic insulation to preserve the park’s natural soundscape. However, this can also be ‘infringed’ on from within, by unsavoury dog noises, soap box activists, musicians, and other noises generated from park activities. All of these acceptance levels depend on tolerance of an individual and are sutured with very ambiguous by-laws. I searched around a few to pull some examples up of what cities do pertaining public generated animal noises, specifically of the dog-kind.
You have a right to alert and make a complaint to the ‘authorities’:
>Saint Johns: after 20 minutes of continuous barking
>Brampton, Ontario: after 10 days of consecutive barking noticed
>Toronto: no excessive barking, but tolerance based
There are these mitigations such as these listed above in place to maintain a serene park free of excessive, ‘physiologically distorting (dramatic, yes but do recall the usage of animal distress cries during the Waco siege, or Manual Noriego in Panama)’ barking noises, that are informed by a by-law officer first-hand witnessing it, or a citizen filing a compliant and following through with it. Very rarely is all the information collected in order to put forward these by-laws, but they exist, carrying heafty fines and court orders to silence your dog. A crafty term I stumbled upon is “hu/dog” to capture the embodiment of the human-dog relationship. This term captures the tri-governing forces: to govern the ‘owner’; to govern the ‘dog’; and to govern collectively, the hu/dog (Instone & Sweeney 2014).
The Animal Industrial Complex found themselves taking advantage of this discernment towards dog barking by founding and introducing dog-silencing devices into the mainstream doggie culture. On the shelves you will find e-collars, citronella collars, ultra-sonic/vibrating collars, or on a larger scale high-frequency devices that produce noises lost on human ears but climb to such high frequencies, any dog will stop once the piercing noise is administered throughout the soundscape. The mechanisms governing it are that if a ‘bark’ is detected within the 75 foot radius, a high frequency zap will resonate over 300 feet. This can be quite the dangerous tool, especially in a dog/park as it could pick up a bark 75 feet away, yet impact the dogs in the initial area creating bad associations, and zapping already-compliant dogs. The greatest danger is it disrupts dog communication.
I read on an anti-dog barking opinion blog that wolfs, the ‘original’ dog do not bark excessively, and when they do it is always monosyllabic, and “purposeful”. Following this, it is thus “truth” to state that contemporary dog barking is “not an abomination of nature. it is an abomination of man”. I thought this little piece was quite ridiculous considering the plethura of dog breeds, context-specific reasons for barking, and the failure to acutely acknowledge that the situations we put dogs in today, still having similar olfactory mechanisms as wolves, would require them to be registering all sorts of noises their evolutionary ancestors do not experience.
Taking a few steps back: I want to explore the geographies overarching the lives of dogs. For 14,000 years we have been keeping labouring/companion dogs in our presence resulting in western countries to eagerly opening up their homes to dogs. In the USA alone, 39% of households have dogs (Gauret, Perrin, Bernandin 2014). This is most likely only a guestimation as class/race/geography impact official dog registration. It is reasonable to suppose that most of these dogs find their way into public spaces via walking, escaping, or other means of transportation. Are the sidewalks so quiet now? Take this with the urban planning of keeping green spaces as healthy and aesthetically pleasing poses a conflict. Is it seems impossible to claim we are “envisioning a city as a world of relationships that includes animals” yet has to “make peace with animal hygiene and nuisances” (Gauret, Perrin, Bernandin 2014).
Julia Urbanik and Mary Morgan asks important question’s in A tale of tails: The Place of dog parks in the urban imaginary such as: “how urban areas are trying to address the confounding urban issue of whether a dog is still a dog if it has no place to be a dog”? I think a sufficient window into this question is of permissibility surrounding barking. It is apparent that doggy culture is on the rise, however it seems capitalistic tentacles have had their say. As doggy culture industries pop up, dogs have never been more present but it seems their presence lines the pockets of business owners rather than building new urban cultures that encapsulate and make room for the dogs and all their doggie-ness.
Urbanik ends her article with a dampering tone, asking if not even human’s “best friend” can rightfully wiggle their way in, what hope is their for the rest of the multi-species kingdom.
Gaunet, Pari-Perrin & Bernardin. 2014. “Description of dogs and owners in outdoor built-up areas and their more-than-human issues”. Environmental Management 54(3): 383-401.
Instone, L & J. Sweeney. 2014. “The trouble with dogs: Animaling public space in the Australian City”. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies Vol. 28, Issue 6, p. 774-786.
Urbanik, J & M. Morgan. 2013. “A tale of tails: The place of dog parks in the urban imaginary”. Geoform 44:292-302.