We believe that dogs can rehabilitate and heal
the wounds of isolation suffered by people:
they do profit to the self esteem of their guardians,
and awaken the capacity to enjoy and participate
in those who, in the throes of life’s difficulties,
often feel they cannot bring forth the strength to do so.
A Community Re-defines what “Friends” and “Neighbors” can mean...
Fairfield’s winter season leash-free beach represents an opportunity to escape the claustrophobic corners of our lives—especially during what is often the most confining and inhospitable weather of the entire year—and to leave aside… perhaps even for just for a while… wresting free of the crushing pressures of modern life.
In a world where all too commonly, we view relentless envy and rivalry, distrust and cynicism, upheaval and separation; and ceaseless political turmoil... all as things to merely accept with a dismissive shrug, as though they were designated goals of a society—rather than as unfortunate byproducts of a needlessly competitive economic model—dogs can help break down social barriers.
Naturally social animals, dogs facilitate welcoming interactions among people, as they so actively solicit play and offer greetings.
who never knew
each other before
they met to chat
about their dogs...
who in truth,
We quest the off-leash beach not only to satisfy our individual dogs’ need for intra-species interaction, but to share their boundary-less sociability: to be used as a “pick-me-up” for other dogs (and their guardians) who may be in-need. In this way, we exchange capacity for unprejudiced acceptance and play as a healing tonic of communal kindness for one another to consume freely.
The leash-free beach speaks to the soul of Fairfield as the progressive and welcoming place that it is to live and work. It creates a community center of activity where friends and neighbors gather for and to support one another: friends, who never knew each other before they met to chat about their dogs… “neighbors,” who in truth, don’t live anywhere
near one another.
The off-leash beach is something original and splendid in our midst: a secure place to exercise and socialize our dogs and ourselves, but also a crossing to discover a whole new group of people who may become close friends because they enjoy what each other enjoys: a healthy walk with our families (some of whom have four legs)… in the company of other families. Dogs can rehabilitate and heal the wounds of isolation suffered by people: they do profit to the self esteem of their guardians, and awaken the capacity to enjoy and participate in those who, in the throes of life’s difficulties, often feel they cannot bring forth the strength to do so.
Socialization of the Town
Some assume that an off-leash beach is primarily for the benefit of our much-loved dogs, but experienced Fairfield beach visitors know better.
The off-leash beach offers just as many benefits to humans as they do to dogs: both to dog guardians as well as the wider community. Parks of any type hold an important role in the socialization of a city; off-leash beach areas expand communication channels across its citizenry.
Studies have shown that people often find it easier to talk to each other with dogs as the initial focus, breaching the usual social barriers that typically might make them perceive others as “strangers.” Shirking our well-honed inhibitions, it is likely that we may be more social than society trains us to be, particularly in a competitive, nationally regarded sub-urban environment like Fairfield County.
Dogs act as a social “ice breaker” and help people strike up friendly conversations with our dogs as a neutral topic: quickly pushing aside hesitancy, judgment or skepticism we might often have toward a complete stranger. Off-leash beach users also benefit from the impromptu opportunity to ask questions of other guardians and discuss solutions to problems they might be experiencing with their dogs.
THE OFF-LEASH BEACH CREATES AND SUSTAINS
A SOCIAL HUB
FOR THE COMMUNITY
The off-leash beach creates and sustains a social hub for the community in which people can gather and relate in friendship. These interactions help neighbors to get to know each other and to build a sense of community. It is a place where even those who do not have dogs in their families can delight in the amusing interaction of dogs at play. Is it not often true that, the grimmest day, the most hardened temperament, or the most sullen mood can be vanquished—at least for a while—when forced to compete with the sight of a blitz of dogs romping in joyful abandon, as they themselves satisfy their cravings
for canine play and companionship.
Health Benefits for Dogs and their Guardians:
The urgency for stimulation and challenge
The normal physiological behavior for the canine species— roaming the countryside for
miles per day—
just isn't typically possible
in Fairfield County...
The off-leash beach provides a place for under-exercised dogs and their guardians to workout and socialize safely, preventing them from endangering themselves and others (for example, out of the path of vehicular traffic), and proffers a valuable framework to develop better canine citizens.
Experts agree that dogs need to “run” (simply: run) and recreate with their families in order to expel pent-up energy, and fulfill their urgency for stimulation and challenge. The normal physiological behavior for the canine species— roaming the countryside for miles per day— isn't typically possible in Fairfield County, and substitute behaviors like off-leash romps stimulate their “play” and “seeking” emotions.
Building “Civic Skills”
The well-mannered dog
acquires his behavior through learned interaction with people
and other animals.
Dogs deprived of exercise, stimulus and socialization can become problems for their guardians and the community because they are bored, and may cope through incessant barking, digging holes, destroying property, and constantly escaping.
This materializes quickly for so-called “working” breeds that lack occupying stimulus. Often, they may develop timid or aggressive behaviors and become generally difficult to handle: in extreme circumstances, exasperated guardians surrender these dogs to shelters. There, even further confined (often for weeks or months), the dog may become “reactive” to visitors— and appearing persistently over-excited— doesn't “show well.” This can create an undefeatable cycle and, failing to adapt to the shelter environment and remaining “un-adoptable,” the unfortunate animal may be euthanized.
The well-mannered dog acquires his behavior through learned interaction with people and other animals. Dogs who are accustomed to playing with animals and people other than their guardians are more likely to be well-socialized and react positively toward strangers; and bringing dogs and owners together in neutral territory can be invaluable training to alleviate fear-induced (anxiety)
aggression in dogs.
To learn positive behavior, dogs need to be extracted from the often painful isolation of their backyards into social situations: the setting of the off-leash beach provides this rare and cherished opportunity to become acquainted with the world-at-large, and to build civic skills.
Were our dogs able to speak our own language, they might well tell us that they reach a peace with the world (as we often can) more so at the off-leash beach than any other place. There it is on this planet, that they feel their most robust mentally, their fittest physically, and their most fulfilled spiritually. The psychic benefits are near un-measurable, and simply
cannot be replaced.
Dogs and “Anxiety Aggression”
Veterinarians, animal behaviorists, and knowledgeable dog guardians all recognize that leashed dogs are
more likely to
engage in conflict...
...because a leashed dog often feels vulnerable, since he cannot “flee” a difficult situation. Often referred to (incorrectly) as “dominance aggression” and more commonly, “leash aggression,” the painful emotions of fear and anxiety are at its core, and need to be better understood:
the more accurately used term is:
In truth, far from being safer, leashed dogs may become protective or territorial: confused, without fully-conscious intent. Unable to properly “greet” an approaching dog (in which they normally circle each other, gathering information) leashed dogs may abruptly trigger the “flight or fight”" instinct: the opposite of what
is desired or expected by leashing.
The off-leash beach provides a setting where appropriately older puppies, work week-long shut-ins, and behaviorally challenged dogs can come in direct contact with other dogs and people and learn from immediate experience that continually tests their insecurities as unfounded.
Much like a shy person whose psychiatrist suggests to “take baby steps" into the social world, building social skills incrementally at the off-leash beach can help them to develop confidence, and be less aggressive—or shy—in each future encounter with dogs and other people. These opportunities for socialization and exercise may subsequently reduce the risks of provoked dog aggression on the street, and well-exercised puppies and dogs are less likely to develop a myriad of behavior problems that create a public nuisance.
The mission of the Fairfield fitness council
The off-leash beach becomes society's free clinic, improving the mental heath of dogs and their guardians, whereby guardians leave with an exercised (perhaps exhausted!) dog that is a better neighbor: less agitated, more relaxed and easier to handle; and in general, “nicer” to be around.
A dog given the opportunity to revel in the freedom and sensory stimulation of the leash-free beach is given the chance to express his inner-soul. This, and no other like it, is to fulfill his true nature, vanquish frustration, and find biological peace; which provides a pathway to build channels for intimacy with his guardian, and a sense of comfort within the
Opportunity to fulfill One's true nature, vanquish frustration, and find biological peace
The mission of the Fairfield Fitness Council, “To promote and enhance healthy lifestyles in the areas of nutrition and physical activity,” is well served by the off-leash beach, which provides opportunity for dog guardians to enjoy the outdoors and contributes to the overall physical fitness of people by encouraging them to exercise with their dogs.
Many who speak with us tell that they would naught come outside in winter at all... were it not for their dog’s needs and his affection for the off-leash beach. It presents temporarily injured, elderly or disabled dog guardians unfitted of keeping pace on (leashed) street walking with an accessible area to exercise their companions—who might otherwise go wanting for a workout—while in parallel, offers a place for an older, infirmed or sensory-deprived dog that is not able to cope with pavement or woods a level and safe area to exercise and escape from the grimness of day-to-day isolation at home. For some, perhaps just sitting on a bench and enjoying—albeit wistfully—the “freedom” they may not now actually be able to fully engage, is still rewarding.
Responsible Dog Guardianship
The leash-free beach promotes responsible dog guardianship as an educational opportunity, by minimizing off-leash animals from infringing on the rights of other community residents and beach users such as joggers, small children, and those who may be fearful of dogs. The social aspect of the off-leash beach fosters a self-policing enforcement of the basic rules of dog guardianship such as cleaning up after one’s dog and
controlling its behavior.
Our First Selectman has remarked that all but the sparest minority of dog guardians are conscientious and self-supervising so as to maintain the appealing environment of Fairfield beaches.
Accommodating dogs and their families in a public open space has been shown to lead them to higher levels of compliance with relevant laws, and is an efficient educational venue for educating dog guardians on the importance of this issue to other constituencies in the community-at-large.
Promotion of Public Safety
Forming a "community watch"
On many winter-season days—especially those of inclement weather—dog guardians and their intrepid companions are commonly the sole users of otherwise entirely deserted Fairfield beaches. Were it not for them on these fierce days, Fairfield’s crown jewel goes virtually bare of visitors. Dog guardians and their pets create an atmosphere of safety in our public beaches, and it is fair to conclude that their presence forms a fashion of “Community Watch” that helps to deter crime there and on the surrounding streets.
We hurried to put away the things of hers that were now merely things.
And less than a year later, when I had to cope with my father's passing,
I realized there was something familiar in it...
that I was deeper into the heart of a dark country whose territory was not entirely unknown.
If a person who’s trying to process a beloved parent’s demise is so much raw human meat...
you could say that I'd already been tenderized.
Molly did this for me. She left me this brute knowledge as a kind of parting gift.
Her ashes sit in a wooden box atop the bookshelves by my bed, but this is only totem and fetish,
a shaker flung by a shaman toward the relentless infinity of sky.
The ashes aren’t Molly. Where we go is the one thing we can’t know, but I like to think the spirit moves on.
A new kind of conversation, evokes in it each newly precious day. And memory…
The shrub shakes, as if there’s an isolated earthquake in our garden.
Little clods of earth shoot out from behind it, and I can see a blur of light brown fur beyond the green.
I step out onto the front stoop to get a better look. She’s gotten down to the depths of this hole,
her white chest flecked with the darker dirt, paws a rhythmic blur.
She backs up to assess her work, panting, circles the hole amidst the weeds, and then settles herself into it with unmistakable satisfaction, hind legs tucked beneath her, front legs crossed.
Body in the shade, head in the sun, she turns her face to me, teeth glinting, tongue dripping,
dark eyes serene. She smiles at me, and rests her chin on her paws.
Guarding the gates to heaven.”
—Billy Mernit (In Molly’s Eyes)