Opinion: The Real Problem At A Beltway Dog Park? Hint: It's Not The Dogs

Aug 31, 2019

There are signs hanging up in Chevy Chase Village, Md., an upscale suburb inside that circle of highway around metro Washington, D.C., called the Beltway, that may help us see what so much of America distrusts about Beltway insiders.

The signs say, "NO EXCESSIVE BARKING."

That might be wise advice for some of the lawyers, lobbyists and influencers who live in those posh precincts. But the signs are displayed in a Chevy Chase Village dog park.

Even Chevy Chase dogs who've been to the best obedience schools probably can't actually read signs that admonish, "NO EXCESSIVE BARKING."

A Washington Post story, admirably reported by Jessica Contrera, detailed this week how local police have gotten calls from neighbors who grumble that dogs are barking ... in the dog park! The nerve of those dogs ... to act like dogs!

People in Chevy Chase Village think big. They need contemplative quiet.
The Chevy Chase Village Board of Managers held public hearings this summer. Several residents complained that many of the cars they've spied, parking at the dog park, so dogs could leap out, frolic, sniff, scratch and, yes, bark, had District of Columbia license plates. Reverse commuters! Oooh, D.C. urban types. City folk. You know, with their loud, yapping dogs.

Elissa Leonard, chair of the Village board, who happens, by the way, to be married to Jerome Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, reminded her neighbors that a public dog park can't be run like a private club.

But all mention of the dog park was struck from the village website, which makes it harder for outsiders to find. The board hired a trained epidemiologist to track down how many "outsiders" "park and bark" at the dog park. She found that it was perhaps only seven of the 54 dogs and their owners that she observed, and just one had relieved themselves outside the bounds of the park. One dog, presumably.

The story of the sign in the Chevy Chase Village dog park may remind us why so many Americans of different views can share a disdain for Beltway insiders.

They think of Beltway burghers as people who say something sounds like a great idea — as long as you keep it out of their backyard. They fear "outsiders," who cross borders. And Beltway denizens don't see the absurdity in legal commandments that may sound appealing, like "NO EXCESSIVE BARKING," but are as impossible to enforce as telling a dog not to bark.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

There are signs hanging up in Chevy Chase Village, Md., an upscale suburb inside that circle of highway around metro Washington, D.C., called the Beltway that may help us see what so much of America distrusts about Beltway insiders. The signs say, no excessive barking. That might be wise advice for some of the lawyers, lobbyists and influencers who live in those posh precincts, but the signs are displayed in a Chevy Chase Village dog park. Even Chevy Chase dogs who've been to the best obedience schools probably can't actually read signs that admonish no excessive barking.

A Washington Post story admirably reported by Jessica Contrera detailed this week how local police have gotten calls from neighbors who grumble that dogs are barking in the dog park - the nerve of those dogs to act like dogs. People in Chevy Chase Village think big, after all. They need contemplative quiet. The Chevy Chase Village Board of Managers held public hearings this summer. Several residents complained that many of the cars they've spied parking at the dog park so dogs could leap out, frolic, sniff, scratch and, yes, bark had District of Columbia license plates - reverse commuters, ooh, D.C. urban types, city folk, you know, with their loud, yapping dogs.

Elissa Leonard, chair of the Village board - who happens, by the way, to be married to Jerome Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve - reminded her neighbors that a public dog park can't be run like a private club. But all mention of the dog park was struck from the Village website, which makes it harder for outsiders to find. The board hired a trained epidemiologist to track down how many outsiders park and bark at the dog park. She found that it was perhaps only seven of the 54 dogs and their owners that she observed, and just one had relieved themselves outside the bounds of the park - one dog, presumably.

The story of the sign and the Chevy Chase Village dog park may remind us why so many Americans of different views can share a disdain for Beltway insiders. They think of Beltway burghers as people who say something sounds like a great idea, as long as you keep it out of their backyard. They fear outsiders who cross borders. And Beltway denizens don't see the absurdity in legal commandments that may sound appealing, like no excessive barking, but are as impossible to enforce as telling a dog not to bark.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MORE BOYS I MEET")

CARRIE UNDERWOOD: (Singing) I close my eyes, and I kiss that frog, each time finding the more boys I meet, the more I love my dog. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.