Unleashed in Georgetown
Aside from speeding tickets, my record with the law is pretty clean. So when a US Park Police officer threatened to arrest me, telling me I was violating federal law, I was in shock.
My crime? Having Angus off the leash in Montrose Park.
Angus and I were the only ones in the park one recent morning. Sitting at a picnic table, I chatted on my cell phone and sipped a latte from Starbucks while Angus gnawed on a stick three feet away. We were waiting for Tank, Angus’s buddy, to arrive for a morning romp. That’s when I looked up and saw a police officer walking across the field. I quickly leashed the dog, spilling some of my coffee in the scramble.
As dog owners in Montrose, we all let our pets run freely. The dogs of Montrose are, on the whole, friendlier than most. Maybe I’m biased, but it’s a peaceable kingdom up there. Kids play on one side, dogs on the other. Technically, dogs are supposed to stay leashed. I know, I know. It’s the law. But in the 15 years I’ve been using that park with both dogs and children, dogs have had free reign. And pet owners, for the most part, are responsible about cleaning up after them. There are even plastic bags at both entrances to the park for owners to use. Most of the time, the park police stride by with a wink and a warning.
Of course, one is always supposed to respect police officers. They are carrying guns, after all. And they risk their lives to protect citizens. But this particular officer and I did not get off to a good start. I couldn’t understand why, with everything happening in the world, he would care that my docile lab was unleashed--especially when there were no other dogs--or humans--in sight.
I guess what took me off guard was his first question: “Can I see your license?”
My license? Was this a moving violation?
So I asked, “Why do you need to see my license?”
“Are you arguing with me?”
“No, I just don’t see why you need to see my license.”
“Ma'am, I could arrest you if you give me false information.”
I handed him my license, flipping my wrist as if dealing cards. I may have even rolled my eyes. (Helpful, I know.) Staring at it, he asked, “What’s your name?”
“What’s your name?” I asked. (You can see how this is going.)
He didn’t give me his name, but continued peppering me with questions. What was my address, social security number, eye color, place of birth?
Did he think I was operating a terrorist cell out of Montrose Park?
“You know, I’m not really comfortable giving out my social security number,” I told him. “What if I don’t give it to you?”
He repeated his arrest threat, so I thought it prudent to give him all my pertinent information. After all, if I landed in the slammer, I couldn’t very well pick up my children from school later that day. Sorry girls, Mommy got uppity with the cops and now she’s behind bars. Besides, I wasn’t really mugshot-ready.
Unlike his owner, Angus was on his best behavior, sitting calmly as the officer wrote up the yellow ticket.
“So, is this a serious charge?” I asked.
“Yes, it is. If you don’t pay it, there could be federal warrant for your arrest.”
I’d say that’s pretty serious. Maybe a little more serious than the stain on my shirt from the spilled latte.
In the end, I know the guy was just doing his job. And I’m sure I fit some sort of preppy Georgetowner profile, attired in J. Crew and armed with a cell phone and Starbucks cup. Could I have been a little less obnoxious? Probably. Could he have been a little more understanding? Probably.
Will I keep Angus on a leash in the future? Probably not. But I’ll certainly keep a keen eye out for the cops. After all, I’d rather walk the dog than do a perp walk.