Next time you take your best canine friend skiing on a public trail, try to observe his behavior from an objective point of view.
When you unload that happy-go-lucky bundle of fur, does he make the rounds of the parking lot clambering over other skiers' equipment, bound up to other dogs for a friendly sniff or offer slobbery kisses to people who happen to be bending over to fasten their skis? And when you are gliding peacefully through the sagebrush, have you ever seen your supposedly domesticated pet's wild instincts kick in because a rabbit or a fox has just crossed the trail?
If your dog is a perfectly well-behaved citizen, we applaud your training skills. But the chances are that your pup, no matter how well meaning, has at one time or another crossed the boundaries of decorum and taxed the good will of other trail users.
The question of whether dogs belong on public trails has become an issue once again, primarily because of the growing popularity of the open space in Round Valley. And the conflict between pro- and anti-dog trail users has been exacerbated by a relative lack of snow that has limited the amount of terrain groomed for hikers and cross country skiers.
For the last several years, the nonprofit that manages the area, Mountain Trails, has eschewed making hard and fast rules, instead encouraging users to self regulate. But because the problem has persisted, this year the group is floating an informal survey about possibly limiting dog use to every other day. Similar rules are in force in Mill Creek Canyon in Salt Lake City and on the Beaver Creek Ski Trail in the Uintas east of Kamas.
As expected, dog owners are resisting the idea. They are understandably concerned about being banned from using the trail with their animals three to four days a week. And anyone who has known the heartbreak of looking into those puppy dog eyes and saying "Stay!" while you head out the door with skis in hand can empathize.
But something's gotta give. The increasing number of dogs has become a hazard to other people and to the wildlife that inhabit the hillsides throughout Round Valley.
Some dog owners have selfishly suggested that those who don't want to ski with dogs should go the White Pine ski track, which requires a paid ticket. That dismisses the fact that those skiers also support the free trail system through their sales and property taxes.
We would suggest that dog owners take some proactive steps before sanctions are forced on them.
In lieu of an every-other-day system, Mountain Trails could designate certain trails especially those that traverse sensitive wildlife habitat as off limits to dogs at all times while leaving other trails open for four-legged as well as two-legged traffic.
It is unfortunate but necessary to take some action before the situation becomes critical. This time, we believe, Fido is going to have to make some concessions.