Leashless in Seattle

A dog commutes by bus in Seattle, and I wonder why is that OK?

By Matt Carmichael on January 14, 2015 at 6:50 am CST
Dog rides bus in Seattle

In general, the bus has few fans. It’s typically not a very fast or well-scheduled mode, and riders often have to stand or squish next to other passengers. The bus takes away many of the conveniences of driving but doesn’t replace it with many positives like predictability. It’s cheap, and busses can cover a lot of ground. A recent blog post summed it up nicely: “You’re in a unique position there, on the back of the crowded bus. There are all kinds of stressors and personal schedules and power dynamics that you don’t often come across.”

A new app aims to demonstrate to New Yorkers that adding or substituting some bus time to their existing subway-oriented commutes can actually save them time, but data alone might not be enough to sell that premise.

In Seattle, however, this form of transit has gone to the dogs. Literally.

Eclipse, a black Labrador has taken to riding the bus to the dog park – by herself. According to reports from local media outlet KOMO, her owner sometimes takes her to the dog park, but often she just hops the bus and goes. Her owner reports that people often call him to tell him they have his dog, but he tells the concerned citizens that she knows how to get around the city just fine, thanks. No word on whether she pays a fare or is in league with Sweden’s lazy subway-riding pigeons.

This story struck a nerve with me for a number of reasons. One, I don’t really like dogs, and the idea of having one sit next to me on a bus is an unpleasant one. But since everyone else loves dogs, this admission will mean that I start receiving hate mail and pro-dog spam in the comments. My right not to sit next to a dog on the bus is valued less than the dog’s rights to do anything anywhere they please. Awwww... isn’t it cute when she licks the seat. What a good dog.

But the bigger issue is that no one is rushing to give this guy tickets or citations for violating Seattle’s leash laws, which state that “animals may not run loose anywhere in Seattle except for designated off-leash areas.” It’s just a cute story on the news. Because why shouldn’t the dog ride a bus to a designated dog park?

However with our kids, that’s not OK at all. We live in a nation where parents get arrested for letting kids walk to or play in parks by themselves. Somehow, that’s less safe than being in a backyard.

Somehow we’ve gotten it backwards. We’ve designed parks just for dogs and public transit that is easy enough for them to utilize. But we haven’t designed streets that are safe enough – or at least perceived as being safe enough – for our kids to walk on alone. We haven’t created spaces that are safe enough for our kids to utilize with the same impunity that this dog can.

That ain’t right. We can fix it if we want to, and we put the time, planning and resources into it. Shouldn’t we craft places where our kids are as safe and free to move about as our dogs. We've come to a point where we are so afraid for our children and how they might be killed that we've forgotten how to let them live. I'm certainly not the first to point this out, but let's keep adding voices to the cause until kids can go to the park – and maybe even bring their dogs with them.

Reader Comments Use a Facebook account to comment. Subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment.