Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)
Q: Dog-Gone Frustrated: About twenty years ago, I bought a house and some land a few miles outside a mountain town, with an intent to use it as a vacation home. Over the years, I have bought more land around it for the purpose of conservation. As of a few years ago, we were up to nearly 1000 acres, abutting some national forest and county land. As a project, my kids and I began blazing hiking trails (we are up to about 5 miles) through the land, which would connect to trails in the public land. We then opened the trails to hikers, who could access them from the public land. I had really only one rule and everyone is already breaking it.
The trails are for human hikers. No horses, no wheeled vehicles, and (here’s where the problem is) no dogs. I am an avid hiker, and a dog-phobe. I don’t like having dogs jump all over me when I go on a hiking trail, but I recognize that my dog-phobia puts me in the minority and most public trails allow unleashed dogs. But THESE trails are on MY land, and I’d like them to be free of dogs. People have given me no trouble about the other rules. But the no-dogs rule, not so much. I find people with off-leash dogs out there often and see quite a lot of uncollected dog-poop. When I see people, I politely point out the signs that announce the rule, and while people are usually apologetic, the dogs just keep coming. I’m now inclined to lock the gates back up, put up the no trespassing signs, and give keys to locals I know who like the trails and respect the rules. Can you think of any other way to solve this issue?
A: Opening the trails to the public was a really generous idea. Opening them up to the public along with a rule against a very popular and common use of trails was a way of asking for frustration and signing yourself up for a part-time job as a dog cop. In a perfect world, hikers with dogs would read the signs, turn around and take their pets elsewhere. But remember, this is not a perfect world—it’s a world in which people litter, get into fistfights over wearing masks during a pandemic, walk up to the counter at restaurants and say “Uber Eats” so they can steal people’s orders (seriously, just saw a tweet about this!), and just generally think rules don’t apply to them. Make life easier on yourself by setting your expectations for the public lower—and locking up the trails. If you’d really like to find a way to share your land with a larger group of people, perhaps you could reach out to local hiking clubs or day camps and offer to let them explore for a day—after getting verbal agreement that only two-legged guests are welcome.
Recently I decided to get a job teaching English abroad. I felt fortunate to get hired exactly where I wanted to go and am now happily living in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The problem is my parents. I knew they would be appalled at the idea of their young daughter going to live in the Middle East, even in a relatively safe place like Dubai. So… I may have told them a white lie. It’s catching up to me.