A short story about unstoppable dogs and stopped heels.
An example of the German need of regulation.
I am standing in a small abandoned place. It’s a cloudy day. The air smells grey. Ein Spielplatz, playground. Some trees, a little bit of lawn to my right, two football gates and a sandbox. Surrounded by the grey rear walls, of four-story houses from the Sixties. A playground, with nothing to play on, beside some swings that should be there, but are gone. Only the scaffolding is left.
Five boys are hiding behind the trees, smoking cigarettes. Garbage everywhere. A wild, abandoned place. I stick my feet deeper into the sand and wonder if it ever gets renewed. If any child every plays in it, builds castles.
Part 1: The Unstoppable Dog.
I am here to meet Mrs. Telschow-Böcker and her dog Jana. It was yesterday when she called me, screaming into the phone: "You won’t believe it! You have to see it. It’s crazy! Madness!?"
I listened to her story. I heard her taking drags of her cigarette while she spoke. One after the other. Saturday afternoon, some drops of rain. I turn around. She is coming in my direction, taking enormous steps, her big dog, with a long black fur, to her right.
The kind of fur that obscures the eyes. "See! Jana walked right over it! I told you!" She laughs, throwing her head back. I shake her hand.
Jana, the dog, had just walked over the fence. The fence that was put into the ground, by order of the town’s administration. Or more precise, by the Grünflächenamt, to keep her out! The fence’s spikes are sharp. They are supposed to hurt a dog’s feet.
That is part of Mr. Hinzmann’s plan. "We need to keep the playgrounds clean. No more dog shit in sandboxes!" The voice of Mr. Hinzmann, head of the Grünflächenamt, is quiet and certain. "These anti-dog fences are the most efficient way of keeping them out."
Part 2: Efficiency in Perfection: Anti-Dog Fences
Two meters long, and placed at the entrance of all three paths that lead into the playground, are now anti-dog fences. "Look how ugly!" Mrs. Telschow-Böcker says while lighting a cigarette, her dog’s line around her neck. A sporty looking woman with smiling eyes, in sneakers and jeans. I agree, they look ugly. For sure the anti-dog fences do not help brighten the atmosphere of this deserted playground.
Mrs. Telschow-Böcker is part of an initiative called "Bürger mit Hund", citizens with dogs. "We are fighting against the anti-dog fences. They are a discrimination, and they don’t even work. We are outraged the town can spend money on things that are of no use."
Four other members of the initiative suddenly join us. Mrs. Telschow-Böcker didn’t tell me she’d invited them. I am surrounded by "Bürger mit Hund", no escape possible. An old man, a couple and another woman. They all talk at once. My voice stays unheard. I shut up and listen. "Look at all this garbage!" "Here’s a CD Rom for you with pictures taken before and after the fences, and during construction." "We made a survey, 45 out of 49 dogs walked straight over it!" "Idiots. And whose money do they spend: Mine! Ours!" There is chaos in my head.
Part 3: How to Stop Women in High Heels
The playground at Schmechtingstraße is not the only playground where the Grünflächenamt of Bochum has put anti-dog fences. A total of five playgrounds have been updated so far, and more are planned. 12.000 Euros were spent installing anti-dog fences at Schmechtingsstraße. I wonder why there is money to spend on useless fences, but not on the renewal of the playground. Mr. Hinzman? "Well, I see that differently. The playground is of perfect use and needs protection." Mr. Hinzmann has no doubts about his decision. "Our kids need to be protected."
The anti-dog fences may not be effective on dogs, but they do stop others. Old people with walking sticks get stuck, as do wheelchairs and bikes. The same for woman wearing high heels. The Grünflächenamt is aware of this danger. Signs in front of the anti-dog fences warn unknowing passers-by: "Warning. Playground. Anti-Dog fences installed. Persons wearing high heels are advised to walk cautiously. Bikers are advised to descend from their bikes. Walkers with dogs are asked not to enter. Thank you. Town Administration."
Part 4: Neonazis and the Devil
"This place was once a meeting place for all. But now nobody comes here any more. So some Neonazis have started to meet here. They drink beer and shout." The citizens with dogs are angry. "And this other weird group. The one whose members dress like the devil. With black robes, white masks and swords."
A meeting place for all. It sounds pathetic to me.
I ask: "How much time do you spend on your fight against the dog-stoppers?" "20 hours a week" The answer comes quickly. "It is a life task." "But why precisely do you fight?" I sense irritation. We stare at each other. Then comes the reply. "We want our quality of life back!"