Who wouldn't be horrified by a dog attacking a baby seal? Deidre Pike begins and ends her article "Unleashed" with vivid stories of dog mayhem (sandwiching a close-up color shot of dog turds). The article seems meant to stoke the sentiment that dogs should be absent or on-leash everywhere.

Outdoor recreation is regulated by weighing risks and rewards. Every year, people are swept off north coast beaches by sneaker waves, yet we are not about to ban people from beaches but hope they are aware of the risks. Yes, dog misdeeds happen, but in 35 years of beach going I've only witnessed it once, when someone's dog attacked mine. I'd be devastated if my dog maimed a seal pup, but I believe the chances are miniscule. I've never found a baby seal on a beach, maybe because I don't frequent beaches like Indian Beach where seals are concentrated. Like all my past dogs, Lila is not an irrepressible predator. She has a solid heel and can be stopped mid-stride if she starts to chase birds. When I add up the joy of seeing her run full-tilt, chase sticks and charge into the surf, the rewards far outweigh the risks. For Lila and me, being joined by a leash is no fun.

Off-leash places are shrinking. Let's resist that trend by engendering a culture of owner responsibility, intolerance for bad dog behavior, and celebration of the unbridled exuberance of good dogs. Come to McKinleyville's Hiller Park and see off-leash dogs and their owners happily socializing every day. As part of our social capital, it provides a venue for erstwhile strangers to meet and enjoy something together. Sorry, Arcata and Eureka, you have to drive miles for a free-dog romp.

Tom Lisle, McKinleyville

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