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Dog Guards

Pets: Rangers keep the peace on weekends at off-leash park, collaring those canines and owners who get out of line.

May 12, 1999|AGNES DIGGS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ENCINO — When Tracy, Lenny, Emily, Bailey and Corn Chip start to rip, run and tumble at the Sepulveda Basin Off-Leash Dog Park, things can quickly get rough, rowdy and loud.

Someone has to referee all the baying, barking and biting, especially on weekends, when each day as many as 400 dogs of all breeds come to play.

The solution: uniformed guards to bring dogs and their owners to heel.

Emmanuel Araneta and Ann Waisgerber, armed with pepper spray, a radio, handcuffs, a baton and a love of dogs, spend the weekend hours between 11:30 a.m. and sunset enforcing park rules.

They are assisted by people like Lynn Stone, president of the park's citizens advisory committee, one of the red-shirted volunteers who help patrol the area. Along with Destiny, her black Welsh corgi mix whom she describes as "29 pounds of gut-crunching muscle," Stone helps keep an eye out for potential trouble.

"Once they start running and playing in a pack, sooner or later there's going to be a fight," she said.

Araneta said a serious problem is owners who unleash dogs outside the park.

"Patrons must have dogs on a leash entering and leaving the park," he said. "They run the risk of dogs being run over in the parking lot."

Recently, the two rangers answered patrons' questions as they patrolled the park, reminding people grooming their pets not to leave dog hair on the ground. Patrons are sometimes gently reminded to use the pooper-scooper supplies provided by the park to tidy up after their pets.

"This is more of a public-relations detail than policing," Waisgerber said.

Araneta patrolled a 1-acre section behind a green chain-link fence reserved, according to the sign, for "Small or Timid Dogs Only." Several owners gathered around a picnic table there while several rodent-sized cuties wrestled and chased around in expensive-looking rhinestone collars.

"That's the Beverly Hills section," one patron said.

Beauty, a black and white papillon with ears flying like flags in a high wind, gamboled with a gang of doggies ranging in size from a loaf of bread to a large handbag, safely out of paw range of larger chows and Rottweilers.

"She's 9 pounds of feisty," said owner Katherine Magwene of Northridge.

Outside the fence, Araneta scrunched the ears of Mary Hellert's 170-pound gray Irish wolfhound, Ivan, who, standing 36 inches at the shoulder, is not yet fully grown.

"He's a big bush," Hellert said as a gape-mouthed crowd gathered.

Aggressive dogs are not allowed. Araneta ordered one owner, whose dog was in the midst of its second set-to with other dogs, to leash the animal and leave.

"No one ever thinks it's their dog's fault," he said.

Owner Phyllis Davis, Robert Urich's co-star in the old TV hit "Vegas," told an admiring crowd that her huge, pale-eyed, long-haired, white canine was half wolf and half Siberian.

Davis, a frequent traveler, said she recently bought "Wolfie" a $4,000 18-foot trailer because motels won't allow him inside.

"Dog owners are very protective of their dogs," Araneta said.

The Nestle Corp. recently donated $5,200 for the weekend ranger patrol.

That makes the off-leash park, the largest of its kind in the country, the only one with a corporate sponsor and the only park built specifically as a doggie playground, Stone said.

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