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Columnist
Some thoughts while wandering Naperville streets
By Joni Hirsch Blackman | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 7/12/2008 12:04 AM

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As I walk around Naperville with our dogs, I often notice things that get me to wondering. Sometimes I can make a few calls and get some answers. Other times, it's not so easy.

These things may seem small and, indeed, depending on your perspective, perhaps they are. But it seems to me many of life's small things make a big difference, day to day.

Recent ponderings focused on two things: why, when our neighborhood had the streets resurfaced and sidewalks repaired, were only some of our sidewalk corners replaced with red, bumpy ramps?

And, why do people leave their dogs chained in their yards?

As far as the sidewalks, I assumed (correctly, as it turned out) they were required under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But what seemed rather stupid was that pretty much every intersection where these new, safer ramps were installed, only some of the four corners were replaced.

So, you could be at an intersection and of the four corners, just one or two or maybe three have the red, bumpy ramps which alert the disabled that a roadway is coming.

Seems rather haphazard, and not so safe for a disabled person using the hit-and-miss system.

Well, there is some logic to the situation, as project manager Sean Marquez of the city's transportation, engineering and development business group explained.

The city is required to install the current standard red, bumpy ramps when a ramp is reconstructed because of cracks or other damage. Because of limited budgets, older subdivisions receive the new ramps as corners are damaged, while new construction consists completely of the new design.

Marquez agreed that having just one or two of the new ramps at an intersection could seem like dubious logic. But the important thing, he said, was that if a particular neighborhood is home to a legally blind resident or a wheelchair-bound resident who uses those areas frequently, they can call the city and request the upgrades to all of the corners.

"We want them to be safe," Marquez said. "If we get specific calls, we will respond to those."

Good to know, and easy enough to accomplish.

Not so easy was my other conundrum. Why, when so many other choices exist, do people repeatedly leave their dogs chained to stakes in their yards?

I can think of several dogs I've watched, heartbroken, as I've walked my neighborhood with my two dogs over the years. When this issue came up recently thanks to protesters who camped out overnight to bring attention to chained dogs, I thought again about the many animals I've seen.

I wish the protesters had educated us on what to do when we see a dog on a chain. Knocking on the door of the house and suggesting other options for the dog - taking them for a walk, getting an invisible fence, building a wooden fence - is unlikely to accomplish much.

It's confusing. Why have a pet if you want nothing to do with it and just leave it outside for hours on end? Unlike many of the posters who commented on the Herald's Web site regarding the story, I don't worry just that the dogs are bored or that they'll get cold (though they can get overheated), but that they will hurt themselves getting tangled in the chains, or that a child will get hurt when approaching an animal perhaps frustrated with the situation.

Mostly, it just makes no sense to me. Don't the owners see the sad and often empty look in the eyes of the dogs left chained like an inanimate object? As I write that, I can see the dog I used to pass regularly in one yard, sad enough that I'd prefer to walk another way rather than looking helplessly at him and subjecting him to seeing my two dogs prancing freely past.

Besides, the temptation to unchain him - admittedly not a great idea - was getting too great.

This subject shouldn't unravel into a case of worrying more about suffering animals versus humans, as some suggested, but just a matter of compassion.

Both of these issues revolve around helping all living things enjoy as much freedom as possible, down to the smallest details that affect their lives.

As the dogs and I navigated through our torn-up neighborhood during the weeks the streets were being reconstructed in a mess of smelly, hot asphalt and impassable routes, each day was a new, difficult journey.

But for us, those barricades were thankfully short-lived. When the streets were complete, the peace each day's walk brings was renewed.

Able or disabled, human or canine, that is not too much to ask.

Joni Hirsch Blackman writes about Naperville some Saturdays in Neighbor. E-mail her at jonihb@aol.com.