Local government can be frustrating, and few practitioners of the municipal art know that better than Torrance Mayor Katy Geissert.
Normally, Geissert spends hours at council meetings listening to angry residents berating each other about hillside view obstructions, the roar of airplanes or the "Taj Mahal" being built next to someone's basic three-bedroom, three-bath tract home.
Among municipal issues, few are more volatile than those involving dogs, whose masters take to howling at the slightest hint of further regulation of their beloved pets.
But when Dorothy King wrote Torrance City Hall about a canine problem on the beach, Geissert saw a chance to get something accomplished--quickly, cheaply and, most unusually, without raising anyone's hackles.
Torrance resident King and her dog take a daily four-mile stroll along the beach. Afterward, they sit in Miramar Park, overlooking the ocean. The park has a single water fountain.
"People . . . are letting their dogs drink out of this fountain," King complained. "The large dogs jump up as their masters turn on the water for them. Very upsetting to me, and others, if they knew they were drinking after dogs. I myself love my dog . . . but I do not eat or drink after my own dog."
King suggested that the city put in a water fountain at the base of the existing fountain. "Something must be done . . . to keep the city of Torrance clean health-wise," she wrote.
"That sounded reasonable to me," the mayor said. "There are not many opportunities to serve people that don't cost much money. In rather short order, they put in a ground-level basin."
And there, you might think, the tale would end.
Thirsty dogs watered, sensibilities preserved. Problem solved.
But back at the park, beach-goers just did not understand.
King wrote again. "Some people do not use their head. . . . Some people are using the dog fountain to wash their feet, and the sand is stopping up the drain.
"Dog lovers," she added, "are talking about it."
And that is how the city of Torrance came to erect a miniature headstone at its canine watering spot, "Fido Fountain."
Geissert thinks it may be some sort of first.
"I don't know if there is another Fido Fountain around," she said.
The ever-observant King again wrote: "I have seen many people stop, read this sign, walk away with a smile on their face. . . . I am truly grateful."