I can’t remember exactly when I first heard or read the words, but I do remember being surprised. Dog park? What in the world is a dog park, and why would any sane city want one? A park for dogs. Are you kidding?
Well, now I’ve been to a couple, and I’ve chatted with friends who frequent them, so I know a dog park is really for people to keep their sanity as well as exercise pets. As in this dog (these dogs) will drive me crazy unless I can tire (him, her, them) out first. And there are socializing benefits for people and pets.
Fresh faces are interesting to both.
On Monday evening, I visited the sparkling new dog park at Platte Landing Park in Parkville. (The city is aptly named, isn’t it?) This park, dedicated this summer, is north of the older English Landing Park and is in the level terrain of the Missouri River bottoms, not far from the river. Like your basic dog park, it is fenced so Fido can be off leash and running freely. A standard feature is a double gate, so those entering and leaving can do so without their own or other dogs escaping to run even more free outside the fence.
You can’t blame a dog for wanting to stretch its legs, though the dog park is not a cure all for the restless ones.
“A solid hour and he’s still not tired,” a guy said wearily as he led a small dog on its leash out of the enclosure. And as for more exercise later, “I live in a loft.”
Parkville’s dog park is rather S-shaped with big round ovals on the end of the S and entry gates in the middle. Water faucets and permanent drinking pans for dogs are near the gates. Fire hydrants (shaped just like the real ones) are placed at strategic locations.
Every dog park has a box with doo doo bags, and owners fear shame and lightning bolts if they don’t master the inside-out-art of picking up after their pets in the plastic bag.
The city’s park is rather deluxe in that it is divided into two parks — one for small dogs and one for big dogs. Although that infallible source for everything, Wikipedia, notes that there is controversy in the dog owner community about separating big dogs and little dogs. Some owners and experts feel dogs of all sizes should learn to socialize together.
Dogs are pretty much like people, they need to learn to get along, socialize, play and have fun.
I don’t have any expert opinions on big dogs and little dogs sniffing each other and chasing the Frisbee together. I’ve never taken my own dog to a dog park; I’ve only been an observer. But I will say that for a newcomer human, the mix of dogs in all sizes and shapes and temperaments generates careful observation. This is especially true if most of your dog experience, like mine, involves hunting dogs that have been chewed up by other snarling dogs when a fight broke out afield.
Owners police this, said a buddy who lives in a condo in North Kansas City. He used to take his dog for long walks at Macken Park but now relies on a new dog park in that town. He speaks of the dog park with great fondness. A generation that once begged to go to the park with teeter totters and merry-go-rounds now speaks dreamily about the dog park.
Recently, I was with a friend at a dog park in Liberty when a beast of a dog arrived and was turned loose amid the pack. The dog was shaped just like a wolf but bigger — huge actually. Soon the small dogs were chasing him about.
I don’t know how dogs know, but somehow, they trusted him.
Of course, most people in the dog park, unlike me, are frequent visitors. They know one another and each other’s dogs.
“What’s this dog’s name? Is this Maggie?” a gentleman asked a lady on Monday at Parkville.
The dogs socialize but so do the people. Dog parks are a major factor in social life. On Monday, a young woman led her big white dog on a leash from the park and her boyfriend followed. The places a guy will go to please a woman.
A guy at the Liberty dog park waited for his Rover to tire.
“It’s my son’s dog,” he said. “But now he’s dating and busy. So somehow it’s me and the dog out here every night — and every morning.”
There was a time when a chamber of commerce would promote good schools, day care services and parks as the key reasons to locate in a community. Now, dog parks are added to the list and may be rising in importance.
Parkville offers a leashed walk by the river on a trail for master and pet, then the option of no leash inside the dog park fences. One grateful owner summed it up as he led a pet to his car.
“Freedom is the thing for him,” he said.
That people feel more free, too, is likely why a dog park will be coming to your neighborhood soon.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area with his family, may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.