Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A crucial public service, or a place to lounge? The purpose of a dog park

Reviewing the various aspects of the budget that officials prepared for Illinois state government’s upcoming (beginning July 1) fiscal year, there’s one aspect that has managed to catch my eye – dog parks!
Rocco, Carmelo encounter a friend (left) at the local dog park. Photos by Gregory Tejeda
It seems that Illinois officials thought to include some $400,000 that will be given to officials in Chicago and Aurora to be used to either develop new, or improve existing, facilities where pet owners can legally let loose their animals.

AS IN THOSE areas completely fenced in so that a dog owner can legally bring their precious pet, unhook their leash and let them run about. Working off the frustration of being chained up the rest of the day.

The idea is that it’s pet exercise. They can run. They can play. They can interact with other dogs – although one aspect of every dog park I’ve ever seen is the separate portion maintained for dogs who act up.

Almost like a ‘doggie jail’ for those pets who just can’t “play nice” with each other.

My own experience with dog parks involves the two canines my father and step-mother have. I help out with their walking, and periodically am the one who puts the dogs in the car so we can make a 5-minute drive to their neighborhood dog park.

WHICH I HAVE to admit, it’s like the two dogs (Rocco and Carmelo, a black standard poodle and tan goldendoodle respectively) eagerly anticipate the trip. Getting them to climb in the car is never a hassle. Although sometimes, Carmelo tries to then move to the front driver seat – and oftentimes will have his paws up on the steering wheel as though he’s going to take the automobile out for a spin.
Carmelo (right) encounters a pack at the park
Then, we arrive at the dog park (which is a fenced-in area about the size of two football fields where it is legal to unleash the animals and they’re encouraged to run around to their heart’s delight). It’s like the excitement level boosts the moment the dogs realize exactly where they’re going.

In fact, the real trick is to wrestle with the dogs long enough until we actually get past the locked gates that demark the point at which the municipal “leash” laws no longer apply.

Plus, I always find it intriguing the notion that any dogs who happen to already be in the park come running over to the gate to “check out” the newcomers.

WHICH INVARIABLY CREATES a noisy racket – everybody in sight is barking at each other, and it doesn’t end until the dogs are safely inside and off the leash.

Then, there’s the sight of dogs galore running all about. And sometimes my father’s pooches managing to find another doggie or two whom they feel some special bit of attention for. They make a new “friend,” so to speak. Other times, they “wrestle” with each other.
Carmelo gets playful at the dog park

Personally, I find it enjoyable to know I can let the dog off the leash and they can have some freedom (of sorts) to run about as they please. Which is why I find it odd that some people seem to think the dog park is a place to find a bench to sit in the sun and watch while their own dog is perched nearby. It’s like those people won’t let their pets have any fun.

Then again, I’ve heard of some dog owners insist they’ll never take their pets to one of these public parks. They insist their precious pooches will get contaminated by the germs carried about by everybody else’s mutts!

OF COURSE, I have to admit that Rocco once developed a pretty serious cough – one severe enough that he was taken to the “vet.” Who ultimately diagnosed it as “kennel cough,” and said it most likely was something he caught off another pet at the dog park. Some medication and a two-week time period away from the park turned out to be the cure.
My father playing w/ pooches at park

Now I know some communities have had these facilities for some time, while others are trying to turn any sizable plot of land they have into a dog park. I know in Gary, Ind., officials are contemplating using a one-time Little League baseball field as a dog park – on the grounds that the outfield fences already are in place. A one-time center field can become a new doggie playland.

Over here in Illinois, the General Assembly signed off on providing $50,000 to the Chicago Public Schools to develop a dog park in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood, and $200,000 to the Chicago Park District for a place in the Hyde Park neighborhood and another such facility elsewhere. While the Fox Valley Park District will get $150,000 for a new dog park in Aurora and upgrades to an existing park in Montgomery.

It might be the smartest money spent, if it encourages people to not let their pets roam free and unleashed. Now if only we can get all pet owners to pick up their animals’ poop, we’d have a better world.


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