A modest dog park proposal

    Karon and I love Wauneta, but I’ve decided there’s something the town needs.
    A dog park.
    I’ve heard a couple of comments lately that there are a lot of dogs in Wauneta. Those comments generally come in the midst of complaints from people about how much free-form barking there is in various neighborhoods.
    I’m not a disinterested party here, of course. We have two dogs, an older Shih Tzu and an overly energetic lab-Australian shepherd (we think) mix. We could really use someplace that would help them burn off energy, especially the younger dog.
    The town we moved here from — which was, admittedly considerably bigger than Wauneta — had a great dog park. It was in the largest park in town and was tucked away on land that flooded every spring, so there wasn’t much else they could do with it. We spent a lot of time there.
    A dog park is a fairly simple project. All you need is some hurricane fencing, a dispenser for poop bags and a couple of benches. The park we used to go to had separate sides for big and small dogs, but that’s not strictly necessary. Some of the fancier ones have doggie drinking fountains, but again, not necessary. People can bring their own water.
    I have no idea how much a dog park would cost, or how big it would have to be. For all I know, it could be too much for the village to bite off (pun intended). That’s for others to determine.
    I think the park here has room for at least a small one (again, I could be wrong). And you have to consider that dog parks can be pretty noisy, so the people that live near it might not be thrilled, and their opinions have to be taken into account.
    A dog park is great for dogs, but it’s also great for their owners. Everybody gets to know each other through their animals; in fact, you generally know the dog’s name before you find out the owner’s. But what happens is that the park ends up with a hard core of regulars who become friends.
    Again, there’s a lot I don’t know as I make my little pitch here, but I think it’s at least worth discussing.
    But then, I’m a dog person.
    When my kids were little, we went through the normal pet progression. We started with a hamster, moved up to two guinea pigs, got a dog (which we really didn’t intend to get), got a cat, got more cats (we eventually had four) and another dog.
    I was a confirmed cat-hater until we got the first one, but even learned to like them. And my younger son, in particular, adored them.
    But I most took to the dogs.
    I had never had a dog, although when I was a kid my sister briefly had one. He was cute, but dumb as a bag of hammers; she eventually had to get rid of him because he basically couldn’t be housebroken.
    My then-wife and I had talked about getting a dog, but hadn’t pulled the trigger. Then, one day, her sister showed up from Idaho with her two dogs, and a puppy for us, without asking.
    The puppy was an absolutely adorable Jack Russell-lab mix, of all things. I wasn’t necessarily nuts about getting a dog, but he looked up at me with his big, brown, sad eyes and I immediately turned into a 14-year-old girl.
    We named him Russell, and he became my buddy. He was smart as a whip and very sweet.
    By the time I got divorced, we had the two dogs and four cats. We had a very amicable divorce (no custody or property fights), but I kind of dreaded figuring out how we were going to split up the animals. In the midst of a negotiating session, I asked my wife about the dogs.
    “Well, you’re going to want Russell,” she said. I, of course, agreed, but tried not to sound as happy as I was.
    He eventually died early of lymphoma, but we had some very good years together.
   Karon acquired Bailey, the Shih Tzu, before I met her. But I first knew we had a future when her dog, who generally didn’t like men, immediately took a shine to me.
    We had toyed with the idea of getting a second dog for a few years but hadn’t really decided to. Just for chucks, we went to the nearest pound one day, which was located about an hour away from us. It was chock full of pit bulls, which went nuts when we walked in. But there was a quiet, sad-looking dog sitting on the floor of her cage. She’d been dumped and had been on the road for a couple of weeks; her ribs poked through her skin and her fur was like straw.
    She looked at me and for the second time in my life, that 14-year-old girl came out.
    When we went back to adopt her, she got so excited she peed on the floor of the pound’s lobby. We all but had to wrestle her into our car, because I think she associated a car ride with being dumped. She loves car rides now.
    Layla can be a handful, and our house is always a mess, but when she climbs up on my lap and puts her head on my chest ... well, it’s pretty nice.
    The thing about dogs is that even when they misbehave, there’s a guilelessness and innocence about them. In a world where you can’t always trust people, you always know exactly how your dog feels. And nobody’s ever happier to see you get home for the day. I simply refuse to believe that a dog doesn’t feel love.
    I can understand why people don’t like dogs, but as far as I’m concerned, not liking dogs is a bit of a strike against a person.
    Yeah, this is all pretty sappy, and the dog park I’m proposing is going to cost money to get going. But I suspect that it would, on balance, be a benefit, if only in providing a place for people to gather and get to know each other better.
    Oh, and get to know each other’s dogs. And one more thing: Maybe if Layla burned off some energy, my house wouldn’t be such a mess.
Tom Pantera is the news editor at the Wauneta Breeze. He has a passion for storytelling, obscure trivia and family. Email: breeze.editor@jpipapers.com


Wauneta Breeze

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