From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Sept. 24, 2010
When I began going to the Hamilton Road dog park in London several years ago, I never thought about how it came to be. It was just there, placed for my convenience and my dog’s entertainment. I saw, and read, the rules. But even the sign didn’t really make me think about who devised the rules, who put up the fencing, who kept the park clean. Like the natural world, the dog park was just there.
Eventually I realized there was a London Dog Owners Association involved with the dog parks. Even then, I didn’t put that fact together with the existence of the parks and their maintenance. Not being a group person myself, I just thought some people just have to have something to join don’t they?
A St. Thomas Dog Park?
Now, at the same time as I started going to London’s dog park, I’d been thinking about how nice it would be if we had one in St. Thomas. Indeed, a friend and I talked to City officials about it. We were told it was possible if we raised money to contribute to the cost. We also were told many other people had approached the City before for a dog park. So we got names of some of them. Then we thought about fund- and interest-raising efforts. We printed flyers and collected names of interested people. The names and dollars we raised became our small investment in a future dog park.
Then priorities changed for both my friend and me. Our dogs got sick in the same year. They were about the same age. Wendy’s Doberman succumbed to a congenital heart problem. My German Shepherd died a couple months later. So during that year, a dog park was the last thing in our minds.
With her new Dobie pup, my friend met a group of people in town whose dogs liked to play together. We also all had seen a petition around shops and on-line asking for a dog park. When I again had dogs, I met all these people – those of the petition and those who met up. Then I learned why there was a London Dog Owners Association. Someone has to lobby and get approval for dog parks and get them constructed.
St. Thomas Dog Owners Association
In St. Thomas, our loose group of people who liked to hang out together with our dogs became the St. Thomas Dog Owners Association. Lobbying, fund-raising, site selection, dog park needs – we learned a lot fast. And we succeeded. A year ago, City Council and dog owners approved a ravine site at the west end of St. Thomas as a fenced dog park. But the construction of the dog park wasn’t the end of the need for a dog owners association.
There has to be monitoring of the park and its amenities, landscaping improvements, negotiation and resolution of disputes and improvement of facilities. Money is always needed, for small things like poop bags and large things like lights.
Dog Park Community
What I learned from watching our dog park from its inception to operation is that a dog park is not just a fenced field where dogs run loose. It’s a community. And, like all communities, it works best with involvement and commitment to its well-being by all its members. Some dogs become best friends, some don’t like each other, some are territorial about what they consider “their” park, others are happy to see newcomers so they can make new friends. Pretty much the same can be said about the people.
I no longer am really a member of our dog park community. My one dog eats poop, so taking him there is like letting a druggie loose in the pharmacy. My other dog really just wants to run by himself in “his” field: he doesn’t play well with others. So, other than through the STDOA, we have little involvement with the park. It’s unfortunate, at least for me. I enjoy the people, the dogs, the atmosphere. It’s nice to see friends, both four- and two-legged.