Pet owners looking for a dog park in the tri-state region where I live in southern Illinois will be out of luck. There are no dog parks here – for now.
Two communities – Murphysboro, Ill., and Paducah, Ky. – are making plans to develop parks. They have a long way to go, but they are hopeful that the parks will become a reality soon. Both efforts to build dog parks began about a year ago.
The Paducah Parks Services Department has been working on a plan for a few years, with several sites within existing parks being proposed. Early last year, they began its implementation, with the first phase being fund-raising.
Trace Stevens, the Paducah Parks maintenance superintendent, said in a phone interview, “We are still in the fund-raising stage, and we have formed a committee that is working on that.” Although, no events to raise money are currently planned, he said, the committee has sent out letters to businesses asking for support of a dog park.
Estimates are that it will take at least $30,000 to build a basic dog park. The City of Paducah has committed to match half of the cost. Stevens said that between actual funds collected and pledges of support about a quarter of the $15,000 of private donations has been raised.
The Friends of Murphysboro has also presented a planned dog park to the city council.
Patty Bateman, a spokesperson for the Friends, said in reply to an e-mail inquiry about the park, “Yes, we are still working on building a dog park. We currently have raised enough money to build an acre-size park.”
Bateman said the original property which had been proposed at the site for a park is no longer available, and that the group is looking for about an acre to an acre and a half at the edge of the city on which to locate the dog park.
In the meantime, what’s a dog owner in this area to do?
In Cape Girardeau, Mo., a group of trainers and pet owners have come up with a novel idea – a club. Essentially a training club, the brainchild of Kevin Sharp, River City Dog Sports allows owners and their dogs a chance to get together, socialize, train and learn from each other. No pressure. No classes. No dues. Just a lot of talk about and time with dogs.
Sharp, a search-and-rescue volunteer and an evaluator for the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test, put an ad in the local newspaper last spring to see if there was interest in a training club. He received an enthusiastic response from other trainers and pet owners in the area, all who were happy to find like-minded dog owners to work and network with.
We have had field days at which we can try out each other’s sports. Movie nights are fun, too. We bring our training videos to someone’s house, eat popcorn – and talk dogs.
Although club members can set up more formal trainings, the most popular River City Dog Sports events are the play dates in local parks. The dogs, of course, can’t be off leash, but the socialization – for both the dogs and their owners – is a lot of fun. An added bonus is that the general public gets to see and meet well-trained, well-mannered dogs – the best ambassadors for responsible pet ownership.