Dogs are a man’s best friend. I know the one I have is a cherished companion. I adopted Toby almost a year and a half ago, and I can’t imagine life without him. Countless people have pets and love them dearly.
I live in an apartment complex, so there’s only a limited area where I can take Toby to exercise. I have to be careful about his roaming free when we’re outside, as the potential for coming across other dogs, not to mention speeding cars, is high.
In the last community I lived in, there was a dog park for me to let Toby loose and get his exercise. The other parks were kosher with dogs on the premises, too, provided they were on a leash and you cleaned up after them.
Imagine my surprise almost a year ago when I moved to Shawano and found out that none of the parks allowed dogs. Every park I saw, there was a white sign with big, red letters that read “No dogs allowed.” That was heartbreaking enough, but then I saw the mayor’s column in the newspaper about city parks, and she pointed out that there were 22 parks in Shawano. Twenty-two parks, and not one that welcomes dogs. It’s disturbing.
There is a group that is working to establish a dog park, but it does not appear that it will be within the city. The group is working on securing a small piece of old farm property owned by Shawano County in the town of Belle Plaine for the park, but it will mean that I’ll have to travel about 10 miles out of town to give Toby a place to play.
Studies show that animal companionship contributes to greater longevity and a better mental attitude. Do they occasionally stress you out? Yes, they do. I know Toby does. Still, I know that his hyperactivity comes from not having a lot of space to exercise, and having a park that least welcomes dogs would be a good thing.
I can understand that there are some irresponsible pet owners who let their dogs defecate anywhere and then leave it for someone else to clean up. However, there is a park within spitting distance of my apartment, with public restrooms and soccer goals. During the summer and fall I saw flocks of seagulls circling over the park, decorating the green grass and other amenities with white crap. How is dog crap any more hazardous than seagull feces?
There needs to be a place for our four-legged friends to play. I certainly hope the dog park advocates succeed in their goal for a place to roam free, but more importantly, I hope that Shawano eventually sees the light and realizes that public parks should be used for more than athletics and letting kids play on playground equipment. I don’t know if it’ll ever happen, but I’ll keep hoping.