Pop Culture Gadabout
Saturday, February 12, 2005
      ( 2/12/2005 02:38:00 PM ) Bill S.  


"YOU'VE GOT MUD ON YER FACE, YOU BIG DISGRACE!" – This week, after three years of futilely attempting to get the Bloomington Parks And Rec people to develop an official dog park in one of the myriad park spaces, we happily read that sister city Normal one-upped its neighbor by opening one this week in Maxwell Park. (There has long been an unofficial dog park in Bloomington, known as Bark Park, which I wrote about here, but owners let their dogs run free there on threat of a fifty dollar fine.) This morning, we took Ziggy Stardust and Cedar to the New Official Dog Park to see if it met with their approval.

The dog arena is a large fenced-in area on the edge of Maxwell Park's Frisbee golf course: it's divided into two sections, one for small dogs and the other for large 'uns. The larger of the two pens is about the size of a dancehall ballroom; the small dog area is about a fourth the size. By the double-gate entrance of both areas are fountains designed for both dog and human, but because it's winter, they're not turned on. Scattered throughout the large dog area are some young trees, though their shade value come spring will probably be minimal. There are no benches for the owners.

When we arrive, the park is already occupied by dogs and their owners: about seven large dogs, most lab mixes, are racing around and stealing a large rubber football from each other. One of the goals of dog parks is to offer the animals a place to socialize, teach 'em to behave around other animals. Of our doggy duo, Dusty is the most ready to play with other pups; Cedar can, for inexplicable reasons, get her hackles up when the wrong dog comes a-sniffin'. It doesn't usually lead to anything, but as the owners, it's our responsibility to keep an eye on her.

This first day at the park has relatively mild winter temps, but because we had snow earlier in the week, the ground is pretty wet from the melted snowfall. Additionally, right in the middle of the area is a large puddle of mud and water that every dog very quickly discovers. They happily race through it, splashing everything within a two-yard radius; stop to lap the water or occasional tussle in the mud. First time ol' Dusty reaches the mud puddle, he plops! right down into it. He's not the only pup to do this, of course, but since most of the others are shorthaired – and he has a sheepdog mop – the results are more extreme: as he lollops into the back seat, dripping gobs of mud onto the protective blanket, I can't help thinking of the big group fight in McLintock. It takes fifteen minutes to clean him off with a handheld shower and some Itchcraft medicated shampoo.

From their general exhaustion on the ride back home, it's obvious that the new dog park receives the Dusty & Cedar Seal of Approval. To us humans, the penned-in area lacks the character of more open parkland, but if this is the best we can do in the city, it's worth it for the opportunity it gives to let the dogs run with their temporary pack. We'll be returning to the dog park, I know, but I also know we'll be waiting for a dryer day to do so. . .


(Photo taken from the original Bark Park back in 2001.)
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).



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