Dog parks are a hot commodity right now. According to an article in USA Today in December 2011, dog parks are the fastest growing segment of city parks in the United States – there were 569 dog parks in the 100 largest cities in 2010, a 34 percent increase over five years, where parks overall only increased by three percent. The article said this reflects changing demographics are there are now more households with dogs (43 million) than children (38 million).
THE CANINE CORRAL dog park in Carmichael is a safe, fun place for dogs to socialize with other dogs. / Photo courtesy, Sarah Pratt
One group looking to give Carmichael and surrounding area residents a great dog park experience is the Carmichael Canine Corral Association, which oversees the Canine Corral dog park at Carmichael Park. Open since 2000, the Canine Corral saw over 4,000 weekly visits by dogs in the spring of 2011, according to Elizabeth Susan Brown, president of the Carmichael Canine Corral Association.
“The Canine Corral is an off-leash dog park, which is a safe, pleasant, enjoyable place for dogs to run, play with other dogs, socialize with other dogs,” said Ellen Atwood, director of communications for the Carmichael Canine Corral Association. She said the Corral also lets dog owners socialize, both with other dogs and other humans.
No public money
According to Atwood, the Association in conjunction with the Carmichael Recreation & Park District administers the needs of the dog park.
“It is not funded by any county or state association or public money – all of the upkeep, the rakes, the poop bags, getting the leaves picked up and the trash bags, and so on and so forth is all done by volunteers,” she said. In addition to volunteers, those that utilize the Corral can become members of the Association for $20 a year to help fund the Corral. Atwood said a membership grants access to the members’ only section of the association’s Website, www.carmichaeldogpark.com, as well as additional information sent to members.
Now going on 12 years of use, Brown said the dog park is becoming a “bit shabby” from use and it is time for a major renewal.
“To renovate our dog park for the health, safety, and security of humans and dogs both, we need sewage, drains, fences, and grass watering systems,” Brown said. “Our improvement list also contains ponds for play, wash stations, electricity, lighting, walkways, and more.”
Atwood adds the renovation would also include much-needed amenities for humans in the small dog section of the Corral, including water, shade and seating. “A lot of our efforts are going to create not just a safe and healthy environment for the dogs, but also for the humans,” she said.
The Association has two plans for the renovation – one is their dream dog park that Atwood said will cost $250,000. Atwood said the large cost comes from the improvements to the infrastructure, things like plumbing, grading, seeding, fencing and shade structures, that are important but carry a high price tag. “We know now right at this moment that we’re not able to reach that goal, so we have a down-scale version that will do just the absolute necessities and that is a total of $20,000 that we need by June 2012,” she adds.
How to get involved
In order to meet either of these goals, the Association needs to raise funds and they have been holding a number of fund raisers. For instance, in December dog owners could pay to have their pooch featured in a calendar that will be produced and sold to benefit the Corral. Atwood said the Association is currently selling bricks that can be personalized to memorialize an animal or human or just because. The bricks, which will be installed permanently at the dog park, cost $125 for a small brick and $250 for a larger brick.
Corporate sponsors sought
And the Association is also looking for corporate sponsors to help their cause. “We happily would change the name to reflect any company or person willing to fund a large part of our renovation budget,” Brown said.
CANINE-HUMAN BONDING is a given when both have access to fresh air, activity and positive social situations. The Carmichael Canine Corral Association hopes to expand the resources at the local dog park with the help of the community. / Photo courtesy, Sarah Pratt
As the Association works towards its goals, Atwood said it continues to be a place where owners can take their dogs for well-needed exercise, both dogs and owners can expand their relationships, and owners can use it as a source of education about pet behavior and training. “It’s kind of like parents at a preschool – they sit around and watch their kids play,” she said. “They’re pet parents sitting around watching their animals play and talk about things that are pertinent to animal behavior.”
Thinking about taking your dog to a dog park for the first time? Michelle Dillon, owner of The Pet Agency – offering home pet care and dog training in the Carmichael, Arden and Fair Oaks areas – offers these tips:
- Look for a dog park that is clean, well-maintained and has a good reputation. Dillon also suggests finding a dog park that has docents or people in charge that are there consistently “so they can intervene if there’s any scuffles that come up or behavioral issues between the dogs.”
- Look for a dog park that has a separate area for smaller dogs. “Let’s say you have a dog that weights 100 pounds, is very muscular and is excited to be playing,” Dillon said. “That dog may not be able to see a tiny dog and might run right over a tiny dog and could break its back and cause permanent injury.”
- Make sure your dog is well-socialized, has all its vaccinations, and you have an okay from your veterinarian.
- Owners should bring plenty of “poop bags,” sunglasses and a hat, but make sure to leave any food at home. “And no cigarettes – some people think smoking in dog parks is okay, but a lot of people get offended by that,” Dillon said.
- Have fun! “When someone really loves somebody, to watch that organism have the time of it’s life is a great joy – it increases a person’s mental health, it increases the dog’s mental health,” she said. “It’s a great place just to enjoy the outdoors.”