Story and photos by: Lauren Lewis
Melissa L. Penfield Park is located at 139 Boynton Ave, Plattsburgh N.Y..
Hidden behind the skate park in Melissa L. Penfield Park on Boynton Avenue in Plattsburgh, N.Y., lies a small fenced-in area with a double gate, a fire hydrant, and a tunnel. It may not seem like much, but to a dog, it is a safe place to play and have fun without the constraints of a leash.
In Plattsburgh, dog owners must keep their pets on a leash no longer than 10 feet when in a public place or an unfenced area. However, 10 feet is not long enough for some breeds, especially considering that many breeds love to run. The solution? Dog parks.
A dog park is a safe, fenced-in place where dogs are not required to be leashed. They have free reign and can run around and play with other dogs. Much like a playground for children, a dog park allows dogs to ‘make friends’ and socialize at Penfield Park with other dogs and other people besides their owners.
While this part of the park may seem like a neglected backyard to a human, to a dog, it might as well be heaven. The ground is torn up and muddy, but there are spots of green grass. A feces receptacle is available to keep the park free of landmines, and there are a few benches for the dogs’ human companions to sit on. A plastic tunnel and a lone fire hydrant are the only props provided for the park; balls, Frisbees, and other toys are the owners’ responsibilities.
“With a city like ours, yard space is at a premium."
“Like many communities, it [the dog park] started because of a demand from dog owners to let their dogs have an area to run free and exercise,” says Steven Peters, superintendent of recreation for the City of Plattsburgh. “With a city like ours, yard space is at a premium. It is for this reason that we have public spaces like parks to use for recreation activities; this is not exclusive to just humans.”
Sadly, Deborah Kelly says that every time she and Lucy go to the park, they’re the only ones there.
Dog parks can be a renter’s best friend. “It’s great for people with apartments,” Resident Deborah Kelly says. “They don’t have the backyard for the dogs to play in.” Lucy, Kelly’s son’s 5-year-old boxer/pitbull mix, enjoys chasing the Frisbee and chewing on her orange, squishy ball.
“I just like to let her run, let her go,” Kelly says. She also mentions how sad it is that few people make use of the park. She says that when she brings Lucy, she’s usually the only one there.
“I just like to let her run, let her go,"
After chasing the Frisbee for a few minutes, Lucy, a 5-year-old Boxer/Pitbull mix, was content to lie down and chew on her orange, squishy ball.
Chad Erickson used to take his dog, also named Lucy, to the dog park on Boynton Avenue. Lucy, a beagle/greyhound mix, was 11 years old when she passed away in February 2012. “I like to think about all the times I took her there,” Erickson says. “She really loved it, being able to be off her leash and just run around.” Lucy loved to play fetch and would run after a fluorescent green tennis ball as long as someone would continue to throw it.
“I think one of her favorite things was when there were other dogs there,” Erickson says. “She really liked to play with them.” Apparently, the dog park isn’t just a place for dogs. Owners can also socialize with the dogs’ human companions. Erickson says he met some interesting people there.
While Erickson doesn’t see getting another dog anywhere in his near future, he knows that the dog park is there to start making new memories.
It is often said that dog is man’s best friend. Dog parks are a way to give dogs a little fun and a little thanks for always being there.
What kind of equipment would you like to see in a dog park?