As a resident of Columbia County for the past seven years, and a dog owner for most of my half-century on the planet, I noted with great interest and enthusiasm Columbia County’s decision to construct a dog park as part of the Evans Towne Center Park. I enjoy letting my dogs socialize with other dogs in a safe, secure setting. I commend the foresight of the city planners who included this fantastic addition to our community in their plans. I encourage folks to come out and take the opportunity to partake of this very cool and modern facility. If you have a dog that loves to run, play and socialize, please come.
However, I must confess that this invitation is not extended to every dog owner. There are some owners who are probably better suited to not coming:
• When dogs are around other dogs, they naturally get the urge to eliminate. The park appropriately provides several “poop bag” stations for picking up and disposing of solid waste. If you are a dog owner who cannot pick up after your animal, or leaves it for someone else to pick up, don’t come.
• If your only interaction is to unleash your dog, and then spend the entire time facedown in your smartphone while your dog runs amok, don’t come.
• If your precious “Pookie” is the singular point of focus in your life, so much so that you cannot bear the thought of it actually running and playing, so you keep it on a leash inside the park, don’t come. Dogs have different responses to stimuli based on their environment. Keeping a dog on its leash, while all the other dogs are running free, is not keeping it safe. It is scaring your dog, because it feels trapped. Yanking it around by the neck to keep it from greeting other dogs is stressful for everybody.
• If you have never taken the time to socialize your dog with other dogs, please, for the sake of everyone, gradually work your dog up to participating in playtime. It can have a great time, but not if it is overwhelmed, scared, and anxious.
• If you are the type of dog owner who cannot see past the needs of your own dog, and are unwilling to help another dog get a drink, throw a ball, or acknowledge others, don’t come. It’s called “socialization,” for pets and owners.
• If you know your dog has the need to dominate every other dog it is around, bites on, pounces, chases aggressively, growls, barks or snaps incessantly, or is just a bully, don’t come. Our dogs are there to have fun, not to compete. There is a difference between “rough-housing” and just plain being rough. No one likes to gather up their pet and leave early because the “personality of the park changed when ‘that dog’ came in.”
Please, come out and enjoy one of the great things about living in Columbia County. Meet some other dog lovers; make new friends. But when you come out, remember there are two sets of entry gates for a reason. Make sure only one of them is open at a time. We want to keep our animals safe. After all, we love them.