Over the Hill

It's a good time to make friends at North County dog parks

Wally, a Great Dane, tries to get his stick back from Benny, a Welsh corgi, during the grand opening of the Vineyard Dog Park in Templeton in 2009.
Wally, a Great Dane, tries to get his stick back from Benny, a Welsh corgi, during the grand opening of the Vineyard Dog Park in Templeton in 2009. The Tribune

Barbara was an older woman who owned a little dog named Junior. In 2008 and 2009, the two of them often watched the workers constructing the Vineyard Dog Park in Templeton. After it was finished, Barbara and Junior used it almost every day.

They made friends with the other dog-park regulars. Those new friends soon treated Barbara and Junior as family. Barbara lived alone except for Junior. Her son lived in Santa Barbara.

Then Barbara’s health failed. She could no longer look after Junior, so friends from the dog park took turns taking him in. Barbara continued to weaken and eventually died.

Her son hadn’t planned to have a memorial service. Her dog-park friends were disappointed, so they held their own service at the dog park, and were pleased that her son and his wife also attended. As for Junior, a dog-park friend adopted him.

I learned Barbara’s story from Paula O’Farrell, president of Parks4Pups. It’s a nonprofit organization that has built three dog parks in the North County. The first, Heilmann Dog Park in Atascadero, was completed in 2005 at the end of El Bordo Avenue. It now has its own board of directors.

The second dog park constructed by Parks4Pups was the Vineyard Dog Park in 2009 at Vineyard Drive and Semillon Lane. The third park, the Sherwood Dog Park in Paso Robles, was completed last April on Scott Street next to the Senior Citizens Center.

O’Farrell told other stories about dogs and their owners and the warm, new friendships they acquired at the dog parks. She also said dog fights are rare because the parks are spacious enough to keep the dogs from feeling territorial. They also have rules banning aggressive dogs and dogs in heat, and males older than 6 months must be neutered.

O’Farrell said the parks are supported through use fees, membership fees, donations and fundraisers. The only cost to local governments is the use of some otherwise unused land.

The North County dog parks are inviting you to sample some of their activities. They’re holding their fifth annual Dogtoberfest and Wiener Dog Races this Sunday at Atascadero Lake Park from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Then on Oct. 28, you’re invited to the “Howl’oween” celebration from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Paso Robles dog park. The program includes a pet-costume contest, bake sale and more.

You can learn more about those events and about North County dog parks at www.parks4pups.org or by calling 239-4437.

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