A Place for Naples’ Most Precious Paws

by Kelly Merritt

dog parkOn the list of what makes Naples a special place to live, the Naples Dog Park is near the top. What began as a grass roots effort by a few determined dog lovers resulted in a place that has become a source of great joy for canines and owners alike.

“As we round the corner to enter the park, Griffin lights up,” said Beth O’Brien, who with her husband Ed helped spearhead the development of the park. “It’s as if his batteries have just gotten a charge – and of course because Griffin is the Mayor of the Dog Park, his constituents readily come to greet him as he enters.”

dof park participantGriffin is one of many dogs who charm everyone who enters the dog park. His affable countenance and expressive face are irresistible. He and his doggie comrades gather almost every day with their owners at the dog park. Both humans and dogs have formed special bonds.

“All dog lovers, whether they are city or county residents, year round or part time, benefit from this park that is free of cost,” said O’Brien. “Friendships among folks of all ages and from all walks of life have been formed as their four legged family members have had the opportunity to frolic off leash and form relationships of their own.”

dog park femaleGriffin’s dance card remains filled to the brim, with friends like Nikki and Bonnie ready for frolicking and exercising each morning. Bonnie is one of Griffin’s most treasured friends. She is one of a few three-legged dogs who frequent the dog park.

“Bonnie starts telling me that it’s time to go to the dog park every morning once I put on my socks,” says her owner PJ Heller. “If I take a different route to the park than the normal one, she will start whining right away.”

The one thing Heller would like say to people who have not visited the dog park is that they will be amazed at how much dogs and owners love it.

“It is a great place to meet people from all walks of life that all enjoy dogs,” says Heller, who hopes the dog park will continue to be a place where dogs of all shapes and sizes can have a great time being a dog. “I have gotten everything from the best homemade BBQ sauce I’ve ever had to great fishing tips there.”

dog1Diane McGinty’s dog Nikki is another regular who steals hearts and easily makes friends. McGinty says for Nikki, the park is part of her daily routine.

“After a three-mile walk early in the morning, we head to the park for socialization not only for the dog, but for the humans also,” she says. “As we approach the park, Nikki lightens up and looks as if she recognizes the cars of the owners.”

In terms of what the park means to the community, McGinty says it’s invaluable because so many people have no yard for their dogs or live in areas where they are unable to walk their dogs. She foresees regulars continuing to work hard to maintain the park so it can be a legacy to future dogs.

dog2“Dogs have their own social networks and there is something about dogs connecting with other dogs that cannot be duplicated by the interaction that we have with them,” says Beth O’Brien. “The exercise, the stimulation, the fun that they have with each other is both amazing and delightful to watch.”

Arlene Bates began bringing her rescue dog Little Man, a small white terrier mix to the dog park when he was just a shy and unsocial

“I wasn’t sure how to bring him out of his shell and one day I just decided to try the dog park – slowly he gained his confidence and now it’s his favorite place to be,” she says. “It’s a great place to make new friends for you and your dog, and if he could, Little Man would say, ‘Thanks for giving me a special place to play’.”

dog3Bates says the added bonuses include that the park is well maintained and clean with shade and trees and with separation for big dogs and little dogs, there is plenty of room for her dog to play off leash. But a dog park requires maintenance. The O’Brien’s say the continued success of the dog park depends upon the cooperation and good will of those who frequent it.

“Although Naples has grown to proportions that few could have imagined not so long ago, there is so much about the dog park that is reminiscent of the small town community spirit that shaped this city and with any luck will remain alive in the years to come,” says Ed

McGinty reminds potential dog park patrons that while all dogs are welcome, owners must register dogs, all dogs must have up to date shots and it’s up to the owners to ensure good behavior.

“We owners are the ones to be responsible for the behavior of our dogs and if the behavior of our dog is not acceptable, we should take our dog out,” she says.

The park is funded by donations, with most of the maintenance for the park paid for by Pets on Third, a petfest which includes a costumed pet parade, held annually on the third Sunday in January. The O’Brien’s in conjunction with Third Street South coordinate this each year.

“Other sources of revenue include the sale of pavers, trees, water fountains and benches and once a year volunteers also mail out donation cards and we recently have started selling Naples Dog Park hats as well,” says Beth O’Brien.

The Naples Dog Park is located at 99 Riverside Circle across from the new Baker Park. The park is open from dawn to dusk. For information on the Naples Dog Park, call 239.213.7120 or visit www.naplesgov.com and click on Parks & Recreation, Naples Dog Park. For information or registration for Pets on Third, visit www.ThirdStreetSouth.com.

DATE: Sunday, January 18, 2015
EVENT TIME: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., parade begins at noon.
Parade Check-in: 10:00 -11:30 a.m. for
costume contest and parade.
LOCATION: Third Street South, behind Tommy Bahama
Awards will include Most Original Costume, Pet & Owner
Look-Alike and Best Theme Costume. All pets must
remain on leashes, and children 12 and under must
be accompanied by an adult.
REGISTRATION: $25 Check or cash only. Download
registration form at www.ThirdStreetSouth.com. Bring
your completed form and $25 to the event or mail to:
Friends of Naples Dog Park Committee
c/o Neapolitan Enterprises LLC
255 13th Avenue South, Suite 202
Naples, FL 34102

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