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Puppy park expansion would better protect our pooches

Can we have separate spaces for dogs of different sizes to run and play?

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Chloe and my nephew's chocolate lab puppy, Oakley, tangle at the family farm on Mother's Day.
Julie Buntjer / The Globe
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As any parent can attest to, a child’s naptime is a good time to get stuff done — or perhaps a good time to also take a nap.

The same can be said for dog moms.

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Tim Middagh / The Globe<br/>

My little Chloe, a Shi Tzu-Bichon cross, dreams of being an outside dog when the sun shines and it isn’t too hot, or too cold. This spring has produced a constant stream of whining to go out and come in. She doesn’t want to be outside alone, and she doesn’t want to be inside where I am because, well, it’s not outside in the sunshine.

Chloe doesn’t understand the concept of working from home, and why should she? Her momma only leaves for meetings and interviews that tend to be less than a couple of hours long.

I’ve created a little pooch who whines when it’s potty time, whines when she expects mom to share her human food, whines when it’s 4:30 on a work day and she sees other humans walking their dogs outside, and whines pretty much every time I pick up my needlework and expect to make a little stitching progress.

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Chloe has been called a drama queen, a spoiled pooch, a princess and a little stinker. Oh, but I sure do love her.

Chloe came into my life at a point when I needed her. I’d just been through a year of reporting on COVID, and nearly a year of working from home. I needed someone to talk to; someone to care about; someone to care about me.

We get along really well. She’s a bit more accepting now of my need to stitch for relaxation, and I’m more aware of her need for long walks and trips to the puppy park to burn off some energy. Tiring her out gives me more quiet time to stitch — unless I’ve also tired myself out, of course!

On Sunday afternoon, Chloe and I walked to Centennial Beach and back home. Just as I anticipated, she took a two-hour nap and I had some glorious, uninterrupted stitching time. In the evening, when she couldn’t decide between being outdoors alone or indoors with me, I took her to the Puppy Park.

She was one of nine dogs enjoying Worthington’s only dog park on a beautiful Sunday evening — nine dogs of varying breeds, heights and weights. Chloe was in her glory as a highly sociable pooch who thinks everyone should love her.

Save for a couple of tackles by bigger dogs, and a head-butt from a like-sized dog, Chloe had a grand old time. The dog moms and dog dad enjoyed visiting as well, and we discussed Worthington’s need for an expanded, or second, dog park in our community.

I know the issue came before the city’s park board a month ago, and while the idea of creating a second puppy park near the fish rearing pond by Centennial Park wasn’t supported by some in the community, I do hope discussion continues.

If not there, where else could we offer this amenity?

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As an owner of an energetic 11-pound pooch, I will say there are times Chloe and I have avoided the puppy park because much larger dogs are already there, running and playing. I just don’t trust that they’d treat Chloe well if I let her loose.

I think our puppy park has some great features. Chloe has mastered the balance beam, climbs the ramps, occasionally will jump the hurdles and runs and plays to her little heart’s content. But I do think we need separate spaces for small dogs and large dogs to safely run and play without always being attached to a leash.

Can the existing puppy park be expanded to have separate spaces for small and large dogs? Is there a site in or near one of our other parks where we could have a fenced-in play space for our pooches?

I like the idea of having a space near Centennial Park — near the walking trails where we already see so many people walking their dogs. Perhaps there could even be a water fountain for the dogs — something our current park doesn’t have.

And, while we’re on the subject of dog parks, please be a respectful dog owner and pick up after your pooch — whether it’s at the puppy park or along the bike trail or on someone’s private property.

Chloe has this need to sniff everything and, well, it’s just disgusting when we come across doggie doo-doo when we’re out to enjoy an afternoon or evening walk.

Read more from Julie Buntjer:
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Parishioners parade down 10th Street following Sunday's Spanish Mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Worthington.

Opinion by Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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