Friday, May 17, 2013
Dogged pursuit of fun leads pet owners to Deep Ellum’s Bark Park
Because a tuckered dog is a good dog.
Joy's Jaunt: Deep Ellum Dog Park
DEEP ELLUM Now that our unusual late-spring cold weather seems finally to be over, most days are falling into that sublime not-quite-summer slot: bright blue skies, weather that’s warm enough for shorts and T-shirts but still boasts an occasional cool breeze, nonbroiling sunshine. Perfect, in other words, for jaunts to your closest off-leash dog park.
We’re lucky to live just a couple of blocks from Bark Park Central (also informally known as the Deep Ellum dog park), and we go every chance we get. Our dogs, Coco and Tesla, go crazy when they get within sight of the park — you can just about hear them thinking “Freedom to run! Dog party! Sniff central!”
The park is situated under Central Expressway at the eastern edge of downtown, on the border of Deep Ellum. You’d think that would make for an industrial feel, but actually the park’s a bucolic little bit of nature. Once you’re there, you’ll be having so much fun watching the dogs interact and race madly about the 1.2-acre grounds that you really won’t pay much attention to the traffic sounds.
As with most dog parks, there’s a “holding area” where you take your pooch into a gated area, close the gate, then go through another gate into the park. That prevents escapees from venturing into the neighborhood’s heavy traffic on their own.
Amenities include a 6-foot-high fence, grass coverage over 80 percent of the park, vast shady areas, dog-bone-shaped benches, and canine watering holes and showers. More than 100 city parking spaces are within walking distance, and the many dog-friendly restaurants of Deep Ellum, the Arts District, and the eastern part of downtown are easily accessible. (For a list of dog-friendly eateries and businesses, check out The Dallas Morning News’ Dog About Town column.)
The feeling inside Bark Park Central is remarkably friendly, and wee pups and giant breeds intermingle happily (some dog parks separate small and large dogs into their own areas, but not here). The human visitors also play nice, with people laughingly petting and getting slobbering kisses from one another’s canine kids.
On one recent visit, a little girl pretty much insisted on picking up Coco, who’s almost as big as the child. Coco was good-natured about the whole thing, even when she got flipped on her back like a giant baby doll. The dogs rarely bark, and it’s almost as if everyone, dogs and humans alike, recognizes that this is neutral ground where manners are important.
When minor scuffles break out — being dogs, after all, they do sometimes get their very sensitive noses out of joint — people are great about pulling their dogs from the fray and letting the instigators’ owners sort things out. I’ve never seen a truly bad fight at the dog park; Rule No. 1 of dog-park etiquette is that if you’ve got an aggressive animal, just don’t take it.
Other points of order: If you take toys such as balls or Frisbees, be prepared to share. If your bulldog develops an overly affectionate crush on, say, a teacup Yorkie, stand ready to break up the love connection. If your pup bothers other dogs or people with incessant jumping, licking or “inappropriate” sniffing, put the leash on. It should go without saying that you must scoop your pup’s poop; bags and receptacles are provided.
Finally, and this should be obvious but you’d be surprised, never, ever leave your dog unattended. We once saw a clueless woman whose dog wouldn’t come to her when called — a training issue that should be addressed before dog-park outings — and she left, walked to Twisted Root Burger Co. a block away, and bought the dog a burger to entice it to come to her.
It’s not only illegal to abandon your pup, it’s dangerous: Your dog could get into an altercation and be injured or injure someone, be stolen, or escape into the dangerous street trying to get to you. The dog in the incident I describe tried desperately to climb the fence to get out when its owner left; needless to say, that owner got a human tongue-lashing from several other dog-parkers, including me, when she returned.
If you’re not close to Bark Park Central, Dallas has three other off-leash dog parks (you can find info here), and many other area cities also have them. Check your city’s parks and recreation website, and head out on your own bark lark.
Bark Park Central is free and located at the southwestern corner of Good-Latimer Expressway and Commerce Street, under the elevated portion of Central Expressway, downtown Dallas.
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