Do Dogs Just Want to Run Free?



My view is evolving. My view of dog parks, that is. I've been watching as the "Dog Bark" — that is not a typo — takes shape at Overton Park.

On the one hand, I think it's a great idea and overdue in my book, having been spooked by big dogs while walking a small dog and having stepped in dog poop in the Overton Park playing field and greensward more than a time or two. The Dog Bark will have separate fenced areas for large and small dogs. Workmen were out Thursday morning laying down the surface, and this looks like the Hyatt Regency of dog parks. The grand opening is set for June 2nd.

On the other hand, I wonder if dogs and their owners are like motorcycle riders who don't wear helmets and beach lovers who don't wear sunscreen. They want to ride or run free and let their inner rebel out. The dog owners in my neighborhood have a little community that meets at an unfenced park in Midtown. The dogs — mostly big ones — seem to like it that way. The dog park behind the Board of Education on Avery looks kind of stark, and most people have to drive to get there. Shelby Farms, of course, is the field of canine dreams because of its size.

The dog owners I see in Overton Park like letting them off leash in the Old Forest and on the playing field next to Rainbow Lake, which is an irresistible attraction to some mutts. But if the owners don't scoop, they're tempting a war with those who want to use the playing field for Ultimate or playing catch or simply walking from the Memphis College of Art to Rainbow Lake.

A leash ordinance and strict enforcement would not be in the spirit of Overton Park. This is the park whose friends successfully defied an interstate highway. Polite encouragement might work, but I predict there will be some dogs that will continue to run free outside the confines of the Dog Bark. Maybe they can evolve.

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