North End resident, Maria Ciampa (Pidg), shares this commentary on establishing a dog park in the neighborhood and questions the Gassy Flights area for that purpose.
Hearing there’s a bit of chatter about turning the Gassy into a Dog Park! I’m under the impression that many of us, dog owners and not, already signed the “Ruff” petition to get parcel 12 at Haymarket for this purpose! I’d like to share my experience, observations and knowledge as a veterinary technician of 19yrs, with my North End neighbors about the CONS of considering space at the (the gassy/flights) as a potential dog park. Yes, I’m a dog owner and no, I don’t use the space as a “litter box” for my two standard poodles for reasons listed below:
1. Dogs can continually reinfect themselves with intestinal parasites when there is a concentrated population of dogs in confined space. Concrete or earthen/grass cover is perfect for dogs to ingest the larvae and eggs of common intestinal dog parasites like round and hook worms.
2. The stairs in the gassy/flights can pose injury to our pets while exercising, especially since there will be multiple dogs. Most parks in and around our area like Somerville and Southie have flat ground covered in medium to large size gravel. Easy to hose off and easier to rid of parasites. When dogs exercise with other dogs, they tend to want to run and chase. They need flat land to stretch, tumble and roll. We are asking for trouble with sets of stairs in between each tier!
3. In many dog parks there are posted rules stating three dogs to one walker. When this rule is abused I’ve witnessed responsible dog owners call the police/animal control person, to reinforce the rules. The offender is either asked to leave or fined. I recently observed this situation last week in one of the Somerville dog parks. It is common to see one person walking 4 to 5 dogs in our neighborhood. I don’t believe we have the police/animal control staff available to reinforce this rule when we’re continually asking them to patrol our area for drug use, assaults and petty theft. So let’s think about the tiered small areas in the gassy/flights and the number of dogs using it, not to play but as a LITTER BOX! Who will help reinforce our park rules and that concern stands for any property we designate as a “dog park.” Anyone care to take on that role!
4. From the “behavior standpoint” small fenced in spaces with large amounts of dogs, commonly influence “pack behaviors.” This can result in dog fights while the dogs are working out their hierarchy. One or two dogs will often choose a small or submissive dog as the “victim” and more dogs will get involved in the “play” that can spiral into a dog fight. I’ve witnessed this happen on many occasions and that is why I do not frequent a small/enclosed park with my two pets.
5. When concrete is used exclusively as ground cover in dog parks, it posses a “footing” problem in winter for both pets and humans. Think about maneuvering those stairs in the “gassy” in winter months OR how about just standing at the top of the stairs and letting your pet use the area as a litter box! Do we really want to encourage more of this and yes, this space is consistently used in that way!
6. One of the more important issues is to caution our neighbors whether fellow dog owners or not, that use of the gassy as a short cut down to the children’s playground below could possibly expose children to the larvae of parasites that our companion dogs maybe passing. I make this “special note” not to panic people but, just to know this is possible. Rain could flush the parasitic larvae into the children’s play areas. Hosing the gravel could do the same! Do your own research by frequenting other dog parks and notice that pairing dog parks with children’s playgrounds is truly uncommon!
Finally, I too support the idea of a dog park in our neighborhood. Sure would be convenient rather than driving to Somerville or walking over the bridge to Charlestown in bad weather! There are dog parks that encourage exercise and those that are litter boxes. What is it that we are after? Let’s do it the right way once, with thought! It’s not about convenience for the owner or dog walker. It is about the needs of dogs in the inner city! If we want a true exercise area let’s take the time to consider other spaces. Consider the cost of gravel on flat surfaces, a poop station with bags and a couple of heavy steel garbage cans, a hosing or sprinkler system, a concrete/stone water fountain at mid dog level and, a small three-sided lean to within the park so that dogs can get out of the sun. Can we do that with the space potentially available at Haymarket? Are there other spaces yet to explore?
Pidg (Maria Ciampa)
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