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Dog-bury: Canines enjoy their new city park

By Mark Wineka
mark.wineka@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — All around Salisbury, the drives across town were exciting, just anticipating going to a new place and meeting new friends.

And it seemed like their humans were excited, too.

Dogs and humans christened Salisbury’s newest dog park Saturday morning. Sure, it rained, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for a dog park that has been at least six years in the making.

“She’s double-coated,” Alma Marshall said of her dog, Abby. “She doesn’t know its raining. … She had a great time.”

Patrick Coffey watched proudly as his black Labrador-Dane mix, Jeb, frolicked off his leash with other big dogs inside the dog park’s fence.

“He had a blast,” Coffey said.

Located behind the Salisbury Civic Center at 315 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. S., the Dog Paws Dog Park covers about three-quarters of an acre. Some 980 feet of chain-link fence encapsulate the park, which is divided into two sides — one for small dogs, one for bigger breeds.

The idea is to close the entrance gate behind you and unleash your dog so it can run and maybe play and socialize with other dogs inside the same area.

“I’m always amazed,” said Stephen Brown, the city’s landscape architect and project manager for the dog park. “All these different dogs come together, and it’s like they’ve known each other for years.”

The Dog Paws Dog Park has been a citizen-funded and driven project with the Salisbury Parks and Recreation Department providing the land, manpower and equipment.

“You can see we’ve been successful to this point,” Brown said.

The “Paws” name comes from the non-profit organization and task force (Dog Parks and Walks) which since 2012 has promoted the park’s establishment and raised money toward the first big need — fencing.

Theresa Pitner, a certified dog trainer, heads Dog PAWS, and she and Brown have been going to Salisbury City Council meetings and giving officials updates on the dog park’s progress for a good while.

“This is a wonderful day for me,” Pitner said, and City Parks and Recreation Director Nick Aceves agreed.

“Now she doesn’t have to sell hopes,” he said. “She can sell reality.”

Several City Council members, including Mayor Al Heggins, Mayor Pro Tem David Post and Councilwomen Tamara Sheffield and Karen Alexander, attended a brief ribbon-cutting for the dog park Saturday morning.

Sheffield and Alexander brought their dogs with them.

Heggins said her pug, Nola, is not a fan of the rain, but she predicted Nola will be a big fan of the dog park.

“She’s going to be out here soon,” Heggins said, “as soon as the rain stops.”

Heggins said a dog park is one of those things that goes a long way in showing people that Salisbury is a welcoming place. The dog park is just not a location for dogs to socialize, but it’s also a spot for people to do the same.

“It’s a good way to get to know other people and a way for dogs to interact,” said Wendy Guzman, who brought her dog, Jackson. “He loves dog parks.”

Rowan Animal Clinic also has a dog park next to its location off Statesville Boulevard.

“I want people to get together,” Pitner said, “and I want people to get their dogs out of their back yards.”

There remains plenty of money to raise and extra things to add to the city’s dog park.

Plans call for five dog waste stations, five trash cans, an entrance sign, brick pavers, seven shade trees, a water line, two drink fountains (with pet basins at the bottom), play equipment, plaques and an electronic gate system.

The entrance gates will eventually open with a card, meant to verify that an owner’s dog is up to date with its shots and is safe and healthy to interact with other dogs.

The Salisbury Parks and Recreation Department and Dog PAWS-Salisbury (Facebook) continue to accept donations for the dog park.

The Dog Paws Dog Park is open dawn to dusk as with other parks in the city system.

C.J. Peters and the Carolina Mudd Band performed at the dog park Saturday morning under the protection of a tent. Pitner saw the sunny side of things on the rainy day.

“Actually, this weather is good for dogs,” she said. “Not for people, but this is a dog’s day.”

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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