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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dogs downtown?

Dogs downtown? You bet!

Dotson building - 3 story brick in the middle
Demolished - now in clean up
After the demolition and clean up of the Dotson building on Sale Street in Tuscola, there will be a very vacant spot. In other words, a hole. Typically these vacant areas are detraction to the street unless there is a quick reuse of the property.  The best reuse of any property is one that fills a need in the community, improving  the lives of the community and can be shared by those outside of town.
I met with Brian Moody and Carly McCrory of TEDI shortly before the Dotson project began.   They asked my opinion about using that space as some kind of dog play or park area.  As it turns out surveys of the community revealed that a dog park, recreation areas and a place for shoppers at the Tanger mall who also have their pets in tow was greatly desired.   As timing would have it, some Hands 4 paws board members had discussed getting interest up for some kind of a dog play area in the future.
Checking Bella's manners outside the park

So the seeds of creating a dog park/play area have been sewn.  Information has been gathered about state regulations, how to run and maintain such a space, planning the use and layout of the space and some of the benefits and drawbacks of such a park.  I led a community meeting Tuesday at Jarman Center Senior Living  to outline some of these pros and cons.  Many good ideas came out, and groups have formed to present an initial plan to our city council. 

clean up stations need to be handy!
 Here are some of the pluses for our town.  First, it is an attraction to our downtown that is active.  Second, it can draw shoppers from the mall to our downtown, witnessing that there is much more to Tuscola IL than Route 36.  Third, it can provide an appropriate area for downtown residents who have dogs a place  to play and relieve themselves in an appropriate area. 
Fourth, Hands 4 paws along with local trainers, groomers, and veterinarians can use this space for educational, promotional, and fun events for the whole community.  Fifth the local shelter can hold adoption events or other events there. This list will certainly grow longer as we go along.

water - watch out for mud with grass
There are some drawbacks too.  Management and promotion of the park is essential to the success. There is a lot to consider even about the substrate - grass vs sand vs gravel vs mulch.  How high the fencing, how many dogs to allow in an area, membership vs day use, good doggie manners in the park, good people manners in the park too!  
Rules have to be very obvious
Actually from reading guidelines by APDT,CPDT,AKC, and U of CA Davis it is the human behavior that makes or breaks a dog park.  People talking on their cell phones, allowing their dogs to run far ahead and not able to call them away from a too rowdy dog leads to many scuffles and out right dangerous fights in the parks.  The human bringing a dog that chases down other dogs or aggresses on them makes a park bad.  So educating the dog owners about what the rules are and policing that is extremely important. Peer pressure from responsible owners is how I read about how rules are enforced - I wonder how that is really done.

A place for the humans
Some interesting ideas came about through the meeting as well.  Some people only want to see a large multi acre site developed.  That may be able to come about and certainly would have many attributes better than an empty lot site in downtown.  Calling the downtown area a "dog park" has people thinking of only a huge space so we are going to call it something else.  I will let you know what in future posts!   The best news is that there is support for both big and small dog play areas.  There are also critics and nay sayers which is to be expected.  The critics do help to screen out all the things that may go wrong so thank you for that.  In the end it looks like our downtown will not have just a hole in it, but a nice asset for dogs, owners and others.  There may also be an easier effort to developing a larger park for the future.  I will keep you all posted about this as time goes on.

Dr Sally J Foote


20 plus years ago when I moved my practice to Sale street people jokingly said “Downtown is going to the dogs!”   It has been a great place for the business, and the community to have pet related businesses in our downtown.  A dog play area is one more way to make our community great. I hope downtown keeps going to the dogs (and other pets!)– And the people who treasure them.
See you Tuesday!
Dr. Sally J Foote
Okaw Veterinary Clinic Tuscola IL