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    Clearwater opens playground for pooches

    Today, canines get a park of their own as the city cuts the ribbon on its first dog park, in Crest Lake Park, 201 Glenwood Ave.

    [Times photo: Carrie Pratt]
    Among the amenities at the dog park are mock hydrants and dog-level drinking fountains. For human convenience, there are different areas for different-size animals and double gates.

    By ADRIENNE P. SAMUELS
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 1, 2003


    CLEARWATER -- Finally, Rover can run around free and pee where he wants to pee.

    Along the way, he can frolic through tulips, gorge on grass and sniff the backside of whomever he pleases.

    On the way out, he can shout, er, bark out to the city of Clearwater for giving dogs a place to play: the city's first dog park, located in Crest Lake Park. It opens at 201 Glenwood Ave. today.

    Area residents think there will be a large crowd.

    "There's been some buzz about this," said Tim Johnson, who owns a 6-year-old Labrador named Humphrey.

    map Until now, Johnson has been taking Humphrey to other dog parks across the county, even as far as Tarpon Springs. Now he can walk Humphrey to the fenced-in enclosure full of imitation fire hydrants and poop scoop bags on the northeast corner of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and Glenwood Avenue.

    "We've taken him to various dog parks around the county," Johnson said. "But this is going to be the nicest dog park of any of them by far. This is a first-class dog park."

    The park has three fenced-in areas for different-size dogs. It features double-gated entrance areas, allowing owners to remove their dog's leashes before opening the second gate into the play areas.

    Pup-sized drinking fountains are available and the canines will also be able to rinse their feet before they leave to go home.

    Some pet owners say that fights at dog parks are rare.

    But owners still need to be careful. A woman was severely bitten by a dog last year at Boca Ciega Millennium Park in Seminole. The dog's owner lied about her name and then promptly left the park after the attack. That owner didn't come forward until the police got involved in the search.

    Clearwater says that each dog owner is responsible for injuries his or her pet may cause. Local vets say that owners should evaluate the temperament of their pooch before having it mingle with others.

    "If you will, it's like a playground -- you use at your own risk," said Kevin Dunbar, city parks and recreation director. The city has posted "petiquette" rules near the front gates of the park.

    Grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremonies are scheduled at 1 p.m. today. After that, contests and activities for dogs and their owners will occur until 3:30 p.m. The park is open sunrise until 10 p.m.

    -- Adrienne P. Samuels can be reached at 445-4157 or samuels@sptimes.com .

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