A hoppin' new place for dogs to play

The new agility course at Happy Tails Dog Park has plenty of obstacles for hours of climbing, jumping, running and sniffing.

Published May 22, 2005

DUNEDIN - It turns out dogs really do go to heaven.

At least, those in Dunedin do.

And they don't even have to die to get there. They hop in the car and go with their owners to a 3-acre slice of paradise called the Happy Tails Dog Park.

A doggie agility course was installed May 14, and it has been providing hours of fun for Ozzie, Dizzy, Beta and the other furry regulars who visit the park.

They've been trying out obstacles such as "King of the Hill," a 4-foot-high, A-frame ramp with a paw friendly surface, and the "Doggie Crawl," a 6-foot-long vinyl tunnel decorated with bones.

There is also a tire jump, a window jump - be careful teaching Buster to sail through that one; it looks very much like an open window in a house - and the "Puppy Hop," with low, horizontal bars for little legs.

Built by 15-year-old Jeff Cluff, who is working toward his Eagle Scout badge, and Boy Scout Troop 84, the course is located within the "big dog" enclosure at the Louis A. Vanech Recreation Complex, 3051 Garrison Road.

"It's sort of a doggie playground," said Harry Gross, Dunedin's director of leisure services.

The city picked up the cost of the materials, which was a few thousand dollars.

Cluff's cousins, triplets Neil, Warren and Ethan Huchton, 19, built the dog park in 2003 and helped with the installation of the agility course.

On a recent day at the park, there were a couple of panting canines who weren't out on the course but standing under a tree looking a bit faint.

Cousins Dizzy, 21/2, and Beta, 2, were wiped out after a hard afternoon of playing.

"They're hot," said their owner, Virginia Grossman of Dunedin.

But she was determined to prove her schnauzers could conquer the course.

Grossman put down her paperback and led them to the obstacles.

Pooped and panting, they walked slowly behind her.

When they got to the base of the ramp, the dogs looked up at it as though it were Mount Everest.

Dizzy started up first, crawling up the rubber surface nervously.

"Come on, Dizzy!" urged Grossman.

She climbed some more, got to the top and slid down the other side on her belly.

Next was Beta. He followed his cousin to the middle rung, and then pulled a fast one, jumping off the side and hiding under the obstacle where it was shady.

Grossman laughed.

"It's hot Mama,' he's saying," Grossman said, interpreting for her dog. "What are you, crazy?"

Eileen Schulte can be reached at 727 445-4153 or schulte@sptimes.com