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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Land O'Lakes has new digs for our four-legged friends to gather.
By SHARY LYSSY MARSHALL, Times Correspondent
Published January 29, 2008
Jackie Haggar pets Daisy as grandson Nathaniel Sirkle, 2, holds the leash. "I said let's go take the kids and the dogs and let them run wild," said Haggar, who was on her first visit to the dog park.
[Keri Wiginton | Times]
[Keri Wiginton | Times]
Brutus, who belongs to Dave Hill, jumps up to give Haley Saulnier, 9, a kiss at the dog park at the Land O'Lakes Recreational Complex recently. Haley came to the park with her mother and her dog, Sadie, a boxer. The new park is near the soccer fields behind the recreation center, next to the pet cemetery.
LAND O'LAKES -- A man from Jersey named Ronnie Pisano and his dog Dixie arrived at their new favorite hangout.
Before it opened, they would sometimes visit a park in a nearby county.
"If there was a big dog or aggressive dogs, we would play on a leash outside," said Pisano of his 2-year old, Peek-a-Poo, a cross between a Pekingese and miniature poodle. "I don't like her to play with the big boys."
What Dixie needed was an off-the-leash playground, somewhere where she could mix with the right sort of pups. And she found it, right here in Land O'Lakes.
The recently opened dog park at the Land O'Lakes Recreation Complex has two sections, one for big dogs and one for dogs less than 35 pounds.
Think of it as a place where dogs learn how to be dogs.
"After using dog parks and socializing dogs well, there is a noticeable difference," said Lori Sash-Gail of the American Dog Trainer's Network.
Without dog parks it can be difficult to find a social network for dogs to learn from one another.
"It's hard to have play dates for puppies," she said.
Dogs such as Chester, a 5-month-old tawny Labradoodle, have opportunities to learn dog body language and are less likely to act out if they come across an adult Doberman on their morning walk.
Dog parks, or off-the-leash areas for dogs, are a relatively new phenomenon. As green spaces have decreased and dog ownership has increased, such spaces have become increasingly important.
And with 57,000 registered dogs in Pasco County, many in homes without fenced yards, off-the-leash dog runs can provide a place to exercise.
"When you are in a tight area, big dogs or little dogs need to have some space to run," said Rosemary Lyons, education coordinator for Pasco County Animal Services.
Dogs need exercise. If they don't get it, there will be trouble.
"Dogs younger than 2 will be chewing and mouthing things and basically making things difficult for their owners," said Sash-Gail.
"Without a dog park, it's difficult for active breeds like sheepdogs and Labs to get the exercise they need," she said. "And a walk is like a warm-up for a dog."
Dog lovers say that in the same way everyone benefits from strong public schools, recreation places, even for dogs, are good for communities.
"People who use dog parks in general tend to be more responsible individuals and are more likely to have spayed or neutered animals," Lyons said.
Considering that the county animal shelter receives 10,000-12,000 animals each year, having animals spayed or neutered makes a difference in growing Pasco County.
Well-exercised dogs are also less likely to bark excessively, which might be of interest to those who don't have a dog, but live within earshot of one.
Dog parks also bring people together.
On a recent evening, Sadie, a chocolate Lab belonging to Kelly and Kevin Grills, enjoyed socializing with Chester, a cross between a Labrador retriever and poodle.
"It's nice for people-meeting," said Kelly Grills. "You don't have a lot of places where you just talk to people nowadays."
"It's good for community spirit," Pisano said.
If you go:
Some helpful advice
- Owners are encouraged to keep an eye on their dogs and keep leashes on until they are safely within the free-run pens.
- Eating and smoking are discouraged while visiting the park.
- Dogs must be registered and have up-to-date shots.
- It is recommended that pets be spayed or neutered.
- Owners must clean up after their dogs.
- Dogs visiting the park for the first time should do so during off-peak times. Late afternoons until dusk are generally busier times.