Sometimes I load my three dogs into my Toyota Camry for a drive to the dog park. They're usually quiet -- until the moment I turn onto the road leading to the park at the old Grumman property in Calverton. Let the howling and barking commence!
The three of them -- Ozzie, a cockapoo; Petey, a Chihuahua; and Lucy, a Yorkie-Maltese -- instantly know we're going to the dog run that opened there just last summer.
"We're going to the dog park, yeah, yeah, yeah," I sing, fueling their excitement. "We're going to see our dog friends, yeah, yeah, yeah."
They love the park so much because they get to run around and see other dogs. It's a big part of their quality of life. But Long Island canines weren't always so lucky.
Thirteen years ago when my wife and I got Ozzie, our first dog, there were few local dog runs. In fact, at that time, dogs in New York City had a much richer social life than those on the Island. We frequently took Ozzie with us when we spent time at our small family apartment on the Upper West Side. Nearby Riverside Park had several excellent dog runs, and some restaurants with outdoor seating let you bring a dog. Some even had dog snacks and water bowls.
In the last decade, however, I am happy to report that Long Island has also gone to dogs. Local politicians seem to have learned that they not only must shake hands to get votes, they also need to shake some paws!
There's been a relative boom of dog parks on public land. Dog runs and off-leash areas can be found at Christopher Morley Park in Roslyn, Cedar Creek Park in Seaford and Wantagh Park in Wantagh. In Suffolk County, we now have the Blydenburgh Dog Park in Smithtown, and dog runs in the Towns of Brookhaven, Huntington, Babylon, Southold, East Hampton, and Riverhead's new park at Calverton.
We took our pooches to Calverton for opening day. Some people had never been to a dog park and had to get over the fear that the dogs would fight. Although dogs can play rough, fighting is rare. Most dog parks have separate areas for larger and smaller dogs to allow each of them to play without fear of harming the others.
Petey, my Chihuahua, thinks he is a Great Dane and yearns to get inside the other area to run with the big dogs. Although separated, larger and smaller dogs interact by barking and chasing each other along the fence lines. It's quite amusing to see a Yorkie or Chihuahua nose to nose at the fence with a St. Bernard or pit bull. All of the dogs get exercise and play without fear of unintentionally harming one another.
Not only does the park help to socialize our dogs, it's a gathering place for residents. The shared love of dogs brings people together from all walks of life who might otherwise never meet. It helps to bring the community together. Perhaps it takes a dog to make a village.