An enhanced webcam system is being installed at a popular East Hills dog park to better allow residents to check out the playdate prospects for their canine companions before they head over with their pets.
The new $825 Axis camera equipment, expected to be installed within a month, will provide more opportunities to zoom in on the park action. Video and audio streaming will be accessible via Skype, Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder and other applications.
"We had an older analog camera," said William Gavin, director of The Park at East Hills. "This will give a better, wider view of what's at the location and it won't just use the basic Internet." He added that the new equipment will also be used for security.
The dog park can be viewed live by visiting the village's website, villageofeasthills.org, but the service is unavailable while the system is being installed.
Residents who use the dog park said they like to see who else is there since they've formed their own "pack" of human friends with whom they socialize both inside and outside the park.
"We've grown into our own pack," resident Leslie Spelke said of the dog owners. "We all have a love of dogs -- that's our bond."
While dogs have even vacationed in Florida together after meeting at the park, their owners host parties, go to Broadway plays, shop together and go out to dinner. "It's quite a unique group of all ages," Spelke said. "About 30 of us went out one time and people in the restaurant asked if we were a family."
Only East Hills residents are allowed to use the dog park, which opened in 2006 and is on the grounds of the gated Harbor Hill Road East Hills Village Hall. The park measures 188 feet long by 105 wide at its longest points.
Spelke, 55, is a retired chief financial officer for a Lake Success shipping company who owns Maggie, a 9-year-old golden retriever.
"Since I'm retired, the dog park gives me a place to go," Spelke said. "Maggie was a puppy when we started going. I was anxious to socialize her and she grew up there."
Spelke said Maggie hangs mostly with the same friends she has had from the start and noted that those who have moved away come back for visits.
Jackie Mansbach, 46, is a mother of two who has been taking her 6-year-old Goldendoodle, Brody, to the park since he was about 6 months old.
"Someone told me about the webcam, so I'd look to see what people were there, throw him in the car and run over," Mansbach said.
"I like to make sure someone is there for me and him." She said the human pack and their dogs meet in the park regularly at 1 p.m. on weekdays or at 4 or 5 p.m. if they work, and at 9 a.m. on weekends.
Debbie Bass, 76, a retired college coordinator at Roslyn High School, goes to the park with Derek, her 12-year-old collie. "Everyone there is great," she said.