Irene Rabinowitz finally found a way to tire out her 10-year-old Australian sheepdog, which -- despite his age and two knee surgeries and arthritis -- still has the energy of a puppy.
She took him on a 70-mile walk from Centereach to Montauk that took four days to complete.
“Sydney walked about a third of the way” in total, she said about the furry gray sheepdog, who was periodically picked up by her husband so he could rest as Rabinowitz carried on.
She said Baxter, her dachshund-beagle mix, filled in the rest of the way. “It was quite the journey,” she added.
The goal was greater than exercise. Rabinowitz, 49, of Centereach, committed to the walk to raise money for two charities close to her heart -- the Long Island Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, because both she and Sydney suffer from arthritis; and Central Suffolk Paws, which is working toward getting a second dog park built in the Town of Brookhaven.
“We are trying to get a dog park closer to my home,” Rabinowitz said. “And we are trying to make a statement across the board.”
Rabinowitz finished the trek on Monday and was joined again by Sydney for the last leg. So far, they raised about $2,000; but Rabinowitz will continue fundraising through the website of her company, Barks-n-Bubbles, a self-serve dog wash.
Rabinowitz is the founder of Central Suffolk Paws, an affiliate of LI-Dog, a nonprofit that works to increase access to public parkland for dogs and dog owners.
She has been working with Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Kathleen Walsh for about two years to get a second dog park built in the town. The town runs one dog park in Middle Island, but Rabinowitz said one isn't enough for a town as large as Brookhaven.
Walsh said the town is looking to build the dog park at a roughly 2-acre site at the intersection of Hammond and Nicolls roads in Centereach, she said, where there is a playground that they would relocate.
She said the issue holding up the process is cost. Originally, they were looking at a “much larger” site in the same area, but that site would require excavation.
“The budget here in Brookhaven has been difficult to work with,” she said. “I’m trying to find a site that really wouldn’t require much of an investment.”
She commended Rabinowitz for her accomplishment, and she said any money donated to the dog park from Central Suffolk Paws would likely go toward amenities, like benches.
Rabinowitz and Sydney finished their walk at the Oceanside Beach Resort, in Montauk, where a welcoming party was waiting. About 50 friends, family and supporters, gathered for a barbecue and raffle prizes.
Ginny Munger Kahn, president of LI-Dog, who attended the party for Rabinowitz, called her “incredibly dedicated and passionate” about her cause.
She said the money Rabinowitz raises will also help the nonprofit spread awareness through fliers and brochures about their effort to build the dog park.
“The town promised a second dog park,” she said. “We are trying to hold them to that.”
Rabinowitz, who was exhausted as she greeted her supporters on Monday and said the last three miles were particularly difficult, said she hopes her walk made a strong point.
“This is for all the Long Island dog owners,” she said. “We need to walk our dogs, and for someone at my age, and with the arthritis ... we need dog parks.”