Neil MacDonald, 46, and his girlfriend, Camela Dwyer, 48, have been dating for two years. MacDonald decided it was time to propose and knew Dwyer loves dogs, so he came up with the perfect plan.
Dressed in a dog costume, MacDonald got on one knee and asked Dwyer -- who was dressed as a cat -- for her hand in marriage.
She said yes.
The moment made for quite the grand opening Saturday of the Duke Dog Park at Stotzky Park in Riverhead.
“We both love animals,” said MacDonald, of Riverhead. “We walk together as the cat and dog at all the Riverhead Move the Animal Shelter events,” he said.
The new dog park is the second one to open in the town -- the first was at Isaac Park in Calverton in July 2012. The dog park is a collaboration of the Town of Riverhead and the Riverhead Move the Animal Shelter organization founder Denise Lucas.
“Duke is my dog. He is my spoiled little brat. I’ve had him 7½ years. It’s so exciting to have a park named after my dog Duke,” said Lucas, 45, of Riverhead, who is also MacDonald's sister.
Lucas founded Riverhead Move the Animal Shelter in 2011 after visiting the Riverhead Town Animal Shelter and being disappointed with its conditions. (The town board voted to turn the shelter's day-to-day operation over to the nonprofit North Fork Animal Welfare League in December 2012 after having trouble keeping it properly funded.)
“The cost for the parks were at no cost to taxpayers,” said Riverhead Town Councilman James Wooten, who estimated the cost for Isaac Dog Park at around $15,000 and Duke Dog Park at $11,000. “Denise has been tremendous with raising money for the dog parks.”
Duke Dog Park is broken into two sections -- one for larger dogs (100-by-75 feet) and smaller dogs (100-by-50 feet). There were about 75 dogs with their owners at Saturday’s event, which included an unveiling of the Duke Dog Park sign, a DJ, face-painting and treats for the dogs.
Toni Norkelun, 62, of Riverhead, brought her two Shetland sheepdogs -- Madison, 5, and Shelby, 7.
“This dog park is a good thing. It is a ‘Yay’ moment for the dogs. I will definitely come here,” said Norkelun.
Jerry Bilinski, of Riverhead, brought his three dogs -- Lucy, 14, a Maltese Yorkie; Petey, 8, a Chihuahua, and Ozzie, 14, a cockapoo.
“I can’t say enough good things about Denise,” Bilinski said. “She worked very hard to make this dog park happen here at Stotzky Park. I was going to Isaac Park in Calverton but this is much closer to my home so now I can bring my dogs here.”
For more information on Riverhead Move the Animal Shelter, visit www.rmtas.org