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Dog owners deserve a piece of the park pie

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Amber has been driving me crazy with her begging lately. Not for a bite of my steak at dinnertime, though she does that, too. No, this is different. It started when we visited a new doggie park in Scottsdale with my daughter-in-law, granddaughters, and their dog, Buddy.

Amber, a 70-pound golden retriever, and Buddy, a 20-pound, cocker spaniel-long-haired chihuahua mix, were in dog heaven. While we humans relaxed in plastic chairs on the sidelines, our beloved canines played chase with their own kind around the grassy enclosure, blissfully free of their leashes. Some owners threw Frisbies or tennis balls for their dogs to retrieve. We watched the happy pandemonium, ready to pounce with plastic bags on poop piles, and traded cute stories about our pets.

I hadn't realized before how deprived Amber is most of the time. We are great friends, of course. She hardly lets me out of her sight. But when we take our daily walk around our neighborhood, she and other dogs we encounter are usually hostile, instinctively protective of their owners. Confined to our own fenced yard, Amber rarely gets to play with other dogs in a safe, neutral setting.

It didn't take long to translate her dog lingo into English after that visit.

"Are we going to the doggie park again? Huh? Huh?" Amber said to me as we strolled through Rumsey Park the other day. She turned and stood right in front of me, grinning ear to ear and looking up at me with Betty Davis eyes.

"Someday, Amber," I promised. "What we need is a doggie park here in Payson. Wouldn't it be nice if that pretty green soccer field over there was a doggie park?"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," she panted, as we walked on.

"Yeah. Why shouldn't we have a piece of the park pie? Why should baseball, soccer, skateboards and tennis get it all? People are always complaining about dogs. Cats get to prowl around day and night, but dogs have to be penned up and kept on leashes. It's not fair!" I said, feeling suddenly grumpy.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," said Amber.

"And yet, we both know dogs running loose is unhealthy for them as well as everyone else. So the community would benefit," I rambled on.

"Elderly and disabled dog-owners could exercise their pets easily. It would help in enforcing dog-control laws and promote responsible dog ownership." Amber didn't comment. She was checking out a bush for possible messages.

When we got home, I did some checking. Surely some of that open land in Rumsey Park could be turned into a dog park. I called Parks and Recreation.

"No," I was told. All the park land is already part of a master plan. Green Valley Park same thing.

I'd heard there was a new dog park in Prescott, so I called up the Daily Courier archives on the Internet. Yes! There was a news story by Cindy Barks (I swear I didn't make that up). "Prescott City Council OKs $15,000 for dog park," the headline read. It was one of those touching all-American stories dedicated, selfless, dog-loving, (my words) volunteers raised $8,000 in contributions. A generous, forward-looking (again, my words) city council then came through for the project. Hey, if Prescott could do it, so could Payson.

"But that's a lot of money, Amber," I said. "And somebody'd have to donate the land. There would be maintenance, supervision and health concerns. It'd be a ton of work. Are you worth all that, Amber?" I said, giving her ears a vigorous rubdown.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah!" she said, adding one loud "Arf!" for emphasis. She can be very persuasive.

More on this next week. In the meantime, Amber and I would love to hear from you dog lovers out there.

Call Vivian Taylor at 474-1386 or send her an e-mail at viv@cybertrails.com.

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