Dog Park Not Only Way Paws Helps Animals

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Russell Batey is happy to pose for a photo, but his dog, Carmela, appears a bit camera-shy. The two visit the off-leash dog park in Rumsey Park early in the morning to chat with friends or just hang out and relax.

An idea tossed out by Roundup columnist Vivian Taylor almost 10 years ago started the ball rolling that fetched the Rumsey off-leash dog park.

The column appeared in February 2001, and by April there was enough interest and enthusiasm for the newly organized Payson Area Woofers Society (PAWS) to have a booth at the chamber’s Business Showcase.

By the middle of June 2001, the issue was before the Payson Town Council, which agreed to allocate 1-1/2 acres at Rumsey Park for the off-leash facility. As part of the authorization, the PAWS group agreed to keep the area clean.

Current PAWS president Bill Witte said the group started with just five members. But those five recruited others and worked to raise money, and by April 2002 they held the grand opening for the off-leash park.

Among the fund-raising activities held:

• Selling sections of the fence enclosure at $85 for a 4-foot-by-6-foot portion;

• Designing, with the help of the late Mike Rokoff, a line of PAWS-wear merchandise to sell, including T-shirts, sweatshirts, aprons, hats and visors, bags and mugs;

• A “Big Hairy” yard sale in Nov. 2001;

• Dog Day in the Park events with vendors and contests for both dogs and their owners;

• A large, annual bake sale in April; and

• The very popular Chili Supper, sponsored by the Humane Society with the help of PAWS, which was held for seven consecutive years until 2009. There is currently some discussion to resume the Chili Supper this fall.

The PAWS group remains active today. Members meet at 6 p.m., the first Wednesday of each month, share a light supper and then have a meeting at 6:30 p.m., often featuring a guest speaker. The meetings are at the Payson Public Library. Membership dues are $10 per person for the year or $15 for a family. The next meeting open to prospective members is July 7.

To learn more about membership, call past president Dorothy Howell at (928) 472-7396.

PAWS is not just about the off-leash park. Members helped provide emergency shelter, food and water for animals evacuated during the Rodeo-Chedeski Fire. They have also created a “second chance” fund to provide financial assistance to the Humane Society of Central Arizona. Each year since 2008 the group has given the Society $2,000 to cover the costs of healing ill and injured animals to make them more adoptable.

Lisa Boyle of the Humane Society said the money has helped at least two dozen animals in that time.

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