PAINTER: Visit to the dog park a must for dog owners

Abby, Ginger, Benji, Kayla, Gemini, Rogan, Dawit, Mini, Maggie, Millie, Nelson, Adama, Sweets and Cha-Cha. Are these my Facebook friends?
Jul 24, 2013

Nope. These names belong to just a few of the dogs that are regulars at the Spring Lake dog park.

Marilyn and I are the parents (Oops! Make that owners) of Cha-Cha, a 5-month-old dachshund-Chihuahua.

We dog owners do treat our pets like they are members of the family, so that means going to the dog park is part of our regular routine. Cha-Cha, like most dogs, loves going to the dog park. So do Marilyn and I.

Mention the words "dog park" to your dog and you’ll see the excitement in their faces. Cha-Cha barks in excitement at the mention of those two words. The dog park provides an opportunity for our dogs to socialize and, more importantly, to get their daily exercise.

We’ve enjoyed being regulars at the dog park. I’m sure many other dog owners feel the same way. The same goes for dog owners in Grand Haven and Ferrysburg who are frequent visitors to their dog parks.

We spend hours upon hours watching our dogs romp and play with their canine friends. We’ve met some wonderful people at the dog park, and we’ve enjoyed swapping stories about our dogs.

I’ve learned a lot about dogs and their behaviors this summer. I’ve even learned a lot about our own dog from others who have owned similar breeds. They’ve been so friendly and helpful with their advice.

Cha-Cha and Sweets — the dog owned by my son, Casey, and his girlfriend, Danielle — are on the small side and sometimes are afraid of the bigger dogs. The owners of the bigger dogs have been great about keeping their dogs under control when there are smaller dogs in the park. They understand.

Marilyn and I are novices when it comes to dogs. We can use all the advice we can get.

We have traditionally been a cat family, but decided to take the plunge as dog owners when Danielle’s mother needed to find homes for a litter of puppies. We found Cha-Cha to be irresistible.

We did worry that the puppy wouldn’t be welcomed in a house with cats. But Cha-Cha wasted little time in showing that she rules the animal kingdom in the Painters' household. In fact, she has become pretty good friends with one of our cats. Little Orange (he’s not so little) is twice as big as Cha-Cha, but they love to wrestle on the living room floor.

Cha-Cha, like any other puppy, of course, wants a lot of attention. That’s where the benefit of the dog park enters the picture. I take Cha-Cha to the dog park twice a day. Marilyn will often go with me for a third visit in the evening – when many other dogs are also getting their daily exercise.

There are all kinds of breeds at the dog park: golden retrievers, Labradors, German shepherds, poodles, terriers, bulldogs, hounds and even designer dogs. Some are pure bred dogs, in which their owners paid hundreds of dollars. They’ll tell you that their dog is worth every penny.

Dog owner Dan said he and his girlfriend took in their dog, Benji, as a stray until they could find a home for him. When Benji looked at Dan with his big eyes, Dan said he knew he had to keep Benji. We can relate.

Another one of the regular visitors to the dog park is Jack Badgero, who adopted Kayla after his longtime companion, Shelby, died. Jack and Shelby were featured in the Tribune when two surfers rescued Shelby after he fell into the Grand River.

Jack misses Shelby, but Kayla has done a good job of winning over his heart. She means the world to him. He takes Kayla everywhere he goes. Jack loves dogs so much that he would like to see a dog show or dog parade become a regular tradition in the Grand Haven area.

I’ve found quite a few of the dog owners are retirees. There’s something about those of us who are no longer working having a canine companion. A dog keeps us company.

And dogs are not just man’s best friend. They can be a woman’s best friend as well.

I have to stop writing now. Cha-Cha wants to go to the dog park.

— By Len Painter

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