- The Washington Times - Monday, May 21, 2001

PHOENIX — Pink poodles in rhinestone collars used to be the height of canine indulgence. Today, Fifi has her own furniture, mink coat, hiking boots, premium dog food and gourmet biscuits.
Now the latest doggone amenity: dog parks, known in the recreation trade as "off-leash activity areas."
The trend that began on the East and West coasts 10 to 15 years ago is racing into the Valley with the speed of a greyhound. In three years, six communities have constructed 11 off-leash areas, including three each in Tempe and Scottsdale. More are under way.
"These are coming in leaps and bounds," said Christy Hill, recreation coordinator for Scottsdale. "Its an up-and-coming trend."
Phoenix, however, remains without a dog park, something a grass-roots organization hopes to rectify.
Dog parks dont come cheap. Gilbert is spending $25,000 to develop a two-acre fenced dog park with doggie drinking fountains and benches.
Scottsdale spent $15,000 to start a two-acre dog park, costing about $30,000 annually to maintain.
The maintenance costs run twice those of regular parks because of turf upkeep, waste disposal and supplies of poop bags, said Doug Nohren, recreation coordinator at Scottsdales Chaparral Park.
Is it worth the cost?
Definitely, Mr. Nohren said, adding that intense use and popularity show "theres a need for it."
Many of the parks are well appointed. Two parks in Chandler feature agility courses. Tempes Mitchell Park has two wading pools.
Most dog owners are happy with just the basics: fenced lawn, a few benches and a supply of poop bags or mutt mitts.
Park users say the venues give humans and pets a chance to commune with nature and meet other dog lovers, who know each other as D Bears mommy or Bos daddy.
"Its the most friendly place youve been to except for a bar in Chicago," said Debbie May, who takes her dogs to the Snedigar Sportsplex Bark Park in Chandler.
For dogs, its a chance to cut loose and snub leash laws.
"Dogs have a need for socializing, pack involvement and exercise," said Donn Moseley, a member of Paws at the Park, a volunteer group that monitors the off-leash area at Scottsdales Chaparral Park.
Mr. Moseley, who makes and sells hats for dogs, comes to the park with his pups, Marvin the dachshund and Bit the Yorkshire terrier, who sports a tiny floral visor.
On a Friday afternoon, they might meet miniature schnauzers Miss Schwartz, with her human companion Pat Liehr, and Jacqueline, owned by Jane Ramsberger.
Miss Ramsberger explained, "Jacquelines an only dog, so its nice for her to have other dogs around."
Even people with generous back yards enjoy the parks. Miss May takes her dogs to the Chandler Bark Park nearly every morning, though they have room to run at home.
After an hour at play, "theyll sleep all day long, and it saves my furniture," Miss May said as her husky and black Lab raced by, paws thundering like a herd of buffalo.
Although dog parks initially can draw opposition from neighbors fearing noise, odors and canine miscreants, communities have found that the parks cause few problems.
"Its excellent. Its very popular," Bob Rhodes, parks supervisor for the central district in Glendale, said of his citys year-old dog park at 63rd Avenue and Mountain View. At first skeptical, Mr. Rhodes has become a believer.
"We have people from all over the Valley here," he said. "Its beyond my wildest belief it could happen."
Glendales park has proved so popular that the city is building a second venue at 57th Avenue and Union Hills.
If creating parks just for dogs sounds indulgent, supporters say, many dog owners have no children, so they dont take advantage of fields for Little League, soccer or T-ball. For the elderly and disabled, dog parks offer an opportunity to exercise pets easily and safely.
Scottsdales Miss Hill said catering to dog owners is no different from serving golfers or tennis players.
"This is about people who choose to recreate with their dogs," she said. "Were listening to our citizens."
Gilberts first dog park, at Crossroads Park, is scheduled to open in mid-June, which is none too soon for Tami Pschierer, who drives 20 minutes to take her husky mix, Madison, to the Shawnee Bark Park in Chandler.
"Theres such a strong need for it" in Gilbert, she said.


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