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Friday, Apr 18, 2014

Hill: Dog park serves pets, people


After several cloudy and rainy days, a visit to the dog park at North Shore prompted Fritz, the mini-schnauzer, to wail that odd, sharp song the little dogs are given to as he dragged Richard and Sondra Frisbie into the small-dog portion of the park.

He saw his buddies, including another mini-schnauzer, Richard Macaraeg’s Pepy, who keened right back, and my dog, Scoop, a corgi/Jack Russell mix that is more into constant barking than keening.

Let off the leash, Fritz tore around greeting dogs and people. No question, he was happy at the park. The humans were happy, and happy to see each other as well.

It was a reunion, of sorts. Rob Pahmer and his rescued mixed-breeds, Hogan and Colt, finally had made it down from Toronto. The Frisbies had returned from Michigan a few weeks ago.

This is the second year this particular group of dog lovers has gathered about the same time of day at North Shore, one of six dog parks operated by the city of St. Petersburg.

While Pahmer and the Frisbies are snowbirds, I’m a year-rounder, as is Macaraeg, who is in the U.S. Coast Guard. There also are other year-round regulars who come often but weren’t there the other day.

We fell right into chatting about the things we chatted about last year: dogs, leashes, dog food, whether I feed Scoop too much, politics, elections, sports, the beauty of North Shore and what we love about this park.

The setting is beautiful.

The Vinoy sits just to the south; Tampa Bay is to the east.

A baseball diamond used primarily by the Kids N’ Kubs Senior Softball League and North Shore Pool are on the park’s northern border. To the southeast, The Pier, now shuttered and sad, is also on the horizon.

But the people are the most appealing.

Not just each other, but the eclectic group of folks that comes here regularly.

Pahmer pointed out he would not have the opportunity to talk with such a diverse group of people in any other place.

They come from poor, modest and upscale neighborhoods, driving clunkers to cars that cost more than some houses. Their politics range from one end of the spectrum to another. Some are very young, and some are very old.

Popular conversations include the Tampa Bay Rays, the Buccaneers, college football, hockey. Depending on who’s nearby, politics also is a topic of conversation. But we pretty much know where everyone stands, so we keep the political talk to folks we know share our views.

The latest animal cruelty story is always fodder for conversation, as are the rescue groups and shelters you support and the doggy day care centers that are preferable.

Complaints when someone doesn’t pick up after their dog are almost universal. After all, those who do pick up argue that the city provides recyclable plastic envelopes to pick it up and huge garbage cans to toss the containers into. So what’s the big deal? You’re forgiven if you just didn’t see it happen. But there are those who never see their dogs poop.

There also are complaints about the very few people who don’t appreciate the hardworking city employees who keep this part of the city mowed and clipped and trimmed. Most are protective of the guys who ride those green club cars around picking up after Mother Nature and the uncivilized humans who don’t pick up after themselves.

There’s also gossip about which dogs don’t seem to be well cared for or are a little too aggressive, those which haven’t been neutered and why.

But you really are just another dog lover when you’re there. You have that in common with whoever walks through the gates.

So it’s an ideal spot for the socialization of humans, as well as dogs.

Friendships are formed. Even some relationships.

People tend to be real at the dog park. There are few affectations or outsized egos, few noses in the air, unless you’re trying to figure out where the poop is that you smell.