Work With What You've Got

One of the 89.7 million dogs that live in U.S. households is currently curled up into a surprisingly tiny ball in a much-smaller-than-her-body bed in the corner, occasionally lifting her head when I make an out-loud comment as I read through our feature story on dog parks.

Bella (short for Bellatrix) is 50-odd pounds of occasionally cuddly consistently stubborn boxer. Rescued in September 2017 at the age of 4, she has some… well… we'll call them unique personality traits, but the truth is, that like many rescue dogs, she had (and still has) some issues that some dog owners can't deal with.

The first of those, separation anxiety, has gotten dramatically better since she came home with us. When we first brought her home, she was on antidepressants. I'm not here to judge whether that was right or wrong, but when I took her to my vet that first week, the first thing I asked was, "How do I get her off the meds?" He advised me on what to do, and she got weaned off her meds, and has been drug-free ever since.

Once she was off the meds, another part of her personality came shining—or barking—through. Bella the Boxer loathes other dogs. All other dogs. She wants them to be dead, and given the chance, she will try to ensure it is so. For many dog owners, this is a huge problem. But I've gradually developed a history of adopting aggressive dogs and working with them.

The first thing you have to accept? Every dog has a personality, and while some things can be changed, other things can't. You can't turn an aggressive 5-year-old boxer into a friendly, other-dog-loving sweetheart. You have to work with what you've got.

All this is just a long way of saying that as much as I love to read about off-leash dog parks, I've never had the chance to take a dog to one. And that's OK. There are plenty of other places where we can go and get some exercise. Local trails abound, and Bella is perfectly happy to walk for as long as you please. (Just don't forget to bring along your little roll of poop bags.)

You can work with what you've got too, whether that's an aging-but-lovable facility or a smaller-than-hoped-for construction budget.

For now, I'll keep enjoying the idea of off-leash dog parks, in theory, while saving the friendly pups there from my diva-dog. If you're looking for ideas for your dog park, turn to page 22 to get started. But don't stop there. Whatever you've got, you can work with it, and here on these pages, we hope you'll find plenty of fresh ideas to get the ball rolling.

Until next time!

Emily Tipping
Editorial Director,
Recreation Management

[email protected]