There’s nothing like the face of a dog running free. The grin that says sweet freedom is irresistible. Plymouth residents, canine and human, are fortunate to have three dog parks where dogs and their people can get outdoors for fun and social connection.
For dog people, it’s obvious that dogs make our lives better. (No offense to cat people—it’s just different.) But it’s not just the companionship and unconditional love that dogs offer—a source no less heavy-duty than the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that there’s evidence that benefits of owning a dog include decreased blood pressure, decreased cholesterol and decreased triglycerides.
Dog park people are serious about their fun. The Highway 47 dog park even has its own Facebook page, coordinated by Jaimie Schmeling. Schmeling, a realtor, values the connections that the dogs make with each other, and the human connections as well.
“The dog park people became a social group,” says Schmeling. “They go to bingo, bars and other dog-friendly places.” The group has also held Halloween parties for dogs and their people.
Schmeling says she appreciates that the Highway 47 dog park has synthetic turf—dogs can romp without them getting their paws muddy. Within the park is a specific area set aside for smaller dogs, she says.
“The park has a great culture,” says Schmeling. “Everyone is kind and helpful.” Going to the dog park has even had business benefits for Schmeling. “My biggest real estate listing came from someone I met there.”
Merilee Riley, a past member of the Plymouth Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, is another proponent of dog parks. She has a mini golden-doodle, Rowdy, and two golden retriever grand-dogs, Trooper and Rosie, with whom she frequents the Highway 47 dog park. Riley says that because she lives in a townhouse that does not have a fenced yard, access to a dog park is essential.
“Dogs who get enough exercise are better behaved,” says Riley “The dogs can practice their social skills.” And that applies to the dogs’ people as well as the dogs, Riley says.
“Friendships are formed,” says Riley. “Humans get socialization and exercise, too.”
Riley also visits the Happy Tails dog park near Oakwood School on County Road 101, which is special to Riley in part because her granddaughter was the winner in the contest to name the park.
“Plymouth makes very good use of its spaces,” says Riley. “The dog park on County Road 101 is a hockey rink in the winter and an enclosed dog exercise space the other three seasons.”
There’s also a year-round dog park at Plymouth Middle School. Riley says that this park is especially important because it's located close to the many apartments adjacent to County Road 169.
A resident of Plymouth for almost 40 years, Riley is a fan of not only the dog parks, but of the city as well. “I have nothing but praise for the city council, the mayor and the parks and rec department,” she says.
Riley hopes that there will be even more opportunities for dogs to play outside. “The number of families with dogs is growing faster than the number of families with kids,” she says. “If we have playground areas for our two-legged children, we should have play opportunities for our four-legged children. We need more places where dogs can be dogs,” she says.