The patience of canines who have been panting for their own hang-out where they can romp, wade, fetch and learn to play well with others, is finally being rewarded.
The Bishop Dog Park, a 1.5-acre puppy playground bordered by East Yaney, Bruce and Spruce streets, is ceremonially opening its gates this weekend to local and traveling pet owners.
“We are very excited to announce the grand opening the first dog park in the Eastern Sierra,” said Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Kellie Hallenbeck who is also the Bishop Dog Park, Inc. public relations chairperson. ”We want people to know that there’s a legal place for dogs in the Bishop City Park now.”
Grand opening festivities at the Bishop Dog Park kick off at 9 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 11 with refreshments and cake. Each guest will receive a raffle ticket for door prizes.
“We are very appreciative of their support and generosity – community members and the City of Bishop built this park together and it is time to celebrate our achievement,” said Bishop Dog Park, Inc. President Calder Reid. In fact, “the public has been using the park and reaping the benefits of this attribute to our city” since it opened its gates for public use on July 4.
Bishop Dog Park members have routinely been on-site to answer questions and educate users on the “proper use and benefits of dog parks,” Reid explained. Though the dog park will be jointly maintained by City of Bishop and Bishop Dog Park, Inc., they’ll depend on pet owners to follow rules of behavior and sanitation. “We trust that they will help us in this effort” during dog park hours of operation, “every day, one hour before sunrise and one hour after sunset.”
Dog Park amenities include: a drinking trough and wading pool (for now, the water is potable only for dogs); two enclosures – the small one is for diminutive or frail dogs; poop-patrol equipment; a few rudimentary, shaded stone benches; and plenty of parking.
In the spirit of “go along to get along,” Dog Park Etiquette handouts are also available. The do’s and don’ts are few but comprehensive, designed for the safe enjoyment of all two- and four-footed patron. One rule, for example, is that pups must be over four months old “due to vaccination schedules … Dogs this young may not be fully immunized against contagious diseases and shouldn’t interact with other dogs,” explained Reid.
Another point of etiquette: “No human or dog food inside the dog park,” Reid said. Food can distract dogs from the reason they are at the park, to interact with other canines, she added. And human food can distract humans, preventing owners from keeping an eye on and interacting with pets.
“Dogs must be leashed while entering and exiting the park,” when they might get very excited. “Keeping them on a leash ensures a safe entry and exit for you and your dog.” And, since leashes create an area that dogs want to protect (i.e. their handlers), “unleashing your dog is mandatory while inside the park. Once off-leash, dogs are more likely to relax around other dogs,” explained Reid.
The boons for practicing etiquette and creating a harmonious dog park environment are many. For one thing, it offers socialization opportunities. Socialization allows dog to learn how “to relate to people, other dogs and different stimuli through real life experiences,” said Reid. Dogs become more stable, welcoming, and trustworthy “canine citizens,” she said, companions who are “a pleasure to be around, both within your family and in public.” And while it’s critical for puppies, “it is never too late to socialize your dog … Responsible dog owners realize that socializing their dogs throughout a dog’s entire life helps them develop confidence … to become resilient in the face of unsettling situations,” explained Reid.
Furthermore, Bishop Dog Park, Inc. is hopeful that the dog park will end the problem of dogs being walked through Bishop City Park, which is not allowed, said Hallenbeck. “We want (Bishop City) Park staff to direct dog owners to the Dog Park,” explained Hallenbeck, and away from the temporary dog relief area at the front of the park near the gazebo and out of the ball parks, which owners have been using as a fenced in play area for their pets.
The history of this problem includes causing discomfort for people who fear dogs, canine picnic crashers and doggie bombs left on the ball fields. Establishing a dog park was one answer to the problem. Now dogs and their owners have a place where they are welcomed and accommodated.
Realizing their goal has been no walk in the park for Bishop Dog Park, Inc., which consists of Reid, Hallenbeck, Secretary Leeann Murphy, Treasurer Mike Slates and members Andrea Kramer and Jack England. (See the timeline sidebar on pg. 5 for details.) Reid expressed gratitude to them, the community and the City of Bishop,“ who have worked tirelessly donating their time, money and expertise” to make this dream a reality, she said, “They should be proud.”
Reid is also grateful for the many funding sources which have come from far and wide. However, more is still needed. “We are now focusing on phase two which includes the installation of water fountains, benches, trees and shade structures” and an irrigation system is critical. “We need to add amenities that will make it a top-notch dog park that the Owens Valley and community can be proud of.” And where future events “like obedience classes can be held.”
“The benefits of using the dog park are many but perhaps simply put you can enjoy the city park with your (pet), so both members of your family can be outside getting some exercise and socializing,” said Reid.
For more information, contact Kellie Hallenbeck at (760) 872-4369 or firstname.lastname@example.org  or visit www.facebook.com/Bishop.Dog.Park .