As Hockett, of Burnsville, put ice cubes in water bowls for the dogs, he talked about how the socializing has been invaluable for Andrea Feikert’s tiny dog Bella, who ran along the fence with a pack of dogs.
“It’s nice to have playmates come every time,” agreed Feikert, of Burnsville. “She really has come out of her shell here. Before, she would just sit on me or under the table here.”
“All the dogs are really friendly,” said Jan Mueller, of Apple Valley, who brings her dog, Beezer. “They get up on the table and go from person to person.”
The three regulars chat at a picnic table under a shelter, and the socializing seems to be equally good for dog owners. Many south metro dog parks have a similar coffee club atmosphere, and that, along with the obvious benefit of having a well-exercised dog, may help account for their surge in popularity.
Earlier this year Newsweek reported that the number of dog parks in major U.S. cities jumped from 353 in 2008 to 617 in 2013.
The Twin Cities’ south metro has kept pace, with several opening in recent years and more coming in the near future.
Next month, Shakopee’s first dog park will open. Savage will open a second one this fall. Though still in the planning process, Dakota County has been outlining a large one for its soon-to-be-unveiled Whitetail Woods Regional Park, between Farmington and Rosemount.
Here’s a look at some existing south metro dog parks and a glimpse of the ones to come.
Spring Lake Regional Park
The 10-acre Spring Lake Regional Park off-leash area opened a couple of years ago.
It includes a separate small dog area, with its maze of pathways cut through the brush and small trees, a hit with my own little dog.
There’s an automated pay machine for the daily pass fee (it accepts credit cards), water for drinking and for washing dogs, and restrooms.
As at some other parks, regulars keep things in order. Jeff Cullison, of Prior Lake, held up a washcloth that he said he recently started bringing to the park. He emptied the communal silver water dish and wiped it before he refilling it with water from a plastic jug.
Dog waste can be a problem at off-leash areas, but Dana Reetz, of Prior Lake, said that’s not an issue here. “They say at the front door that there isn’t a poop fairy,” she said, “but I think there is.”
If there is one, it’s Scott Rein, of Shakopee, who regularly takes on the thankless task of wheeling around a tub, which he fills with abandoned droppings. No one pays him, and people sometimes give him strange looks, but, he said, he doesn’t care.
Rein’s Siberian husky likes to hunt mice there in the winter, so awhile back, he said, he put some pressure on the park to pack down the trails in the winter, which they do, he said.
“This is just so convenient for me,” he said of the park, adding that his dogs “go crazy coming down the gravel road.”