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Pooch park opens to rave reviews

Claremont dog lovers gladly walked out of their homes and into triple-digit heat last weekend to welcome back the city’s newly renovated, and widely loved, pooch park.

Claremont’s premiere dog park, located within the realm of College Park, closed its doors to dogs last month, due to a series of updates by the city. The six-week closure marked the first time the pooch park has been closed down for fixes since it first opened about 15 years ago.

Though dog park frequenters are pleased about what they said were “much-needed updates” to the facilities, it’s the idea of being reunited with the other dogs and dog owners that had them running out the door and into the park the moment it opened last Friday.

“It’s a dog Disneyland day,” exclaimed Kathleen King, who brought her Norwegian Elkhounds Sterling and Spencer for the grand re-opening festivities. “When we got here [the dogs] immediately ran in the middle of the park to greet each other. They’re so happy to be back with their friends.”

The dog-designated space was introduced to College Park in July 2006 by a group of dedicated dog owners.

“The pooch park was founded in order to provide a safe environment for dogs and their owners to recreate together on-leash or off-leash,” said Anna Sanchez, community & human services manager.

Pooch park has since garnered a following among Ms. King and others. However, the increase in its popularity, along with its heavy use, has left the park worse for wear, claim park regulars.

“It’s the most used park in Claremont, but it looked like the most neglected,” said Eileen Prendergast, who frequents the park with her German/Australian Shepherd mix Reilly. “I am just thrilled that it’s finally got taken care of.”

A variety of updates has revitalized the well-worn (and loved) park facilities, have helped curb those feelings of neglect. The pooch park now sports repaired drinking fountains, fresh coats of paint, replaced dog waste receptacles and additional granite to the walking trail, which wraps around the perimeter of the gated space. Fresh grass was also added to the previously patchy lawns.

“I’m glad the city was able to take the time and money to refurbish the park and make it a pleasant place for us,” said Betsey Coffman, who was accompanied by her Labradoodle Lucky. “It’s certainly nice to have the grass all green.”

Ms. Prendergast was particularly pleased with fixes to the trail, which she uses on a regular basis while Reilly runs around on the grass. Ms. Prendergast pointed out where the former pathways were previously riddled with holes and mounds.

“Some dogs were trying to dig to China,” Ms. Prendergast joked.

The pooch park, and its walking trail, has been much more than just a spot to let Reilly and dogs dig holes and roam free of his leash for Ms. Prendergast. After breaking her femur, the park has provided her with a space to rehabilitate and get back on her feet again.

“This park has been a godsend in helping me get vertical again,” Ms. Prendergast said. “Not only does Reilly get to exercise, so do I!”

For Royce Spraker, and her Cocker Spaniel Bella, the park has provided a running space for Bella that was lacking at their home.

“We don’t have a backyard,” Ms. Spraker explained. “It’s been a good outlet for her. She is so social!”

Though another dog park was open for residential use on San Jose Avenue while the College Avenue location was being renovated, many felt the secondary space was too small for their four-legged friends and opted to wait out the 6 week stretch until its grand reopening. The moment the doors flung opened on Friday, the crew was back.

“It’s not only Bella’s reunion, but it’s my reunion,” Ms. Spraker said.

And scorching temperatures did nothing to stop the festivities for those reunited at the pooch park.

“We share a common bond: we are crazy about our dogs,” Ms. King said. “We felt like a divorced couple being separated. It’s so wonderful to be back.”

—Beth Hartnett

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