Dog park proponents pawing for funds

By Gwyneth J. Saunders

By the July 31 voting deadline, Friends of the Bluffton Dog Park had a long way to go to get close to the leaders in the PetSafe Bark for your Park contest.
Having made it through the first stage, park supporters made a huge push for the $100,000 first prize, but the town trailed by more than 100,000 votes. That’s not stopping work on funding the park, a dog lovers’ project that has been in the works for more than six years.
“It was a small group of dedicated ladies who started this and we’re going to keep working on it,” said Board of Directors President William Grooms. “Just building the park isn’t where our financial responsibility ends.”
Grooms said the site in the Buckwalter sports complex will require payment on a million dollar insurance policy and continued maintenance and upkeep.
“We’ve been working on a fundraiser at Station 300 that is tentatively set for the end of August (Editor’s note: keep an eye on for updates). There’s the annual Bark in the Park in early November,” Grooms said, “and we are looking at maybe a golf tournament early in 2013.”

Grooms said having a community dog park is important.
“Until you actually go there and hang out there, it’s hard to describe,” he said. “The first thing that matters in the whole thing is exercise for our dogs.
Grooms said Dr. Kirk Dixon of Hilton Head Veterinary Clinics told him that obesity is the number one cause of health problems.
“Obesity in dogs is a huge problem. It’s something like 80 percent of all animals are overweight,” Dixon said. “It’s all about metabolism and portion control. In helping to increase metabolism, the more muscle you have, the higher the metabolism. You get the muscle with activity.”
Dixon said it’s a definite advantage to have a controlled place where dogs can be off the leash.
“From a socialization point, dogs on leashes are far more aggressive than dogs off leashes,” Dixon said. “In the dog park, when you first introduce a dog, the best thing you can do is let them off the leash. It allows a better socialization.”
He said that dog owners have to be aware if they have a very dog aggressive dog.
“You don’t take them to the dog park. Overall, dogs are a very social animal, like people, and it usually works out very well,” he said.
Dixon said another benefit of a dog park is the social interaction between owners, and Grooms agrees.
“On Saturday and Sunday mornings when we pull out the leashes,” Grooms said. “Our dogs get so excited. The more the dog exercises, the better the dog’s going to feel and the better the health of the dog.”
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