The muscles in Elliott’s body tighten with anticipation as he spots some dogs pulling on their leaches, heading to the gate at the Fairmount Dog Park in Kalamazoo. The dog park is Elliott’s reason for living, according to Will Matthews, his human.
“I had five years where I didn’t have a dog and didn’t think I wanted to get another dog, but this guy literally showed up on our doorstep. Someone left him tied to our mailbox actually. But, you know, angels work in mysterious ways.”
Janet Karpus brings Charlie, Zoey and Tashi to the dog park.
“I always like when we turn the corner to the entry way,” Karpus says. “They’re just looking to see if anybody’s here, if any other dog is here and who it might be and what their visit might be like.”
Charlie is new to the Karpus’ group, a rescue dog like the others in this family. He’s a Chihuahua mix, who has a bit of a Napoleon complex--he likes to beat on the big dogs. Karpus is appreciative of the small-dog area to use as a time-out for Charlie when he wasn’t being ‘agreeable.’
“Everybody here has been so supportive,” Karpus says. They cheer him on with “Yay, Charlie, you’re doing okay."
Karpus says she’s guilty of knowing the dog’s names but not always remembering the human’s names. Will Matthews says that his dog, Elliott, knows when they are coming to the dog park because he pulls Matthews there.
“Sometimes dogs have little tiffs, but its part of how they figure out their pecking order and their social world,” Matthews says. “There are the dogs that just don’t have as much interest and they stick close to their owners or wander off on their own. They’re just like people.”
And Matthews says, like people, dogs have personalities.
“Some don’t want to play. Some want to do their own thing," says Matthews. "If you get some like Border Collies, they are just obsessed with fetching.”
Jena Stober, who was with Toby at the park, says that the electronic fob that lets you in the gate to the dog park is activated when you have provided records that shots are up-to-date.
“Everyone that comes here has gone through a thorough application process and you have to make sure that all the medical records have been sent in from the vet,” Stober says. “Anyone who is going to take the time to do that is probably a pretty responsible pet owner.”
Toby sadly passed away shortly after this story was recorded.
Matt Newton says his dog Lucy and Elliott play until they collapse. Matthews says that he and a group from K College Area walk for an hour on the weekends, while the dogs play.
“I didn’t quite anticipate it but, I just end up talking with people when I’m here," Matthews says. “It opens up all of the other areas of conversation.”
“Talk about socializing your dog,” Stober says. “It’s a nice thing for people as well. Another great way to create community and it’s all around love of your animals.”