When our son was eleven, we agreed to get him a dog. I had in mind a quiet, loving, sweet-tempered, mid-sized creature that would race to the door to greet him, wag its tail often, walk obediently by his side, sleep at the foot of his bed and spend a little time on my lap. To prepare for the acquisition, my husband sought information about energy levels, longevity, health and kid-friendliness of various breeds. We spent a few months stalking animal shelter websites in hopes of giving a mutt, the type of dog we’d both typically had growing up, a good home. I went so far as to put down money on an eight-year-old Pomeranian mix from WAIF named Pooh Bear with a tendency to pee when startled. My husband nixed that plan. The problem was, by the time a photo of a smaller dog in which we were interested reached the web site, it had typically already been adopted. Finally, we resorted to (I am embarrassed to share) a breeder. Scott’s research led him to a breed about which I was unfamiliar: the Cairn Terrier (the same as Toto from The Wizard of Oz) bred for hunting rodents and other small animals. My son and husband eventually traveled to a nearby island to meet a female, one-year-old dog-show reject (not kidding).
My son returned home happy. He’d spent nearly an hour playing ball with the dog. And even though I’d cautioned against rushing into anything, they’d put money down on her. She was to be ours a safe amount of time after being neutered. My son wanted a dog so badly that I knew he’d have been satisfied with any old fur-covered beating heart. I reminded my husband that I did not want a hyperactive dog. He smiled…
When Rose arrived, I knew I’d been duped. She was exactly what I did not want: overly-energetic, unconcerned about anything except her ball, likely to tip sideways in hopes of dragging whomever was walking her to the destination she had in mind… and not the least bit interested in my lap. We gave her a more appropriate name: Scamper, and hid her papers away in a drawer. Over the years, Scamper has mellowed. Occasionally, she will lie nearby a human being, though never on a lap. Her crate collects dust in the garage as she chooses to sleep on the nearest available piece of furniture, preferably atop a soft pillow or blanket. Her now 16-year-old person still loves her but plays with her less and less. Fortunately, she still gets plenty of exercise on walks around the block, a nearby lagoon, trails at Deception Pass State Park and the Anacortes Forest Lands, local roads, and sometimes, dog parks, courtesy of the rest of the family.
Although we’ve had Scamper for five years now, we’ve only recently made the effort to take her to the four dog parks closest to our house. The northernmost one is in Anacortes, northwest of Safeway, at the corner of 9th Street and R Ave and is called the Anacortes Off Leash Dog Park. One day last winter, Scamper and I arrived with the sun to an empty field. The park, which covers about an acre by my rough calculations, was stocked with plenty of dog refuse bags, water, discarded balls and even a retired bus shelter in case of rain. Scamper and I played ball, which led to lots of barking when I didn’t throw the ball quickly enough. As it was a little early to risk waking up the neighbors, I decided it was time to go. We returned a second time this summer. Scamper didn’t know what to do about the four other dogs’ jumping, barking and…ahem…nether-regions-sniffing. But then, she didn’t much care. She chased a tennis ball we threw far across the field with help from an orange plastic launcher with a well-chewed handle that we found in a bucket at the park. When she decided to lie down and then wouldn’t budge from a cool shady spot in the dirt, we decided it was time to go. Best of the dog park: convenient location (just north of Safeway near the waterfront). Worst: no water spigot, so volunteers kindly fill and leave milk cartons with water.
Ace of Hearts Dog Park
When I mentioned our quest to visit dog parks, an Anacortian suggested Ace of Hearts, so Scamper, my daughter and I stopped by one day. It lies inconspicuously along H Ave. Two other couples, each with a small dog, socialized in the small dog section. Scamper noticed that Kenzie, a Westie, liked to play ball as much as she did. Kenzie was willing to follow her ball anywhere, even into the water bin. The other small dog was obviously even more spoiled than the Westie. Its female person asked it, as one might a toddler, if he was thirsty, set out a clean, fancy inflatable bowl, and poured bottled water into it while Scamper obliviously slurped from the Kenzied water. Wild guess: the dog’s persons’ didn’t yet have kids. Twenty minutes later, the small dogs had had enough, so we took Scamper over to hang out with the big dogs. A puppy tried to play with her while she was chasing her tennis ball but she wanted no part of that. This big dog side had a big dog sized water dish-a kiddie pool, a water hose, benches and a covered shelter. Both had dog refuse bags and garbage cans. We didn’t stay long on this hot day but decided that we preferred Ace of Hearts over the Anacortes Dog Park. Best of the dog park: separate fenced areas for small dogs and large dogs. Worst: the small dog section was very, very small.
Clover Valley Off Leash Area
We next visited the park closest to our house, off of Ault Field, Clover Valley Off Leash Area. CVOLA is about 3 acres in size and less damp during the same time of year than the Anacortes Dog Park with a larger variety of terrain (a mix of dirt, grass, plants and trees) than either park in Anacortes. We arrived on a weekday morning to an empty park, about half of which is open and grassy. A spigot allows easy access to water. Scamper sniffed around the main area and then headed off to tree-covered trails to the east. She wandered along the perimeter fence at her leisure, then returned to the field. Best of the dog park: water on tap. Worst: off the beaten path.
Patmore Pit Dog Park
Two words to remember for dog lovers in the vicinity of Coupeville: Patmore Pit. Man’s best friend can’t help but love its 15 acres of fenced space, including wide grassy fields, shaded, tree-lined trails and a large patch of long grass. A bench and several large jugs of water were located just inside the fence near the entrance.
Just after we arrived, on a visit a few weeks ago, a young, tattooed, former military gal named Kaytlyn showed up with her preschool age son and two dogs. They walked along with us, showing us the ropes and introducing us to the park. Scamper became distracted by a squirrel calling outside the fence. Kaytlyn walked us through the trailed section and explained that someone interested in agility training had set up some equipment (such as it was) in a separate gated area along the northeast corner. Kaytlyn’s smaller dog kept growling at Scamper, so I finally attached her leash and walked her to the exit, where we met another family that had just arrived with their two dogs. Everyone agreed that Patmore Pit was an excellent dog park. Best of the dog park: 15 all-terrain acres with water. Worst: no piped in water, but it is available in large jugs transferable to milk jugs, then dog community bowls placed in several areas of the park.
In summary, if you live on or near North Whidbey or plan to bring a dog along to the island, visit one of several nice dog parks in the area. Find more information about these and other dog-friendly spots (like Double Bluff State Park) on Whidbey Island at the FETCH site.
In case you were wondering, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight is the title of an A.P. Herbert poem (She-Shanties (1926)) and an excellent memoir by Alexandra Fuller about growing up in Rhodesia in the 1970s.