Howling Into The Void

Dog Park Debacles: Tails From The Barkside

Many years of visiting dog parks and meeting thousands of dogs while supervising a group of client dogs has presented many interesting scenarios, to say the least. Navigating a park as huge as Battle Creek on a regular basis is not for the faint of heart.

Without fail I’ll run into something new and strange when visiting a park on a regular basis. Read on for some lessons learned the hard way as well as some interesting dog park debacles I’ve found myself, and my pack, in over the years.


Gunner was an energetic German shorthaired pointer and absolutely loved his daily runs at Battle Creek. As the park is a watershed, the ponds and marshes attract a variety of waterfowl. One spring, unbeknownst to me, a duck family decided to make one of the ponds into their home. Gunner went absolutely bonkers and was determined to do his job: retrieve a duck.

About 45 minutes of swimming in icy cold spring water had sapped Gunner’s energy. The duck parents flew away but the baby ducks could only dive and resurface a few feet away, which was driving Gunner mad with inadvertent taunting. Of course I was calling his name while trying to lure him back to shore with the promise of a tennis ball (typically forbidden during walks) but nothing was working. As I started taking my shoes off and emptying my pockets for a freezing swim to rescue Gunner, up came a man who commanded Gunner to “come” in a deep voice. He beelined to us and my only consolation was that he came to heel to me instead of my savior with the baritone.

Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to ask anyone and everyone for help!


Many dog parks have benches and picnic tables, but that doesn’t mean you should enjoy a meal there! As we crested a small hill to enter a large field, I saw and my pack smelled a family of four doing just that. In the act of opening fast food wrappers, I tried like hell to redirect but it was too late. The smell of cheap meat and deep fried potatoes was in their noses and they beelined to the table. Other dogs were doing the same, to the complete dismay and irritation of their owners.

After a sandwich was stolen and I had my pack leashed up, we took off to the sound of arguing between the lunch eaters and the owner of the sandwich thief. We didn’t stick around to find out what happened!

Takeaway: No need to exchange words when your dogs are at risk; just keep moving! Your vet and pocketbook will thank you.


In the fall of 2019, ice formed on the ponds early. Adding to the enjoyment of my pack, “ice in” as we call it in Minnesota, is a time of immense joy! Sliding on an expanse of ice and smelling areas that were previously inaccessible is another wonderful gift from nature.

Tennis balls floating in the pond become an impossible task as they freeze half submerged. Coco the border collie has an incurable ball obsession, and when she spotted one about 10 feet from shore, she couldn’t resist. Much to her joy she succeeded in breaking the ice, but in the process was now in an icy hole. Coco clung to the edge and whined. Pickle the cairn terrier also has an irresistible urge to investigate anything causing discomfort to her friends and toddled to the edge despite my warnings. In fell Pickle, out came Coco.

Hours went by in a matter of 10 seconds as I threw my phone on the ground and started smashing through inches of frozen ice towards Pickle. She went under the water a couple of times, not being a strong swimmer, but I quickly grabbed her and we all took off for the car right away. Incredibly, Coco turned back for one more try at the ball. “COCO COME.” She listened, even more incredibly. I couldn’t help but laugh at the tenacity of a dog as they stare death in the face and still go back for more. Because ball.

Takeaway: Danger comes in a variety of forms; stay vigilant.


What are some of your strangest experiences at your local dog park? Comment below!

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