Eddie’s Park at Middlesex Path in Natick, simply referred to as “the dog park” by most visitors, is usually one of the happiest places in town. At its best the facility is a place where pups play with their doggy pals while attentive human friends keep an eye on the fun. Open since summer 2020 to all comers, Natick residents or not, the park boasts separate areas for dogs both small (under 25 lb) and large; a leash-free, enclosed environment; and a community of folks who love dogs.
There’s no doubt the place is much-loved, but sometimes more love means more problems. Right now according to Natick Animal Inspector Kimberly Condon, the new recreational area is going through a few growing pains that must be addressed—parking, social distancing, and dog safety. In a social media post on Fun, Informed Dog Owners (FIDO), a group that raises funds for ongoing dog park maintenance and educational events, Condon acknowledged that dogs are being injured at the park. “My heart is very heavy tonight with a great sadness, talking to owners who have injured dogs,” Condon posted. “Some folks that go to the park with their dogs do not follow the rules or recommendations that have been vetted by professionals.”
Things get rough sometimes
Condon’s position as Animal Inspector, which falls under the Natick Health Department, as well as being on the board of FIDO, gives her a unique and extensive view into not only the joys of the park, but the issues. In a phone call with Natick Report, Condon confirmed that there have been several recent incidents at the park of dogs biting other dogs. She notes that per Massachusetts law, every time there is a bite, all parties involved must exchange identifying information.
A hard part of her job as Animal Inspector is going to peoples’ homes to inform them that their dog must quarantine for ten days after biting another dog, even if the biting dog is up to date on its vaccinations. “People don’t understand that part, but vaccines aren’t 100% effective, so precautions have to be taken by law,” she explains. “The rabies vaccine is not 100% effective, that is why we must watch the biting dog. Meanwhile, the bitten dog is going through a lot.”
Ongoing trauma after a biting incident usually plays out in private. In the aftermath, a family is often dealing with feelings of distress right along with their injured pet. What the affected parties go through when a beloved member of the family has been hurt is unseen by all but a few. Often the dog must undergo extensive veterinarian care—even surgery—in order to heal from an event that occurred in perhaps only seconds, but that can result in long-term healing and care needs.
The long road of healing
After a dog gets bitten, Condon says, “we’re working with people who have had a traumatic event, and most of the time a very high bill from the vet. It can be pretty intense. It’s really hard on the animal, of course, and there are major parts the owner has to go through that nobody thinks about.”
Sometimes, she says, the owner of the biting dog is in denial, even though there were multiple witnesses who have identified their dog as the biter. “The owners of the dog who was bitten then have to go through that,” she says.
Still, the dog park is a big draw for dog lovers who enjoy the community support of hanging out with others who are there for the joy their pets experience. Most of the time, a visit to the park is a high point of the day for all.
What it comes down to, Condon says, is that, “We all need to make the dog park a safe and happy place. We must take ownership for our own dogs and for the safety of all dogs.”
More on Natick dog park safety
During a Tuesday, Dec. 15 zoom meeting of the FIDO officers, park safety was a major part of the agenda. Parking issues; keeping park users to 25 humans at a time due to state-mandated social distancing guidelines; dogs allowed to move unleashed through the parking lot; and children being allowed by their adults to enter the dogs’ enclosure were all expected to be part of the discussion.