The Hippest Place in Town

A husky mix cools off in Cherry Creek State Park, Aurora, Colorado. (CNS photo)

Think of all the cool things you can do with a stick if you’re a dog. You can chase it. You can chew it. You can carry it around in your mouth and show it to everyone. You can throw it up in the air and pick it up again. You can pretend to drop it and pounce on it. You can pretend someone else wants it and keep it away from him. You can play tug of war. You can drop it in the creek and chase it downstream. You can dig a hole and bury it. You can go back later and dig it up. And bring it in the house and chew on it again. There’s probably other things you can do with a stick, but I don’t know them because I’m not a dog.

Reason I bring this up is that this is Easter weekend, and there is no greater example of unequivocal, reciprocal love than that between man (or woman) and dog.

Also because I’ve just returned from the off-leash dog park at Cherry Creek State Park, just outside of Denver, and my puppy Titus, at last, has abandoned excitement at How Cool the World Is, and is snoozing on the couch.

The dog park is the hippest place in town. Here’s why:

● Dogs know how to have fun.

● Dogs are better than people. (I could prove this, after 35 years as a news editor and reporter, but — trust me — you don’t want to hear it.)

● All the people and dogs at the dog park are happy, relaxed and friendly to strangers.

● Dogs learn to be friendly there. Titus played with 54 dogs today (yes, I counted) and every single one of them became his friend. Some people never learn how to be friendly.

● People clean up their own messes at the dog park. OK, their dogs’ messes, but still …

● There is something perennially amusing about seeing dogs chase each other around and wrestle.

● People don’t talk about politics at the dog park.

● Dogs don’t have politics.

● If they did, they would bite politics and shake it around until it was dead.

● Then they’d sniff it, shrug, and trot off somewhere else to have a good time.

The dog park is a fenced 107 acres, with Cherry Creek running through it. The perimeter is a 3-mile run, just right for an old codger, though the running stops when we hit the creek. That’s where the fun really starts, as the dogs re-enact Great Naval Battles in History.

The dog park was set up in 1971 as a “dog trial area,” for hunters to train dogs with live birds and live ammo. For its first 15 years only about 2,000 people a year used it, according to the Colorado State Parks Off-Leash Area Management Plan for the park. But by the mid-‘80s, with running, bicycling and jogging taking off in the United States, trends changed, and the Parks Board eventually gave the shooters their own space and kept the dog park for dogs and their owners. Now the state park attracts nearly 2 million visitors a year, the dog park more than 250,000, and they bring in more than $2 million a year to the state.

Colorado State Parks

Here is a chart illustrating the trends:

The Management Plan was published in October 2010, and folks at the Parks Board must be really busy, as they did not return phone calls this week.

The heavy use and need for maintenance caused the Parks Board to raise the yearly entrance fee from $20 in 2010 to $100 this year. Worth every penny. It’s a great example of what government and taxes can do that no one could do, or have reason to do, alone.

I mean what I said about Easter weekend. We don’t stage orgies in the woods or anything, but I have never seen a place so pervaded by peace and love.

I know, I know. As my older brother Dave used to tell me, and still does: “All right, Bob. Calm down.”

Oh, here’s another thing you can do with a stick if you’re a dog. You can hold it in your mouth and lie on your back and shake your head from side to side.

Now, as for tennis balls …

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