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Dog parks offer canine — and human — communities
By Melissa Hutsell

Dog parks aren’t only for the canines in our lives. Communities at dog parks stretch beyond just the four-legged. Connie Pinkston knows this all too well. In 2010, Pinkston adopted a German Shepherd and called the city to inquire about a dog park. The city lacked the funds for a park, but offered the chance to re-purpose an existing park. So Pinkston got to work and formed a nonprofit, Friends of Modesto Dog Park.

In 2012, Modesto welcomed the Modesto Dog Park. After two years of fundraising and grant writing, the nonprofit helped to raise approximately $150,000 through community and corporate donations such as Petco, O’Brien’s Supermarket, Northern San Joaquin Veterinary Association, Mike O'Brien DVM and Boyett Petroleum. They also organized events including one-mile dog walks and chicken dinners. Support from local business and people keep the park going, while also making it personal, “people take pride in it.”

"There are approximately 65,000 licensed dogs in Modesto,” she said. “The community is ready for more.”

Since the park’s inception, Pinkston has watched a community of dogs and humans come to socialize as neighbors and pets build friendships. One story that stands out to Pinkston is of a recently widowed woman. The widow was only drawn from her bed to bring her dog to the park. The dog's need for exercise gave her purpose and the dog park provided the venue.

However, every city does not have a dog park, the funds or a nonprofit like the Friends of Modesto Dog Park.

Ripon resident Amy Lovett travels to Stockton or Modesto to take her dog, Kali, to the park.

“We can run and play at home but the interaction with other dogs is completely different than what I can ever give her at home,” said Amy. “Kali is always exhausted when we leave and wears a smile on her face.”

To Lovett, dog parks are important for socializing and safe environments.

“There is never a dull moment. Even when the skies are gray and sprinkles are in the air, you can usually find another dog family out at the park to make it worthwhile,” she said.

There is always someone to strike up a conversation, and sometimes, even form bonds with: “It’s an extended family that sometimes leads to friendships outside of the fenced grassy acreage. “

Lovett adds, “It’s amazing the changes I’ve seen in her, for the better. She has always been happy-go-lucky but she knows how to interact and play with the other dogs.” Like many other dog owners, she would like to see more dedicated dog parks. “There are so many people with dogs that are treated like family and try to incorporate their furry children into their everyday lives,” she added.

For Kristin Montgomery, her entire family benefits from the park. Her half lab, half boxer mix is given a spacious place to explore after moving from a 47-acre ranch. Judging from Pep’s tail wagging, romping, and smiling, she thinks the stimulation, other dogs and humans he meets encourages everyone to be social.

“I enjoy conversations with the other dog owners, who all put their pets' needs on par with — or above — their own,” said Montgomery. “For the kids, it allows them to learn to interact with dogs of all types and not fear them. I enjoy seeing the different breeds and personalities of dogs. It reminds me of the creativity of God in designing animals, and helps me remember that all of us are exceptional, even if we look the same.”

209 Dog ParksTurlock:

• The Swanson-Centennial Dog Park
Corner of N. Countryside Drive, and Tuolumne

• Sunnyview Park
500 S. Berkeley Avenue


• Modesto Dog Park
601 E. Morris Avenue, Modesto


• Merced Dog Park
Yosemite Ave and R St., Merced


• El Pescadero Park
301 W. Grant Line Road, Tracy


• Barkleyville Dog Park
5399 Feather River Drive, Stockton

• Michael Faklis Park
5250 Consumnes Drive, Stockton


• Beckman Park
1426 West Century Boulevard, Lodi

• Vinewood Park
1824 West Today Street, Lodi

Dog areas are also located at: Lodi Lake Park and Lawrence Park in Lodi

Please note that all dogs are required to be up to date with shots if you plan on bringing them to parks. In addition, parks are mainly open from sunrise to sunset and some include separated sections for dog size.