Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wollongong Dog Parks - Exploring the Southern Highlands

Piper is now into her third year, and as a modern day pet owner, it is an ongoing, interesting ride.

She never fails to be a great teacher on many things.

A few weekends ago,  we went to the beautiful Southern Highlands, staying in Bowral.    It was my nieces wedding that was the main reason for the visit to this area.

I have never seen so many BMW's, Mercs and Jaguars in one spot, let alone in five minutes - when I put petrol in my old Honda, it was surrounded by them. 

We had to put Piper into Boarding Kennels for the first time  - we chose a place close to where we were staying  in Berrima. Do you know what that feels like?  It is heartbreaking, and yes, I did cry when she was taken away! I will write about that experience at another time, as it was certainly an eye opening, and a life learning experience.

Want to go back to where my interest in dog parks  all started? Go here!

We didn't look at "Pet Friendly" accommodation for us this time (well, I left the booking of the accommodation to Dirk, and we wanted to be very close to the wedding reception area for obvious reasons) , so what we did was took Piper out during the day instead.  It was a Friday wedding, so she went to the Boarding facility in the morning, giving us time to "dolly ourselves up" for the wedding in the early afternoon.

The next day (Saturday) , we gave her "gate leave" from the Boarding Kennel  at 9 am, and went first to Bowral Dog Park (on Centennial Road), and then to Belanglo State Forest, to return her to the kennels by the afternoon.

Wollongong has no fenced dog parks at all, and any existing plans for Dog Parks falls way short of what is ideal (from size, fence size, facilities).  It is really sad that our pollies see pets and their pet owners as nuisances, rather than valued members of our family and of our community.

Bowral Dog Park

Bowral Dog Park is a fully fenced dog park on Centennial Road, only a few minutes walk from where we were staying.  At that time of the morning it was fairly quiet, but every time we drove past it, it was well utilised, with people and their pets enjoying each other's company.

That is a vital service of a fenced dog park - it enables people to talk to each other - to connect, even if their only companion is their pet. This is a concept that Wollongong City Council doesn't seem to grasp! Or perhaps I misinterpreted their actions?

I will always maintain that one of the most crucial purposes of a fully fenced, well designed Dog Park, is to allow people and pets to connect in a safe, fun environment.  

Like anything in life, it is not risk free, as it is truly dependant on the people - they make or break it - from the design, implementation and use.

Bowral Dog Park was in an area a bit outside of town, but was also close to a kid's playground  -  not sure what the reasoning was, but it could allow Dad to do two things at once - take the kid(s) to the playground, and walk/exercise the dog, whilst Mum has a break, or it could allow Mum to do the reverse.

 Or, God Forbid, it could actually be a fully family day out, satisfying all of the children in the household!

- Availability of Drinking Water
  There was only one drinking fountain and bucket for the dogs.  We can only assume that some owner takes responsiblity to clean/fill this bucket out.

A recent valuation of dog watering facilities for Wollongong Council Dog Park came in at around $4000 (from memory), but I suspect this one didn't cost that much.

It would be a situation though, where I can see it easily being a reservoir of disease - not sure on the vaccination rates of the privileged pets of Bowral are, but if it is like children, the potential for it being a health hazard is high.

- Materials to clean up and dispose of poop

This is one area where this dog park gets the Gold Medal.  Of all of the dog parks we have been to (from Sydney, West Sydney, Camden, Goulburn and Canberra), this is one of the first that had all of the poo bag containers fully stocked.   Now, this could be that the facility is barely used (which I doubt), or that it is actually kept well stocked (i.e a responsible council).

Whilst the dog park was a quadrangle, there were three poo bag sources and bins.

Sadly, like every other facility, we still saw multiple dog poops sitting there, ready to smear itself into the welts of anyones shoes, ready and willing to stink out the car on the way home.

Pet owners - some of us are not as wonderful as our pet think we are. 

- Space available to romp

I had to laugh (and then cry) at my local Councils recommendation of a 400 to 600 square metre dog park size, as they needed to add an extra "0" to it to actually be a useful area. Oh well! 

The Bowral Dog Park (by estimation) is approximately an acre (2400 square metres), and was really a small dog Park.

 Was it suitable for its area?

It was well frequented, and never appeared overcrowded on the two days we were there... what do the locals think, I wonder.

- Fences and Entry/Exit gates

The ideal Dog Park has one entry, one exit, and both are double gated with Pool Fence type latching.  And, the fences need to be minimum 1.8 metres.

Well, here was only one entry/exit, but it was double gated, with the traditional farming latch, not the preferred pool fence type latch.

The fences were soft, collapsible 1.2 m high (my local councils preference choice (poor choice),  and in poor condition (sad).  It fascinates me how council can provide a service, like microchipping, way below market value, yet do fencing/landscaping in excess of it.

You can tell you were in the country, as they used the standard country latches, instead of the Pool Fence type latches.

- Visual Barriers

The area was easily locatable from the road, but there was no visual barrier between the fenced dog park and the unfenced children's play area.  How much this causes problems with children in the playground, I do not know.

 Nor do I know whether inquisitive children sticking fingers through the soft, open fencing has led to issues(whether it be excessive moisture from licking or worse), has led to issues.

There were two areas of trees, grouped together, which was lovely - absolutely lovely, as you can see through the video here.

- seperate small and large dog areas

In a short sentence - it was a one size fits all area!

- Available activities

In short, none.

Belango State Forest

Did you know that dogs area allowed in State Forests (not National Parks), as they are cultivated pine trees, and not otherwise natural "need to be preserved" areas?

What a fun day we had. We stopped at Dalys Road camping ground, where you can camp/park/have a picnic.  Toilet facilities, camp fire places, and lots of walking tracks for us (and our pets).

This place is beautiful! Absolutely beautiful, and sad.  It is sad in that many backpackers met their end here, in the most cruel and horrific way.  Innocent people, exploring the world, enjoying the natural beauty of Australia.

Whilst this is under the Dog Park heading, it actually isn't an off leash dog park, and had none of the "Dog park" facilities available.

You will need to take your own supplies with you, and take the rubbish (including dog poo) with you when you go.

It is for this reason that I am a wee bit scared of sharing this location, as I would hate for irresponsible pet owners to destroy a piece of beautiful land.  This is those pet owners that think it is ok to bury pet poop in the sand, or leave it on the ground in the dog park or foot path.  Or for those who cannot control their pets at all via voice command.  Or for those who think they have the "right" to whatever it is they want.

We like to think of pet owners as good people, but actually, many aren't.  Pet owners are like everyone else.  They are human.

 Back onto the positives though - It is actually a great day picnic family trip for the entire family - and one spot that we are going to come back to in summer.

Highly recommend this as a full family friendly day trip!

The Family - Sean, Dirk, Tegan, Haiden, Paige with Piper sitting in front.
I am Dr Liz, the mad family vet from Bellambi.  Welcome to the animalclinic family.

Please, please, please.... enjoy your family, and any time that you have with them.  The number one regret of people in their retirement, and on their death bed is that they never spent enough time with their family.