I realized a few weeks ago that my dog no longer sports the trim figure I remembered from his youth. The Red Dog used to be an alert little bundle of muscle. Now he’s a slug, lolling and drooling on my furniture, his paunch growing more robust by the day. He is a hound dog, and they’re notorious for their sloth, but still — it should never have come to this. So I’ve set out to get the lethargic pooch back into a routine. Goodbye, sofa; hello, world.
The Fairhope Dog Park is key to Red’s new life as a non-couch-potato. This place is pretty plush. Lofty shade trees ward off the sun, and comfy park benches invite the humans to settle down for a spell. When Red, above, runs himself ragged, he never has to look far to find a cool drink of water. Small dogs have their own area to play, and rambunctious animals have plenty of room for rough-and-tumble fun.
When we arrive, Red shakes off his apathy, perks up his long floppy ears and puts a strut in his step, straining against the leash. He’s almost like a puppy again.
As soon as I unclip the leash, he zooms over to a gargantuan harlequin Great Dane, tail wagging in tentative friendship. They sniff each other, decide to be buddies, and take off in a mad dash across the park. The sleek, leggy dog and my stocky little man make an odd match, but they seem happy to chase each other to exhaustion. I sit back contentedly and watch the cheerful spark in my pup’s eye.
Medal of Honor Park in Mobile has its own rough-and-ready dog park, a temporary setup fashioned from an unused baseball diamond. However, a new place to play is in the works.
Friends of the Mobile Dog Park, led by Danny Weemes, plans to build a 4-acre facility at Medal of Honor with all the amenities: water fountains, benches, a shade pavilion, pick-up bags, and a dividing fence between big canines and little ones. It will be named in honor of Julien Marx, who left a contribution to the dog park in his will. The City of Mobile has approved the proposed site, and architects have drawn up renderings. With a little luck, by year’s end Mobile pooches will be romping in style.
fairhope dog park
Fairhope Municipal Sporting Park / Volanta Sports Complex, U.S. Highway 98 at Volanta Avenue
julien marx dog park
Want to contribute? Organizers are now selling engraved pavers, which will be laid at the park entrance. Small paver: $50; large paver: $125. See park website for details.
Playtime doesn’t have to be restricted to after-work hours. Daycare extends social hour into the work week.
Walks and Wags, a canine haven, is chock-full of simple pleasures: grass, sky, other dogs, tennis balls, plenty of space to run. Red Dog attends once a week. When I exit I-65 at Government, he wakes up from his usual half-doze, stares wide-eyed out the window, and whines in anticipation.
Owner Cindie Carter and her staff have a variety of toys and games on hand, but the dogs mostly enjoy each other. They play hard and get dirty, then come in for a bath at the end of the day.
As Carter hands my clean, worn-out Red Dog back over to me, she reports: “Red was the rabbit today; he had all the other dogs chasing him.” Or: “Red taught all the other dogs how to bark at a squirrel.”
Go Play Pet Service, only 10 months old, is gaining its own following among pet owners.
Located in a repurposed auto repair shop on U.S. Highwy 98, the doggie daycare building’s giant garage doors allow owner Brad Banks and his team to let a fresh breeze blow through on fair days. The canine quarters are also air-conditioned.
The staff keep the pups entertained with a variety of games: fetch, laser-pointer chase, dog-to-dog tug-of-war. Banks has even put a few children’s climbing sets out for the pooches to explore. This is one luxe setup.
Go Play’s other services include a self-serve dog bath, pet-sitting, and dog walking.
Walks and Wags
631 Azalea Road
Go Play Pet Service
2518 U.S. Highway 98, Daphne
The Call of the Wild
Historic Blakeley State Park is Red’s chance to tap in to his wolfish roots. We set off walking down a nature trail, and he’s all over the place, zigzagging back and forth across the path. He inhales the smells so hard, he woofs and snorts as he goes.
Occasionally he plants all four feet and stops hard, investigating a particularly engaging aroma. More than once, he attempts to veer off the path and follow a scent into the woods. When I stop to consult my park map, he sits and snaps at the flies buzzing around his head.
Together we conquer the terrain, hiking through pine forest and trekking across streams. We see only one other person, a cyclist who flashes past like a mirage. Otherwise it’s just us and nature.
His non-couch-potato routine is still fairly new, but I already see an uptick in his energy level. In fact, I think I might conk out before he does. When I slow down, he looks back at me to make sure I’m still hanging in there. I could swear he’s smiling at me.
We walk 4 or 5 miles, and afterward he doesn’t collapse into a heap like I expect. I think I’ll take him to the dog park tomorrow to burn some more energy. It seems there’s hope for us yet.
Historic Blakeley State Park 34745 state Highway 225. 626-0798. blakeleypark.com
Want to bring your four-legged friend out on the town? These restaurants provide outdoor seating and a dog-friendly attitude.
The Hungry Owl • 7899 Cottage Hill Road. 633-4479. thehungryowl.com
Ok Bicycle Shop/Dauphin Street Taqueria • 661 Dauphin St. 432-2453.
Cream and Sugar • 351 George St. 405-0003. georgeandsavannah.com
Callaghan’s Irish Social Club • 916 Charleston St. 433-9374. callaghansirishsocialclub.com
McSharry’s Irish Pub • 101 N. Bancroft St., Fairhope. 990-5100. mcsharrys.com
Panini Pete’s • 42 1/2 S. Section St., Suite 2, Fairhope. 929-0122. paninipetes.com
East Shore Café • 1506 Main St., Daphne. 625-0055.