When I first moved to Nederland, I met a woman in our neighborhood who worked at the library.  She recounted a funny conversation she’d had that day with an out of town visitor.

“These people from Texas stopped in the library today.  They asked me where the local dog park was in Nederland.  I said “Dog Park?”  No, we don’t have any dog parks here.  In Nederland, dogs just roam.”

I laughed.  “So true, so true.”

Owning two dogs, the fact that our dogs could just be off leash most of the time appealed to me.  We could just let them out, stroll down the dirt road, romp through the nearby forest land.

I’ve always thought that dogs are much more well adjusted psychologically when they have time to be free, and just do dog-like things.  Sniff the bushes, dig in the dirt, jump over a log.  And there’s no doubt in my mind, when it comes to socializing young dogs, that it’s better for them to meet off leash.

Dogs like to feel like they have the freedom when meeting to do their dance.  They can sniff and jump on each other, but if it feels too rough, they can back away and get some space.  When they are on leash, they can feel trapped, tethered to their owner.  Our dog, Shawnee, can sound ferocious at times when on leash, barking furiously at another dog just a short distance away.  It’s not that she wants to fight them, but rather she wants to meet them.  Off leash, she’s gentle and appropriate with her behavior.

So the idea of living in a place with lots of open space, woods, creeks, and lakes seemed like dog nirvana.

Until the moose arrived.  The first five years or so, it was a rare occurrence.  So rare, that I got incredibly excited to see a moose, acting like a tourist.  You know, grabbing your phone, snapping photos, posting to facebook.

But every year, the moose seem more plentiful and more common.  And they have clearly taken up residence in our neighborhood.  Dogs and moose don’t mix well, and I’ve already had a close call once with Shawnee.  Another neighbor had his dog stomped to death by a moose.

Now the freedom that I so cherished for our dogs has been taken away.  My concern over their safety outweighs my desire for a place they can run.

Recently, on a trip to St. Louis to visit my family, we took the dogs to the local 5-acre dog park.  They had a great time, chasing other dogs around, fetching balls, and trying out agility equipment.  And they got that place to run and be free in a safe environment.

Some people are able to create a similar atmosphere with fencing in their yard.  But our property is quite steep and isn’t conducive to that.  Others live in small places in town where that isn’t feasible.

So, my perceptions on a dog park have changed.  Maybe it is time to look at creating a safe place for dogs to frolick and play without the threat of a moose hurting Fido.