FEATURES Salem Times Register

Dogs and people look forward to dog park

SALEM – Right now, it’s only a big dirt lot next to the Salem Animal Shelter. But someday soon, there will be bunches of happy dogs and their people playing at the Salem dog park.

There are dozens of parks in the area where people can play. But not dogs. Canines are not permitted in Salem parks, and most others, either, except the sole dog park in the City of Roanoke.

Chris and Christina Lee give Nitro some loving in one of the get-acquainted rooms at the Salem Animal Shelter where they adopted the 9-month-old deaf boxer puppy after someone apparently dropped him in South Salem. Photo by Meg Hibbert
Chris and Christina Lee give Nitro some loving at the Salem Animal Shelter where they adopted the deaf boxer puppy. Photo by Meg Hibbert

Salem City Council Member Lisa Garst feels so strongly about the need for the dog park that a few weeks ago she got a new license plate. It reads, simply, DOG PARK.

“I got it in an effort to raise awareness of the need,” said Garst. “Dog parks are for people, too.”

The major thing that’s missing to make the dream of the dog park a reality is money.

Salem Special Projects Manager Teri Atkins explained individuals, businesses and industries need to come up with $15,000 out of the estimated total cost of $40,000.

So far, across-the-road neighbor Yokohama Tire Corp. has contributed $5,000, and the Salem Lions Club has given $2,000.

A four-tier scale has been established for corporate and personal donations ranging from $500 to $10,000. Smaller amounts are welcome, too. There’s a fund already set up, Teri Atkins said. It’s “Friends of the Dog Park.”

Salem City Manager Kevin Boggess said if the community comes up with the money to build the dog park, the city will take it over and maintain it.

The 1-3/4 acres on Indiana Street will have a fenced area of about 1 acre, Atkins said, with areas for smaller dogs separated from those for larger dogs. There are plans for lighting so the park can be open in the evenings, a water source, landscaping and other amenities.

It will be handicapped accessible, Atkins said.

City officials and pet lovers are also hoping that having the dog park next to the Salem Animal Shelter will promote more adoptions. “This park will provide citizens a safe place to let their dogs play off leash and exercise, while simultaneously increasing our shelter’s adoption and outreach abilities,” City Planner Ben Tripp said.

Christina Lee is one of the Salem-area residents looking forward to having the dog park. Even though she and her husband, Chris, have space where their dogs to get outside at their home in the Masons Cove area, they want the opportunity for their deaf dog, a white Boxer named Nitro, to be able to socialize with other dogs his size.

They adopted Nitro from the Salem Animal Shelter, and frequently take him back to visit the staff there. Christina Lee takes photographs of the dogs and cats at the shelter, to be posted on the shelter’s website adoption page. She trains Nitro three times a week at PetsMart in Roanoke, and takes him out to meet people – and other dogs – whenever and wherever she can.

Lee hopes when the fenced Salem dog park opens, she will be able to let Nitro off the leash to play, like any other dog. She hopes other owners of dogs with special needs will be able to let their dogs run and play, too.

Even though Nitro cannot hear her call him, she is beginning to train him with a vibrating collar so that she can give him a tiny signal when she wants him to come from across the park.

Anyone who wants to make a contribution to the future Salem dog park should call Atkins at 375-3060.

About the author

Meg Hibbert

Meg Hibbert held the position of editor of the Salem Times-Register and The New Castle Record from July 1999 - July 2014. She won more than two dozen awards from the Virginia Press Association for feature writing, columns, business articles, health and environmental writing and education coverage. She and her husband, Bill, live in Salem and are avid University of Georgia Bulldogs.

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