Michelle Sprock understands the benefits of a dog park for both canines and their owners. And her active border collie, Murdock, is happy to demonstrate the benefits.
“There are human relationships that get formed and the dog gets socialization and the freedom to run,” Sprock explained.
Sprock is a member of the Green Space Committee, organized to gather feedback from the community and present ideas to the city council on what to do with the green spaces in Rock Rapids that were left following the demolition of flood-damaged homes in the city’s hazard mitigation buyout process. Creating a proposal for a dog park in the community is a project that’s near and dear to her heart. Sprock is an animal biologist who’s spent a great deal of her career working with animals, including training her own.
She explained that dogs need a different aspect of exercise than what most people think is adequate. “It’s (dog) a pack animal, it’s a social animal, so you have to get it out to socialize and give it the freedom of running.” And she explains, not all dogs are trained to go off-leash and come back when called or stay in a specific area. “Not all dog owners have a large enough yard to provide appropriate room for their dog to run,” said Sprock, something a dog parkwould provide.
Initially Sprock proposed an area on North Second Avenue, northof Sunshine Foods, for a 430×270-foot dog park that would include separate parks for small and large dogs. She hoped to bring the full proposal, including cost estimates and more details, to a community informational meeting at the July 10 city council meeting. However, that proposal included a 4-foot chain link fence, something she learned last Friday, would not be allowed by FEMA. “FEMA requires collapsible fencing, fencing that would collapse on its own in the event of a flood,” explained city administrator Jordan Kordahl. “And it’s very cost prohibitive, very expensive,” he said.
Although disappointed by the news, Sprock isn’t giving up. She’s seen firsthand the connections that can be made. “It’s just like when moms with little kids go to the park or for a play date for example, people at dog parks get social interaction with like-minded people and build relationships and network,” she explained. “They talk about things like, ‘What kind of food do you use?’ ‘What vet do you use?’ ‘My dog’s having this issue’. You make friends and the dogs learn how to socialize,” said Sprock. She also has a sentimental attachment to dog parks. “I met my husband at a dog park,” said Sprock.
While dog and owner wrapped up a session of playing fetch in the empty lots on North Second Avenue, Sprock said she’d look at other options for a dog park location. “I’ve already gotten so much feedback that this is something people want,” she said. “There’s a lot of interest and we’ve already put a lot of thought into a project like this. I think when you have community support for something, there’s a way to get it done,” Sprock expressed. She’s still planning on the community informational meeting scheduled for July 10. Until then, she and Murdock will be on the lookout for the next best place to put a dog park.