Just because you call a loft or apartment home doesn't mean you've stopped obsessing over your dog. We live vertical here in Dallas, stacked on top of one another like human Jenga. This is all fine until you fall in love. It starts so innocent: a picture on the internet leads to some furry dude crashing on your couch, chewing your remote control like it's a damn Snickers. You then understand those old adages about the value of land and how God ain't makin' any more of it. Those sages were dog owners, and they were probably hungover.
One Summer morning is all it really takes. You closed the bar last night, now it's 8 a.m. and already 134 degrees. You've got to walk that dog. He's perky. He's so excited that you're awake. You aren't. You'll drive anywhere if you can prop your broken body up on a fence while he dog frolics around without you. You need to know your neighborhood dog park, and maybe one a neighborhood over just in case yours is sketchy. Here's our five favorites.
5. Bark Park Central (The Deep Ellum Dog Park) On the southwestern corner of the intersection of Good-Latimer Expressway and Commerce Streets, underneath the elevated portion of US75.
This is certainly the youngest dog-owning crowd of any park in town. Most of the folks who go here live in Deep Ellum and are in their 20s or 30s, so if you're trying to work the "my dog is so cute" angle, this might be your spot. It's undergone a facelift recently with fun canine-inspired art painted on the overpass' structural bases. There's a reasonably large swath of running space (1.2 acres), doggie and human water fountains, bone-shaped benches, strong fences and a utilitarian bathing area.
On the flip side: There's a stinky muddy hole that seems to constantly reemerge, paid street parking, highway noise and no big dog/little dog division. Everyone here plays together. Basically, it's a true city dog park that's well kept up. Closed on Mondays for maintenance.
4. White Rock Lake Dog Park 8000 E. Mockingbird Lane
I think the best thing about this park is the consistent amount of visiting dogs. You can always bet on a few dozen friends for your mutt to romp around with at White Rock. There's also a nice amount of shade, lots of running space and an abundance of chairs so you can relax. There's water onsite and separate play areas for dogs that are over or under 30 pounds. There's also river access, but be on the lookout for discarded fishing gear. Hooks and such have reportedly washed to the shore.
It's really a gem of a space and would have ranked higher if it weren't so prone to flooding. Even the faintest whisper of precipitation causes small rivers of sewage-y mud to form. Those disgusting regions are halfheartedly blocked off from the main space with the same cheap plastic construction netting that you'd see on a job site. Any dog who likes mischief will run under or around it and then dive into Crud Lake. Also, this dog park is very popular, which can be a blessing or a curse. With lots of dogs come lots of owners, some don't fix their animals or take a hands-off approach to parenting. The majority, however, are on top of it. This park is closed on Mondays.
3. Meadows Foundation Dog Park, East Dallas 500 Liberty Street
Full disclosure: I go here almost every day. Most people you meet at this park have a similar habit, which makes it a comfortable routine. Everyone knows everyone else's dog, its temperament and where it likes to be scratched. It's like knowing every kid on the block. Sure, there are some high and low spots in the fence and yes, my dog has broken out, but for a park that isn't maintained by the city I'm thankful that its kept up as well as it is.
Hemmed in by an adorable white, picket barrier, big dogs and little dogs mingle on an L-shaped field of grass. There are only two benches in this park, so get used to standing. Also, there's no water (but there are bowls) so you'll need to bring a jug of the stuff if you want to look like a team player. Rain brings mud at Meadows, and so does overwatering from the sprinkler system (though the sprinkler situation seems to have been resolved in recent months.)
That might sound like a lot of negatives, but when people stand in a dog park they pay attention. It's the owners that make this a great place. It's neighborhood-y, and it's open every day.
2. Central Dog Park 4711 Westside Drive
Owned and maintained by Central Christian Church, this park is in a nice part of town so you and your dog can see how the other half lives. It's luscious and shaded -- the perfect early evening getaway during a sweaty Texas summer. There's definitely a camp vibe flowing through the space, which rests underneath dozens of trees. It might be the supply of communal bug spray that's left out on the tables, or the way the lawn chairs are placed, but it's fun and encourages conversation among owners. It's got a couple amazing features that put it worlds ahead of the other parks. 1.) Giant fans and misters. 2.) A Dog Washing Station. Now this bathing center isn't what you'll see at the other parks, it's a homemade wooden ramp with an arsenal of abandoned shampoos and salves. There are even a few towels draped over the fence for the impossibly forgetful. There's a small run for tiny dogs, but most sizes play together at Central.
People are responsible here -- it's God's house, after all. And while it gets a little muddy in heavy rain, Central's drainage is better than most. It's actually where folks from other parks go when their usual hound haunt is too mucky. It's open every day.
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1. North Bark 4899 Gramercy Oaks
Holy buried bones, this place is amazing! Sitting on five securely fenced-in acres, the space is further divvied up into three, unique sections. There's a huge region for larger dogs that is on par with White Rock, but laid out much nicer. Sloping hills let them leap run between a sunny zone and a tree filled area with big benches in the middle so you can watch as they explore. There's a separate, oversized play zone for smaller dogs, too. Each has water fountains that accommodate both dog and human with the nicest fencing of any park around. But really, you make the drive up the Tollway for the lake.
The third, largest portion of the property is shared by big and little dogs and features a man-made lake. It slopes in gently so your dog can flop around in the shallower bordering areas and chase floating tennis balls, or he can dive into the middle and swim until happily exhausted. I never knew it could be this good. There's a hose hooked up to one of the fountains so you can blast the filth off and a little forest that he can explore.
What struck me most about this park was that there were no fights and very little wrestling. The dogs just have too much to do. Yes, you might step in crap. But I see how that could happen at this park: the acreage is so vast that it's easy for a pup to slip away momentarily. Also, I heard that over the summer the lake was green and slimy, but I think those issues have been addressed. Recently it's been downright pleasant. This new park is run by the City of Dallas and closes on rainy days (they want to protect the turf) and on Tuesdays for maintenance. There's a hotline to call (214-670-1589) if you're thinking of making the drive up: It's located off the Dallas North Tollway and George Bush.