Throwing to the dogs

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 19, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

It’s a terrible thing to be alone. Fortunately, it’s not a situation that Penny Polk will be facing for long. Her husband Brian, who recently returned from a tour in Iraq, is currently station on the USS Saipan, headed to Florida.

He’ll be home soon. Until then, Penny’s got a four-legged companion to take up her time and energy. Every morning if the weather permits, she can be seen at the Howard Mast Tennis Complex, throwing Frisbees for her border collie, Allie.

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&uot;Collies are extremely intelligent,&uot; Penny said. &uot;They’re active, and you can teach them anything.&uot; Catching the flying sphere, on the other hand (or, in this case, the other paw) wasn’t too difficult for the six-month-old canine.

&uot;As soon as she caught one, she was hooked,&uot; she said with a laugh.

After realizing that her small, fenced-in yard in Burnett’s Way wasn’t quite large enough to contain the dog’s exuberance, Penny started looking for a place to play.

&uot;I need a lot of room to throw,&uot; she said. &uot;She’s got so much energy. We usually come out here for about 20 or 30 minutes, unless it’s really hot.&uot;

But exercise is only one benefit of taking one’s dog to a park, even if the park isn’t a designated pet area like the tennis complex. South Bay Dog Parks, which promotes dog parks across San Francisco, gives the following information on the park positives:

Energy. Nearly all dogs need to run. It’s just their nature. Much like a kid who has been cooped up in the house too long, they need to burn some energy and let off some steam. While taking dogs for a walk on a leash is better than not going out at all, it doesn’t really get their hearts pumping and their muscles working.

Dedicated space is good for other park users. With a fenced area, dogs and their owners are guaranteed a place to play and exercise without encroaching on other people’s space. It also significantly raises the chances of those other areas being free of dog messes.

It gives a dog the chance to just be a dog. In many ways, especially around the house, we expect dogs to be like little people, and to behave accordingly. But sometimes it’s good to let them cut loose and go a little crazy. They need to sniff, run, roll around, bark, wrestle, be silly, and do the things that dogs do.

It’s fun! How can a person resist smiling at seeing a big ol’ lab roll around in the grass to scratch an itch on his back? Or watching a couple of friendly dogs wrestle with each other? Or observing their unbounded enthusiasm for running and chasing in the fresh air and sunshine?

Above all, it’s free! What more do owners need?

Need proof? Just ask Penny and Allie (and be ready to bark for the second one!).

&uot;It doesn’t take long for her to recuperate,&uot; Penny said as her dog took a water break. &uot;If people have the time to spend with their dog, they should, because it’s fun, and it’s good exercise for both of us.&uot;