STARKVILLE — The greyhound was in the lead, Ken Daniels remembers.
It was an afternoon, and a college-aged woman had taken the dog to Moncrief Park, where an acre of land is allocated for dogs to run unleashed, Daniels said on Monday.
It galloped about the perimeter of the little-dog section of the park, followed by 10 to 12 other dogs, Daniels said. Suddenly, an unofficial race was on.
“But there was no way” for the leader to be outrun, he said. “That greyhound was just too fast for ”em.”
Such peculiar little events unfold every day at the park — the first of its kind in the state — on their own grassy plane, in a world almost apart from that of their owners.
Traffic at the park, which opened in December 2007, picks up from 5 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, while on weekends it stays high around the clock. One dog owner, Austin LaSource, said as many as 200 dogs can be on the prowl at once, leaving him unable to walk. At other times, the park is empty but for the man and his best friends, a beagle mix, Tucker; and a pit bull mix, Franco.
Many owners gab on benches as their dogs frolic, but canine doings do not go unnoticed.
Daniels reported witnessing, on several occasions, dogs knocking into people so hard they hit the ground. Some dogs — such as his and his wife”s two Doberman show dogs, Rhett and Riley, who are descendants of Cambria Irish Rebellion — zoom around the dog park as if traversing their own unmarked autobahn. “Next thing you know,” he said, “boom, they run into you.”
Some dogs are not so keen on exercise, preferring to take their sweet time at the park going to the bathroom.
On occasion, an owner won”t pick up after his dog, even though black plastic bags and garbage containers hang from posts on the fence of the park.
But even in dog land, there is a kind of justice system.
“We”ll say, ”Hey, you gotta clean your dog”s mess up,”” Daniels said.
When the dog owners do talk with one another, they may not throw around real names.
“Everyone around here refers to everyone else by the name of their dogs, like, ”Hey, you”re LA”s owner,” or, ”Hey, you”re Serious” owner,”” said the owner of LA and Serious, each of which is a German shepherd-Weimaraner mix.
(The owner”s real name is Paul Purser.)
The park is not without imperfections. Some dog owners said the city”s Parks and Recreation Department, which operates the park, should swap the signs delineating which dogs should gallivant in which fenced areas. The one intended for “big dogs” appears to be about half the size of the one for “little dogs.” And the space for big dogs stayed empty for the better part of an hour on Monday evening, because the extensive shade keeps it muddy, one owner said.
Nevertheless, many dog owners said they were thankful the park exists.
“I try to bring (my dogs) out to socialize with other dogs, so that they are sociable animals,” Daniels said. “It makes ”em better companions — for humans, too.”
And since so many college students are cooped up in apartments around here, he added, it”s good for them to be able to take their dogs for a workout.
“It”s not good for dogs to stay in an apartment like that,” he said.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.