Dog Friendly City

Madison has become a place
for people and dogs to coexist

Heritage Trail, Dog Park allow
dog owners a place to roam

(October 2014) – Dogs and people just might find “nirvana” in Madison, Ind., thanks to the city’s growing reputation as a pet-friendly place. They can walk the tree-lined streets, hike the Heritage Trail and socialize at the dog park. There are bowls of water outside many stores and boutique delicacies for special times. And, come October, their spiritual needs can be fulfilled by attending one of the “Blessings of the Animals” held locally.          
Madison’s Riverfront Dog Park is one such popular place in town. “People just love that dog park,” said Marilyn Imel, secretary for the parks department for 16 years. So far this year, the parks department has issued 127 dog park permits, according to Imel. “It’s a good thing, that dog park. The dogs all know each other. The park is really popular, and it’s a good thing for Madison.”

Dog Park

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

Brie, a Standard Poodle owned
by Rita McKay, Madison, romps happily at the dog park with Zeke,
a Rottweiler mix who belongs to Leonard Miller and Alice Jane Smith.

Opened in 2006, the dog park soon will be renamed in memory of Laykos, the K-9 dog who served with Capt. Rick Mundt and the City of Madison Police Department until the dog’s untimely death in July 2013. The parks and recreation board approved this change last year, and a new sign with Laykos’ name is to be installed, according to Dave Stucker, Madison’s parks and recreation director.
In May, a new shelter was completed at the park by Kendall Spiller, a senior at Madison Consolidated High School. Built as his Eagle Scout project, the shelter sits near the park’s entrance and spans the fence between the two sides of the park: the small dog side (under 30 pounds) and the big dog side (over 30 pounds). A few years ago, Patrick Thevenow built the shelter on the “big dog” side of the park. It also was an Eagle Scout project, according to Dave Munier, former parks director and now a resident of Owensboro, Ky.
While attending a parks and recreation conference in 2003, Munier went to a session on dog parks. “It got my interest because I’d always loved dogs,” he said. A dog park was “one of those things you could build inexpensively” for the city. On his return, he explored the idea with then-Mayor Al Huntington. They settled on a one-acre site on the riverfront. An environmental study cleared the site for development as a public greenspace. At the time, the riverfront sidewalk project did not extend that far west, but Munier knew the extension was planned. In addition, “I knew the Heritage Trail was going in. I thought it was a great place for the dog park,” he said. 
With a generous donation from Rick Russell of Midwest Tube Mills and a lot of work from a dogged volunteer, 12-year-old Luke Bohm, the city was able to open the dog park for about $20,000 in 2006, Munier said. Bohm offered to do anything he could in order to help open a dog park. He put donation buckets throughout the city, raising $500 to $600. “He was the overseer of the dog park,” Munier said. “He really took it to heart.” Bohm now lives in Virginia.
Munier visited dog parks in Indiana and Kentucky to see how they were set up and what rules they used, stressing that Madison’s dog park did not just write rules in an arbitrary way. Initially, the park did not allow Rottweiler or Pit Bulls to go to the park, for example, but that rule has been changed in the past year, Stucker said.
“So far, so good,” he added, regarding that rule change.
Both Stucker and Munier said there never has been a serious issue at the dog park. Park users “police” the area themselves and are good stewards of the park.
Madison’s dog park has its own Facebook page, which is one way that Munier keeps up with his “pet” project, now that he lives in Owensboro.      
As any dog lover knows, good food always hits the spot, and belly rubs don’t hurt either. Both are readily available at “The Blue Cerebus Dog Bakery and Boutique” in downtown Madison.
Dawn Cleary, who owns “The Blue Cerebus,” sees Madison gradually evolving into a dog-friendly city that is “less antiques and more boutiques.” In order to help tourists who travel with their dogs, she developed “The Modern Dog’s Guide to Madison” three years ago. The brochure lists Madison’s top dog-friendly hotels, shops, restaurants and outdoor spots.
She explained, “People had asked me what is there to do with a dog in this town.”  She went to all businesses in Madison and asked if a dog might be welcome there, even if there is a resident cat or bird. She pays for the brochure herself, and it is free to be listed in it. The brochure includes six restaurants, five hotels/motels, the dog park, Heritage Trail, Clifty Falls State Park, 13 downtown stores, the post office, a bank, the Farmers Market and a veterinary office.
Cleary moved here from Sacramento, Calif., where she and her husband owned a coffee business. When she heard that the owners of the Dancing Dog and Cat Store on Mulberry Street were closing their shop, her husband suggested she open a dog business. She did research for a year before opening on April 19, 2008. In addition to Cleary, who is the only local baker, five bakers work to fill the needs of hungry canine customers at her shop.
“We bake all the time,” she said. Her bakers turn out exquisite cookies and other pastries.
Currently, 1,000 dogs are enrolled in the “Cookie Club” at the shop. Cleary is pleased that the majority of her customers are “locals” instead of tourists. Anyone can go into the shop to fill a water bowl for their dogs (or themselves) for no charge. People also can eat in the café behind the shop, where they can order food from the Gallery 115 next door, while dogs can order from the Blue Cerebus menu. A wide variety of toys and events are available through the shop.
Dogs have educational needs, and they have spiritual ones. This applies to people, too.  Currently, Christ Episcopal Church is one place that may fulfill both such needs.
Every Thursday at the church, Shiree James, a dog trainer, offers obedience classes from 7-9 p.m. For information about the class, call the church at (812) 265-2158. There is a small fee for the classes.
And on Sunday, Oct. 5, Christ Church will hold its annual “Blessing of the Animals,” according to the Rev. Evelyn Wheeler, rector. The blessing will begin at 2 p.m. in the garden of the church at 501 Mulberry St. It is a festive event that is open to all pets and people in the community. Most people take their dogs, but there have been cats, a box turtle, ferrets, birds and others at events in the past. Oct. 4 is the day set aside in churches to honor St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

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