Lola the pug and Benny the jug (a Jack Russell-pug mix) celebrated the opening of the new Abington Dog Park on Aug. 10 with some strolling, sunning, and sprawling. They were back the next day for more fun in the fenced-in, leash-free area next to the Abington Senior Center.
So were hundreds of other canines and their human companions, many of whom posted their thoughts and pictures on the Abington Dog Park Facebook page, which has more than 1,500 members.
“Thank you for a place to run and play,” wrote Judi Fritz Ryan. “Norman met a lot of new friends today.”
The sentiment — and accompanying picture of a sleeping pup — was shared by numerous dog owners praising the park for its amenities and ability to tire out their pets.
The park is divided into a section for small dogs – where Lola and Benny lolled along with two Chihuahuas in coordinated outfits — one in a pink tutu, the other in a blue-striped sweater with a matching design — and a larger area for large dogs. That’s where more running and fetching took place.
Both sides have double-gated entries, benches, paths, and open gravel-covered spaces, as well as digging areas and some tunnel tubes. There are also two fountains shaped like fire hydrants, and lots of dog waste bag dispensers and cans. More agility equipment is scheduled to arrive soon along with solar lights, organizers said.
On opening day, the park featured food trucks for humans and grooming and massages for dogs.
Local dog owners have been working for the past three years to create a secure area in town for unleashed dogs. Residents Sue McHugh and Lauren Sweeney led the effort.
McHugh said she used to bring her dog, Carly, to Island Grove, a popular municipal park in Abington with a pond and summer programs. “But it’s more a people park,” she said, noting that disputes led to the town banning unleashed canines from the area.
A librarian at Hanover High School, McHugh researched what other communities were doing to accommodate their dogs and discovered the Stanton Foundation in Cambridge, which finances dog parks that meet certain criteria.
One condition was that the dog park had be built on public land. Abington officials bought into the idea and provided about an acre of a vacant town-owned site on Summer Street, next to the Abington Senior Center and a large parking lot. The Stanton Foundation awarded $188,000 for the Abington Dog Park last March.
McHugh said the total cost of creating the dog park came to about $210,000, with the remainder coming from local fund-raising. The new nonprofit Friends of the Abington Dog Park will continue to raise money, she said, to maintain the property, which will be open year-round from dawn to dusk.
McHugh said her dog, a terrier mix rescue from Puerto Rico, is now 11 and more interested in the people at the park than the other dogs.
Even if she doesn’t love it, the fact that so many people are so happy to have this resource makes all the work worthwhile,” McHugh said. “It’s kind of amazing it all came together.”