PAWTUCKET — Joanne Palazzo knew she'd see a lot of humorous incidents when the Pawtucket Dog Park opened back on June 11.
She stated she didn't plan on witnessing one so heartrending.
“Last Friday, we saw an older boxer playing around with some other dogs, but all of a sudden he went down; he evidently hurt his hip, I don't know how,” recalled Palazzo, Co-Chair of the Pawtucket Dog Park Committee under Chairwoman Sheryl Rennick. “You could tell he was in some serious pain, and everyone ran over to help him.
“Everybody was so concerned, and some people made suggestions as to how to help him,” she added. “Someone mentioned putting a towel under his hind quarters so he wouldn't have to put the weight on them. He was fine afterward, but what touched me was how everyone wanted to help.
“I mean, some people view a dog as just a dog, but they're more than that to us. They're our friends. When they hurt, we hurt. That dog knew the people were there to help him, so he didn't snap or bite. Honestly, it was beautiful.”
It's those actions that serve as reminders as to why the park, built at the site of the old bowling green adjacent to the carousel, was created in the first place. They're also the reasons Palazzo and her committee are so adamant about keeping the park stable aesthetically and financially.
“We've got one year to prove to the city (officials) that the park can run on its own, and not be a burden to them or the taxpayers,” Palazzo noted at a committee meeting held Tuesday night while nearly two dozen canines traipsed in two sections, one for larger dogs, the other for those more petite.
“It's a little scary facing that kind of pressure, but, hey, we're tough,” she continued. “We've got guts, and we're hell-bent on making this work. I'm doing this for my (160-pound mastif) Tristan, and for all the (canine) owners and dogs who come here. Everyone's doing this for their dogs, and because they love them.
“This is such a necessary element to our community – for the socialization of the dogs, not to mention their owners; Tristan's only a year old, and this is crucial for him to get some exercise. I've got a sore foot, and all I can handle is walking him for a couple of blocks because he's such a big guy.”
Stated Crystal Parfitt, the committee's public relations director: “I think people in the Pawtucket area need to get to know their neighbors again, and this is perfect for that. We need to become a community again, and start talking to each other.
“It's amazing how many relationships have been fostered already since the park has been open,” she added. “I know at least 20 new people, and I'm glad I do.”
Palazzo indicated she's met twice that many.
“I know all the dogs' names, and those of most of the people who come here,” she laughed. “You get to know a dog's likes, dislikes, and everyone watches out for every other dog. I also never knew how many different breeds live around our area.”
The committee's first fundraiser, held June 11 when Mayor Donald Grebien and other city officials dedicated the site to dog lovers, gleaned $750, about half the amount it needed to construct fences to divide the park into halves.
Palazzo and Parfitt want desperately to collect at least another $750 to off-set that initial project; that's why they and other committee members are in the process of planning a “No Fleas Market” Community Yard Sale, scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 20 (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) at the former animal shelter (near Len's Seafood Haven) inside Slater Park.
For a mere $20, vendors may purchase a 10-foot by 10-foot space to sell their goods/items, and proceeds will go toward paying off the fencing, not to mention repairs, maintenance and other improvements.
(Vendors will have the opportunity to set up their tables, which they must supply themselves, at 8 a.m. Those attending the event are asked to bring a pet food item to be eligible to participate for the door prizes. The food will be donated to the Pawtucket Animal Shelter).
The “No Fleas Market” also will offer a “50-50” raffle, “Brown Bag Auction” and door prizes.
“When we say 'ongoing maintenance,” we mean lime to keep the smell down, and also to buy 'Mutt Mitts' (to scoop the canines' 'leftovers'),” Parfitt grinned. “We're just taking it one event at a time, so – naturally – we'll take whatever we can get!”
In addition, committee members are in the process of producing an outing at McCoy Stadium, that slated for Tuesday, Aug. 23. Prior to the Syracuse Chiefs-Pawtucket Red Sox' tilt, at 6:15 p.m., team officials will donate to the committee a check for half the amount raised from ducat sales.
Those $7 general admission tickets are available by calling Parfitt at (401) 378-5972, but registration must be made by Aug. 21.
It also is planning a “Pups on Parade” event for sometime in October. To commemorate Halloween, dog owners will be asked to dress up their four-legged pals in costumes of either's choice and exhibit them for prizes. Palazzo indicated a panel of judges will vote on superlatives such as “Prettiest Costume,” “Most Unusual,” “Scariest,” etc.
“That should be a blast!” Parfitt offered.
The committee, both say, originated a few months prior to the park's grand opening, with six initial members. Among them: Rennick, Palazzo, Parfitt, Treasurer Ellie Crombie, Secretary Donna Noonan and Debra Whitehouse. It now consists of 12.
“Originally, we were supposed to have only that first fundraiser at the opening event – to raise money for the fencing – but we all had a lot of ideas, and we wanted to continue to maintain the park,” Parfitt stated. “We want to keep it beautiful, fun, for everybody. I mean, we certainly don't want to see it closed, or go to heck. We don't want the city to incur any cost for maintenance, so we have to do this.
“We had other people who signed up for the committee later on, and they contributed quite a bit,” she added. “Two are Jim Smith and Vitar Ferreira.”
Scott Graham, who moved to Pawtucket from Quincy eight years ago and now calls north Seekonk home, brought his one-year-old boxer mix, “Arana,” to the park on Tuesday night, and admitted he reveled in the city's decision to construct one at Slater Park.
“This is so easy; I was previously driving to Sharon, Mass. to take Harley, and it was a royal pain,” Graham explained. “I've only had her for seven months, and it took me 30 minutes each way. Going up there in January and February wasn't fun, but she needed to run, get some exercise.
“I can honestly say I've met more people in the last six weeks, since the park opened, than I have since I moved to the area. These people are terrific, and it's great for the dogs.”
Noted Palazzo: “While the dogs go around and have fun, exercise, socialize, the owners converse and discover more about each other. It's becoming a meeting place for the community, and the dogs get to be off their leashes. They're happy, healthier and more well-adjusted because of this park. They don't have an eight-foot piece of rope holding them back.”
The committee even has developed its own Facebook page (Facebook/Pawtucket Dog Park).
“We were throwing around ideas about how we could get our information out to people, and I decided to assemble the Facebook page,” Parfitt said. “That way, people could comment on the park and make suggestions. It's also a place where we can post upcoming events, and if folks want to post a photo of their dog, hey, we more than encourage it.”
The committee is currently looking for area residents and businesses to become a vendor. Anyone interested should call Palazzo at (401) 723-8709.