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Local parks have gone to the dogs

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Get ready for a tail-waggin’ good time with your canine best friend

Who let the dogs out? Visitors to Kentucky’s dog parks, that’s who! More and more folks are spending time with their four-legged family members at these pooch playgrounds. We’re paws-itive you and your pup will enjoy all that the state’s dog parks have to offer, too.

Michael Kay’s Bark Park
Shelbyville/Shelby County Parks & Recreation Administrative Assistant Ashley Coulter credits funding from Terry and Patricia Kay and their love of dogs for making the Shelby County dog park a reality. The park, which opened in 2010, is named in memory of the Kays’ son, Michael.

Located on 5 acres inside Red Orchard Park, it has an area for dogs under 30 pounds and another for dogs of all sizes. “There’s plenty of space for the dogs to roam and socialize,” Coulter says.

While the dogs benefit from the exercise and socialization, Michael Kay’s has become a local hangout for dog lovers. “You’ll see the same people show up at the same time just about every day,” says Shelbyville resident and dog rescuer Ann Chaney Kalmey. “They sit out there under the shade structures and talk while the dogs play.”

A $35 yearly permit is required for bark park access. Since most cities don’t allow dogs to run free, Coulter says, “That’s a pretty inexpensive alternative to having to fence in your yard.”

Hill’s Bark Park
When Bowling Green residents expressed interest in having a dog park, city officials listened. Because of its rolling hills, H.P. Thomas Park was an ideal location for the Hill’s Bark Park.

Since opening the dog park in 2007, Bowling Green Parks & Recreation Director Brent Belcher says H.P. Thomas has become one of the city’s most widely used parks. “People drive in from all over the county and surrounding counties to use our dog park,” Belcher adds.

Western Kentucky University student Kiana Hesse of Brandenburg is one of them. She enjoys socializing with the “regulars” while her dog, Charlie, plays in a safe, clean environment. Hesse says the park is a great place to hang out for what she calls “puppy therapy.” She adds, “Especially for us college students around finals week.”

Nearly 5 acres of wide-open space offers plenty of room for playing Frisbee or fetch with your pup. When it’s time for a break, the recently built pavilion features picnic tables, a grill, and restrooms.

Hill’s Bark Park has been so successful that an additional Bowling Green bark park is in the city’s master plan. “We’d like, within the not-too-distant future, to possibly have a second dog park in our community,” Belcher says.

Lucky Dogs Bark Park
It truly is a dog’s life, and a sweet one at that, at Lucky Dogs pet supply store and bark park in Madisonville. Here, you’ll find natural pet foods featuring human-grade ingredients, two private self-serve dog wash rooms, and of course, the bark park, a nearly 1-acre grassy oasis behind the store.

“It’s a free addition to our store,” says Lucky Dogs Manager Madeline Dunlap. “As long as your dogs have been vaccinated, they are free to play in the bark park from sunrise to sunset.”

With agility equipment like weave poles, a dog walk, and a jump bar, both young and old dogs have ample opportunities to learn some new tricks.

Kenergy Corp. customers Charles and June Vincent of Hanson enjoy visiting Lucky Dogs with their “granddogs,” Jasper and Charity. Charles says the park is conveniently located and gives dogs a chance to exercise and play in a controlled environment.

“Dogs that come here really are lucky dogs,” says June. “So are their owners.”

Bourbon City Bark Park
Bardstown became one of the Kentucky communities most recently to go to the dogs when Bourbon City Bark Park emerged from an abandoned ball field in 2015. Designed by landscape architect and University of Kentucky graduate David Kulsveen, this little slice of doggy heaven appeals to dogs and their owners alike.

Unique bone- and paw-shaped walking paths meander through the park. Other features include agility equipment, water stations, and berms, or man-made hills, for the dogs to go up and down.

Josh Nalley visits the park every day with Ollie, his Labrador retriever. While Ollie plays fetch and chases squirrels, Nalley enjoys meeting other dog lovers. “I’ve met a lot of nice people there,” he says.

Executive Director Jolene Reynolds says members often begin their day at the park with their dogs, a cup of coffee, and a newspaper. She adds, “It’s kind of a community within itself, a place where people want to come.”

So why do people want to come to parks devoted to man’s best friend? Reynolds says, “I think more and more in our modern times that dogs are considered a member of the family.”

Rules of the Ruff

To make any dog park visit enjoyable for you and your pooch, be familiar with the guidelines before you visit. Here’s some basic doggie etiquette:

  • Find out if your park requires a paid permit before entering.
  • Up-to-date vaccination records are required, and a valid license may be as well.
  • Typical park hours are sunrise to sunset.
  • Many parks require dog handlers to be above a certain age and limit dogs to two per handler.
  • Don’t unleash your dog until you’re inside the appropriate gated or fenced area.
  • Run areas may be designated based on a dog’s weight, often above/below 30 pounds.
  • Since food is usually not allowed, save the treats until later.
  • You’re responsible for cleaning up after your pet. Bring waste bags, or plan to use one provided by most parks for easy and sanitary removal.
  • Always ask permission before patting or playing with someone else’s dog.
  • Animals displaying aggressive behavior are asked to leave.
  • Supervise your dog at all times. Your pet may be off-leash, but you’re still responsible.

Water Dogs

Beat the heat with your dog at Bowling Green’s Puppy Paddle on September 10 from 10 a.m.–noon at Russell Sims Aquatic Center. Cost is $10 per dog, with all proceeds benefiting the Bowling Green/Warren County Humane Society. Events include a costume contest, leap challenge, fetching contest, and best trick contest.

For more details, call Russell Sims Aquatic Center at (270) 393-3271, or visit You can contact the Bowling Green/Warren County Humane Society at (270) 783-9404 or find them on Facebook: Bowling Green/Warren County Humane Society.

Every dog has its day and at these local bark parks, your dog can, too

Dog park development

Kick back with your pooch and explore everything Hill’s Bark Park in Bowling Green has to offer in this virtual tour:

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