Canine party highlights off-leash parks

"Tacey the shetland sheep dog looked smashing with a floral bandana around her neck.Niger the hound-lab mix staked out the treat table, growling at any fellow dogs who cast a glance at the bowl of delicious biscuits.Coco the jack russell terrier relentlessly chased tennis balls.Giesel the 3-year-old weimaraner made a grand (if slightly out of control) entrance, barreling into the crowd of pooches for stiff-tailed greetings and sniffs.Around 25 dogs and their people gathered for Saturday's Summer Cele-bark-tion at the Island County Off-Leash Dog Park south of Coupeville.The event was organized to raise awareness about the Coupeville dog park, which is a 30-acre site near Outlying Field. It was also meant to generate interest in creating a similar park in Oak Harbor.Most of all, it offered a chance for dog owners to gather for a little off-leash fun.We just wanted to have a fun day for people and their dogs, said Coupeville resident and FETCH member Amy White, who helped organize the event.FETCH (Free Exercise Time for Canines and their Humans) is a group of Island County residents who have banded together to promote responsible pet ownership and the creation of off-leash dog exercise areas.The group has worked with Island County to establish four off-leash dog parks: the Coupeville site, Double Bluff and Marguerite Brons Memorial Park on South Whidbey, and English Boom Park on Camano Island.Talks about an off-leash dog park in Oak Harbor are in the preliminary stage. One possibility is the new city park along Fort Nugent Road, in the forested area next to the playing fields. The key to any off-leash dog park in Oak Harbor is community demand. White said that seems to be building on North Whidbey.There's definitely an interest, she said.Meanwhile, FETCH is working with Island County to make improvements to the Coupeville park, which right now is a 30-acre grass field surrounded by trees and a partial fence. White said there are plans to add a chipped pathway for winter dog walks. FETCH members also want to add benches for people and an obstacle course for dogs. A work party is planned for this fall.If you're interested in getting involved, you can reach FETCH at (360) 321-2377. "

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