LATHROP – As Ally came in through the gate, the happy faces of Roxy and his pair of new friends, Charlie and Chewy, were immediately on hand to welcome the newest arrival.
As soon as Brandon Lopez, Ally’s best friend, closed the gate behind them, the playful quartet ran off to gambol on the spacious manicured grass while throwing a quick friendly nod to the other guests at the well-appointed sprawling park.
Roxy and Ally are American pit bulls. Roxy is light chocolate brown with a big, burly body and a face that mimics the ferocity of a Mike Tyson in a fight. But underneath that ferocious mien is a gentle and friendly canine nature. Ally is as pure as the driven snow, quite shy and a tad smaller in physical features than its housemate Roxy. The two, along with the extremely shy Mac, belong to the Lopez family.
Chewy and Charlie are both Chihuahuas. Along with Maya, a white Chihuahua, they belong to Marie Hancock and Misty Garrett of Weston Ranch.
The special place where they all meet on an irregularly regular basis, along with their other four-footed friends from Lathrop and surrounding areas, is the barely one-year-old state-of-the-art Lathrop Dog Park. The roughly two-acre picturesque grassy ground, specifically dedicated for the use of man’s best friend, is located on the east side of the San Joaquin River levee. The park occupies a good part of River Park South. This park and River Park North make up the picturesque linear parks that hug the east side of the San Joaquin River in meandering fashion.
Since its grand opening with a lot of canine fanfare late last year, the dog park has been one of Lathrop’s best-kept secrets. But a growing number of animal lovers are spreading the good news. And that word-of-mouth promotion appears to be working. Lopez’s daughter, Brittany, who is among the growing number of enthusiastic park visitors, said that sometimes there are about 20 dogs enjoying themselves at the park at the same time. And the dogs seem to get along together really well, too, she said. Garrett recalled one visit when her Chihuahua, was frolicking with three pit bulls that were several times bigger than her diminutive size.
“She was playing with these three pit bulls, and she was like, ‘c’mon, catch me!’” Garrett recalled with a laugh.
Garrett and Hancock bring their dogs to the park about five times a week. There is a dog park in Weston Ranch where they live, but “it’s more for big dogs,” they said, so they bring their Chihuahuas to Lathrop.
Brandon Lopez said he takes the dogs to the park “pretty much every day – nah, every other day. They love it here. I like it a lot here.”
“It’s nice and big. They (their Chihuahuas) are so much happier here” than at the dog park in Weston Ranch, Hancock said.
“I love it here because the dogs can just roam around and be with the other dogs. They enjoy it and we enjoy it, too,” added Garrett.
The park also provides creature comforts for the dog owners. Scattered all over the place are benches where the pet owners can sit down and rest while watching their dogs at play. There’s even a triple-decker water fountain at the park – the bottom rung for the really tiny Chihuahuas, a middle one for the mid-sized pets, and the top one for the pet owners.
But there’s good news and bad news for park visitors. The Dog Park will be closed for about a year while the levee is being shored up as required by the federal Army Corps of Engineers. When that is completed, about half of the dog park will be gone as a result of the widened levee, said Lathrop Parks Projects Manager Nathan Houx.
The good news is there will a temporary dog park created while the levee is under repairs. Dog owners can bring their pets to a fenced section of the Mossdale Community Park which will serve as interim Dog Park, Houx said.
Levee work at this portion of the river will begin sometime in July.
To contact Rose Albano Risso, e-mail email@example.com