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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Bark in the Park shows strength of city’s dog community

Oct 04, 2018 11:39AM ● By Jana Klopsch

Bark in the Park attendees watch demonstrations from the police K-9 unit. (Photo Courtesy Dan Metcalf, Jr.)

By Joshua Wood | [email protected]

For nearly a decade, the Bark in the Park event has demonstrated the enthusiasm of Cottonwood Heights’s many dog owners. With another strong turnout, momentum continues to build for more canine inclusion in the community.

The event featured obstacle courses for dogs, vendor booths for local businesses and demonstrations by the Cottonwood Heights Police K-9 unit. The variety of attractions was more than met by the variety of dog breeds in attendance.

“It’s a community event to bring out your dog and let the dogs meet other dogs,” said Ann Eatchel, events coordinator for Cottonwood Heights. “Every year we get more people.”

Dozens of dog owners strolled the grass at Mountview Park, played with their pets on the splash pad and talked with vendors. All this while their dogs made introductions at their feet.

“It’s something fun for the dogs, to bring your dogs. You can’t do that very often,” said Jessie Hernandez, with her dog Sweetie all decked out in a tiny baseball jersey. “I love it.”

During the event, the K-9 unit showed the skills their dogs acquire through countless hours of training. The demonstrations included simulations of traffic stops, navigating obstacles, finding narcotics and protecting their handlers. Onlookers applauded each time a police dog located a hidden object or scaled an obstacle.

 The K-9 unit keeps busy serving the community. “We’re used every shift, usually multiple times a shift,” said Officer Ken Eatchel of Cottonwood Heights Police Department. “The goal here is to introduce the dogs to the community and show them the things that they’re capable of doing,” 

Those capabilities take months of initial full-time training before the dogs enter the field, and their learning never stops. “It’s an ongoing thing. We never stop training,” Officer Eatchel said. “We train every shift, we train every week.”

Among the many dogs present at the event were several rescue dogs that their owners adopted from local shelters. “I think rescue dogs are the best because they know what kind is,” said Jami Hunt with her dog, Princess, a German shepherd rescued during a drug case a couple years ago.  “She’s an amazing girl.”

Dogs live in nearly 50 percent of homes in Cottonwood Heights, according to Mayor Mike Peterson. That presence makes finding more community space an important issue for many of the city’s residents.

“That’s a priority of ours. Every survey we do, a top request is when are you going to have a dog park,” Peterson said. “That will be one of the agenda items for our new parks, trails, open space committee.”

Wide ownership of dogs in Cottonwood Heights, coupled with other signs like the growing attendance of the Bark in the Park event, seem to support that move. Residents can stay tuned for potential dog park developments as open space plans proceed. People will be able to find details of next year’s event on the city’s website in the months to come.