A trip to a dog park for Duke, my pit bull, has become a weekend staple.
We live in a one-bedroom apartment Downtown. So every time he needs some — ahem — relief, a ride down an elevator and a walk among the busy streets are required, and Duke can appear frustrated as he sniffs concrete sidewalks and brick buildings looking for a stray patch of dirt or shrub to do his business.
It’s probably not the best living arrangement for the excitable pup. So when I get a day off or a later start to my workday, Duke and I are regularly found at the Rio Grande Triangle Dog Park, where Duke gets unleashed and dashes back and forth, kicking up a cloud of dust to mark his territory and jostling with the other dogs.
It turns out the Duke City is an accommodating place for Duke and his canine friends.
“The City of Albuquerque is one of the best cities in the country for dog parks,” Parks Director David Simon told me. “Our goal is to play with the big dogs. And to at least crack the Top 10.”
Statista, a company that specializes in market and consumer data, in 2021 ranked Albuquerque as 15th in the country in terms of off-leash dog parks per 100,000 residents. The city of Albuquerque’s website shows there are 14 fenced dog parks scattered throughout the city.
And a whole new litter of dog parks is on the horizon.
Simon said there are plans to build four more dog parks throughout the city as part of larger renovation efforts for the local parks.
There will ultimately be dog parks built at Wells Park, Phil Chacon Park, Vista Del Norte Park and Juan Tabo Hills Park, Simon said, adding that the city intentionally spreads the dog parks across the city so residents have equitable access to them.
Simon said the parks improve the quality of life for residents, whether they walk on two legs or four.
“There are a large number of dog owners in our community. And dog parks helped serve our residents, they improve the quality of life for dogs and their owners,” he said. “And they are points of community contact where people come together to be with their pets. … When it comes to dog parks, we’re punching above our weight class.”
Of course, that’s not to say there aren’t some drawbacks. I went to my usual dog park near Downtown on Monday evening — seeking to chat with some folks about their experiences. Duke entered and started sniffing and running around with some of the big dogs.
One larger dog, in particular, bit a small dog on the neck, then started barking and scaring a puppy. The offending pooch’s owner appeared to be rip-roaring drunk and started verbally harassing the woman who owned the smaller dog who was bit in the neck.
“Rat (expletive) dogs,” the man shouted about the small dogs, saying they shouldn’t be allowed in the park.
Needless to say, the ruckus sent many in the park to the exits.
A trip to the dog park at North Domingo Baca Park over the lunch hour Tuesday was a more typical experience.
Alan Osgood was walking laps around the park, throwing tennis balls for his dogs — Gus, Ruby Roundhouse, Jack and Ginger — to fetch. He tries to give his dogs a trip to the park several times a week. He said if they go several days without a visit, they’ll get anxious and excited and may chew up items around the house.
“I’m here on a mission, usually because I have to come on my lunch break,” he said. “So I’ve got 30 minutes to get them worked out. I’ve got four dogs. So I’m doing laps.”
Meanwhile, Cyndy Scanlon rested on the bench in the shade with Sadie curled up beside her, while Sadie and Haru played nearby. Scanlon takes her grandson’s dogs to the park twice a week when her grandson goes to work.
“They were so thrilled when I went to their house today because it’s been a while,” she said. “They start barking when we drive up and they see the park. They’re excited and they can’t wait to get out.”
UpFront is a Journal news and opinion column. Ryan Boetel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.