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Dogs getting along: It's a beautiful thing

Sunday was a beautiful day. That would make a grand total of one in 2008. It was so beautiful that, among able-bodied people, only newlyweds had an excuse for staying indoors. My first stop to enjoy an outdoors free of snow, cold and wind was the...

Sunday was a beautiful day. That would make a grand total of one in 2008.

It was so beautiful that, among able-bodied people, only newlyweds had an excuse for staying indoors.

My first stop to enjoy an outdoors free of snow, cold and wind was the dog park, which sits in a corner of Lincoln Drive Park. I was drawn there by a curious entry in Friday's Herald list of weekend events. The Sunday listings included this: border collie play group, 2 p.m.

I don't have a border collie or even a regular-sized Lassie. But the listing had the aroma of wiseacre column. Organized children's play groups are amusing enough. But a play group for dogs?

And when did border collies get so snooty that they won't play with blue-collar dogs? It reeked of the caste system. "All American Kennel Club dogs, please report to the northeast corner of the park, where the grass is greener and you won't get sniffed by lower-class mutts."

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At the very least, a pack of border collies would provide entertainment. That's because they have a strong urge to herd. Maybe each participant would bring along a sheep to herd. If sheep weren't available, perhaps they'd herd the other dogs. If the other dogs wouldn't cooperate, maybe they'd jump the 6-foot fence and herd all of the disc golf players swarming the rest of the park nearby.

The possibilities seemed endless.

Alas, not a singe border collie showed up. Perhaps, they were having their hair done or they were playing bridge at the country club.

I hung around because, even for dogs, it's fashionable to be late. During the hour I waited, I came to a conclusion about the dog park: It's the best investment the city and park district have ever made.

Tax dollars contributed $40,000 of the dog park's $50,000 cost, which is basically the fencing around the 3.3-acre plot in the Greenway. Based on the traffic volume during my one-hour watch, I'm wondering if the dog park had more participants on Sunday than some outdoor skating rinks had all winter.

The idea of spending money on a dog park has been ridiculed by many, including radio talk show hosts. Others worried about such potential problems as a Great Dane showing a romantic interest in a Chihuahua. And there was a fear there would be fighting.

Most likely, there have been some unwelcomed advances and some battles. But fights are rare in an environment where the dogs don't have a territory to protect. I witnessed only one cross moment -- from a dog who was on a leash outside the fence against the inside-the-fence dogs who apparently were on the greeting committee.

Every four-legged newcomer to the park is checked out (read: sniffed excessively). Once that ritual is complete in about five seconds, they bound off to play. Pure breeds, probably even border collies, run with mutts.

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It's beautiful.

Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send e-mail to rbakken@gfherald.com .

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