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Pals at the Park

Unexpected discoveries are just another daily treat at the dog park
Pals at the Park

Unexpected discoveries are just another daily treat at the dog park

Across the nation, visiting the dog park is a daily part of life for many dog owners. That's where you'll find Hanna Young Laver and her Labrador Retriever, Toby, every week during the summer in Arlington, Va. One of their favorites is Shirlington Park, which features a paved path meandering through mature trees and grassy stretches, but it's the creek that 2-year-old Toby goes for because he loves to swim. "It tires him out very quickly," says Young Laver, happy that her best buddy can do something he loves with her close by.

Toby puts his paws to good use at the park by either ­swimming or playing with Young Laver and, his favorite toy, a tennis ball. "Everybody always says, 'Oh, he's a beautiful dog,' but he's also really nuts!" she jokes, because when there's a tennis ball around, Toby becomes completely focused on playing with it.

Two other Shirlington Park regulars, Danielle Schulz and Snickers, her Yorkshire Terrier/Poodle mix, also love to play fetch there. But don't judge her 8-pound friend by her size, Schulz says: "Most people who meet her for the first time don't expect she can play with a full-size tennis ball," she says. "But she'll stick it in her mouth and they'll be surprised!" Schulz and one-and-a-half-year-old Snickers take the 15-minute walk down the trail, tossing the ball along the way. "She absolutely loves to play fetch," Schulz says.

For these two friends, the dog park is a part of everyday life. Schulz's apartment overlooks another open space that ­becomes an impromptu dog park every evening, where about 10 ­apartment dwellers and their pooches come to play. When she first moved there, Schulz would open her curtains and look to see if anyone was in the park yet. The ritual became so familiar that she says, "Now, as soon as I look outside, that means we're going outside no matter what," causing Snickers to excitedly run around in circles. "We go out to the dog park pretty much every day," Schulz says.

Pals Justine Bunn of Beavercreek, Ohio, and her 1-year-old Border Collie mix, Kaiser, also head to the park as often as they can. The two love to visit dog parks together to have some much-needed bonding time.

"When I finished school and I was home full-time, Kaiser got very attached to me and now he always wants to be at my side," says Bunn, who now takes him on frequent trips for off-leash playtime.

A couple days after a rainstorm, Bunn took Kaiser to The Scout Burnell Garbrecht Memorial Dog Park in Xenia, Ohio. "It was dry in the entire two-acre park except for one big mud puddle.

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