Veterans Park goes to the dogs

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Big dogs, little dogs, shaggy dogs and dressed-up dogs all converged Saturday on Veterans Park.
There were no dogs on skates, but it definitely was dog party for the first Dog Fest.
“It’s all about the dogs,” said Summer Knight, a member of the Friends of the Park, which helped put on the event as a fundraiser for the creation of a dog park at Veterans.
The park would allow dogs to run safely off leash in a fenced area.
“We live an apartment and we don’t have a backyard,” said Tiffanie Holland of Tupelo, whose German shepherd Rocky and her 10-month-old, Huey, won the look-alike contest. “A dog park would be so amazingly awesome.”
Both people and dogs were feeling the heat during Saturday’s festival.
Tupelo attorney Jason Shelton was enjoying his time in the dunking booth, and several dogs followed his lead by taking a dunk in the pond behind the festival site.
One of the four-legged swimmers was Doogan, a golden retriever-basset hound mix.
Doogan, who came from West Point with owner Audrey Orek, was sporting a patriotic ensemble.
“He has a cape, too,” Orek said. “He’s either Uncle Sam or Captain America, I don’t know which.”
Adam Johnson and Dixie the Weimaraner came to the festival in matching camouflage, in honor of Johnson’s Army National Guard service.
“I adopted her right after I got back from Iraq in 2007,” said Adam Johnson. “She’s been my sidekick ever since.”
Johnson and his wife, Dot, look forward to the creation of a dog park.
“I’m behind it 100 percent,” Johnson said.
The proposed dog park will hug one of the ponds at Veterans Park and cover four acres. As planned, the dog park is a $400,000 project, said Don Lewis, Tupelo Parks and Recreation director.
However, much of that cost will be absorbed by in-kind services from city departments and use of recycled materials from other projects. The goal is to have a basic park open in 2011.
“We’ll be operational with a lot less than that, and we’ll add amenities as we go along,” Lewis said. “Dog lovers are very creative.”
An anonymous donor has agreed to match the first $15,000 raised, giving planners the $30,000 they need for the initial construction.
Contact Michaela Gibson Morris at (662) 678-1599 or michaela.morris@djournal.com.