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Every dog has its day

Two pups make friends with each other in the enclosed area of the dog park designated for larger dogs. Kaysey Price/Perham Focus1 / 3
One sweet little lassie enjoys the new dog park, complete with watering station and exercise equipment. Kaysey Price/Perham Focus2 / 3
One dog shows off his skills on the agility equipment at the new dog park in Perham. Kaysey Price/Perham Focus3 / 3

The fur was flying June 8 at Arvig Park, where the new Wardale Dog Park celebrated its "Grrrand Opening."

Dogs of all shapes and sizes gathered to come see what all the bark was about. Some hounds ran in the fenced-in park, enjoying the agility equipment and spacious area to run. Others waited eagerly to be unleashed while their owners checked out some of the fur-friendly booths set up in the park, including All Creatures Veterinary Services, Tuffy's, The Marshmallow Foundation, Mark's Fleet Supply, and Whisk From Scratch, which makes dog treats.

The event also featured a bouncy house (for kids), and served hot dogs and popcorn (with some that was peanut butter and bacon-flavored made specially for the pooches.)

The organizers of the event, the Perham Rotary Club, had a leash cutting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. and officially "let the dogs out" following a dog training technique session.

About the park

The Wardale Dog Park project began back in 2014, when then-Rotary Club President Chuck Hofius started hearing a buzz in the community about the need for a park for pups, so he decided to make it his community project. (Each Rotary club president chooses a presidential project to be their "signature" during their year serving.)

However, after some research, Hofius discovered the park would take more manpower and money than one presidential term could supply.

Hofius' presidential successor decided to take on the project as his presidential signature, too, and the builders were able to break ground in the spring of 2016.

When current Rotary President Bonnie Johnson took office, the park still needed work, though, and she took on the task of providing agility equipment for the park as her presidential project.

"What really sets this park apart is the agility equipment," said Hofius, adding that he's heard most dog parks have a shelter, or a watering fountain, or agility equipment, but very few have all three like Wardale.

Three years--and three Rotary presidential terms--in the making, the project was completed on a budget of $80,000 and countless hours of labor.

Primary funding for the park was provided by the Perham Area Foundation, which awarded a $60,000 grant from the John and Annie Wardale Fund, a monetary supply set up for area projects just like this one.

According to the Perham Area Foundation, the Wardales hailed from England but eventually ended up in Perham, where they made ties and decided to leave a legacy of support ($750,000) to the community they come to know and love. The Wardales never had pets of their own, but Annie made it known that caring for animals was a priority to her, so using some of the funds she and her husband left for a dog park felt right.

Ironically, the project instigator, Hofius, is not a pet owner either.

"I get teased in Rotary that I'm not a big animal person," he said, adding that he did see the need for one, though.

And now that they've got one, Perham's pooches have never been happier.