Go Home

daily dish

November   3

Going to the Dogs

Dog_park_3 Hey, it's not all American flags, photo ops and visits from the county exec. Sometimes it's dogs jumping each other or (dare we say it) biting. Over at a Yahoo forum just for users of the Watsessing Dog Park in Bloomfield, come hints of trouble in doggy paradise.

When the dog run first opened last year, we had a lot of good experiences there. Recently, however, there have been problems. Some very aggressive and some downright vicious dogs have been showing up at this dog run. I don't mind boistrous and rough play. But it's gotten beyond that. There's one dog that gets on top of the others and tries to bite their necks. Once there was a man in the dog run with a pit bull on a leash. My dog ran over to him and the pit bull almost tore him up. The owner said "My dog is leashed. You should leash your dog." No way, this is supposed to be an off leash facility. One day, a Rotweiller ran from the far end of the dog run to the near and knocked down and bit a man. He tried to file a complaint but the Bloomfield Police sent him all over -- to the Essex County police, to the Animal Control people, and so on. No one would accept his complaint. From now on, I advise all visitors to the Watsessing Off Leash Facility to carry pepper spray.

Doreen Sarcone, a dog owner who's active in the Watsessing neighborhood, responded with a book-length post, asking people not to stereotype dogs on the basis of breed. In fact, she said, it was a cocker spaniel who stirred up trouble recently.

My rottweiler was in the park, enjoying his day, and enjoying the freedom along with the other dogs... however, one cocker spaniel, who had an abusive past before this current owner, lunged and snapped at my rottweiler. Thankfully he's such a goofball, and couldn't care less, but the cocker's owner quickly snatched her spaniel up to "protect" him from the vicios rottweiller, only to be bitten by her own dog. With this, I am stating, breed doesn't matter. I have teeth, you have teeth, most of the dog's that come in the park, except for a few older geezers, have teeth. Therefore any of us (me included) have the ability to bite.

Sarcone strongly urged people not to bring pepper spray to the dog run. As for the police not taking the dog bite complaint, she promised to follow up and pointed out that all dog bites are supposed to be reported to the local board of health.

November 3, 2005 in Wildlife | Permalink


That's weird my boyfriend and I were going to take our dog there yesterday but didn't have time. Is it even safe to bring a chihuahua there? And how do I get there exactly?

Posted by: katie | Nov 3, 2005 2:40:09 PM

Too bad about the aggresive dogs. There are many bad pet owners.

Posted by: lasermike026 | Nov 3, 2005 2:48:10 PM


I am president of the local neighborhood assocation (Watsessing Heights) and worked closely with the Watsessing Park Conservancy in getting this dog park installed.

For the most part, the dogs and their owners are great. Every once in a while you run into a situation like the one described above - an owner coming into an off leash facility, keeps their pet on lease since they can't be controlled or trusted and warns everyone else to keep their dog away. It happens, but it is few and far between. Plus, with this being such a new facility and the only one (I think) in Essex County, we get folks from all over - which is great! The more the merrier! However, the pet owner MUST control their animal and more importantly know it's limitations. I was in the dog park Monday afternoon with my mixed breed (pit & Pointer), there was another pit mix (mostly pit) and a large giant schnauser (sp?). The other pit was very friendly and really played a little rough - not terrible but enough that once or twice I intervened. I also advised the owener (who was very nice) that she needed to keep the collar on her dog so she could be grabbed if need be - she had taken off her collar and lead. The other dog was very shy at first even though he was the biggest, but wound up trying to cozy up (in a biblical way - LOL!) to my dog. Eventually we all went our way with no problems.

You have to access the situation when you get to the park - if there are a lot of big dogs or if they seem to be running amok, then exercise caution in releasing your smaller dog. Conversely, some big dogs are terrified of little ones. Just use your good judgement.

Lastly, if you ever encounter ANY problems in the park, we have been advised to call the Bloomfield Police (973-680-4141) to report any issues and if you feel there is an imminent problem/danger, insist that they come out as per instructed by their Chief of Police, Michael Sisco.

I hope to see you there one day!

Posted by: Anne Prince | Nov 3, 2005 2:57:41 PM

I agree with Anne - dog owners should use common sense when they arrive at the dog park and not bring in their dog if there is a situation that looks risky. I am a also member of the neighborhood association and of the Watsessing Park Conservancy, and I too believe that the majority of the dog owners have been very happy with their experiences at the dog park. The people who have a good experience are less apt to post a comment on a forum. There are truly only a few bad apples out there.

Regarding aggressive dogs, it is important that all dog owners know how to read dog behavior so they can stop a situation from occurring before it happens. Some people may understand their own dog's reactions but not be able to read other types of dogs' behavior. It is important, as Anne mentioned, that you know your own dog's limitations as well. My dog is playful but plays rough and not all other dogs would appreciate her play style, so we don't bring her to the dog park.

Here is a helpful website that explains the behavioral signs for aggression, fear, etc. Hope this is helpful to all you dog owners who may want to use the dog park.


Posted by: Mimi Michalski | Nov 3, 2005 3:51:18 PM

Barista - thank you so much for exposing this discussion beyond the forum! (as well as covering our opening day back in April!)

The intention was to have a division, and still is a goal for the WPC (Watsessing Park Conservancy). There were not enough funds to support the fencing and dual gates.
However, there are two of everything else (water fountains, play areas, and plenty of benches. With the current set up, we have planned a perfect location for the division, where 'under 30 lb' dogs will play on one side of a fence, and 'over 30 lb' dogs will play on the other side of the fence. It will be a fence that will prevent 'scaling', which is typical in some breeds. This is achieved by getting cyclone wire fencing with about 1/4 inch openings, so their claws cannot fit to give them a boost over. The fence will also be tall enough for those 'jumping' breeds, who love to take on a good 4-foot fence with a simple leap and bound.

To further emphasize, as Anne said, good judgement is all that is needed. If you go with dog who has a certain personality (not breed), then know its limitations. I have a sweetheart of a dog (shep/akita) who's terrified of small dogs, because he's afraid he will crush them with all of his 90 lbs....

Come, enjoy, and make suggestions on what can be improved and what works!

Alas, leave the pepper spray, books and newspapers home... it's important to be alert for when your dog needs to be re-focused, and when you might need to scoop!

Posted by: Doreen | Nov 3, 2005 4:01:22 PM

that dog run is a dump. I certainly wouldn't bring any small breed.

Barren with a stone surface, not the way I would treat my dog.

Posted by: Kevin Lee Allen | Nov 3, 2005 4:15:50 PM

Is what Kevin Lee Allen says the truth? Or did he just have a bad experience. Let me hear it yo!

Posted by: katie | Nov 3, 2005 4:56:49 PM

That dog run is nasty. All crushed stone, no green space, no soft places. No way would I bring my small breed dog there.

Posted by: sharky | Nov 3, 2005 5:03:43 PM

Those who are posting about the crushed stone are not knowledgeable about dog runs. Grass turns to mud almost immediately in a dog park. This type of surface is used in many modern dog parks and is specially laid down to encourage drainage and be easy to maintain. None of the dogs seem to have a problem with it; if owners feel it's "nasty" it is just their perception.

Posted by: Mimi Michalski | Nov 3, 2005 5:20:30 PM

Katie, I did not have a bad experience, I just looked in and saw it was not an experience worth having.

Posted by: Kevin Lee Allen | Nov 3, 2005 5:21:10 PM

Oh, come on Kevin. With all due respect, you love guns but can't stand what a little crush stone does to your little pooch. What gives??

Posted by: Todd | Nov 3, 2005 5:22:06 PM


Posted by: katie | Nov 3, 2005 5:31:22 PM

doesn't have to be grass, the city dog runs are mulch.

by green space I meant "plant material" as my gardener says.

The place is gray, no shade, no soft surfaces, no separate area for small dogs, it is, IMHO, which obviously differs from mimi's, nasty.

Posted by: sharky | Nov 3, 2005 5:43:59 PM


I don't see the conflict. Although, while I love my dog, I never said I love guns.

Visit a dog run in NYC; Washington Square Park, Tompkins Square, Union Square or Madison Square all come immediately to mind. I know that Tompkins Square has an online presence.

In all cases, they are landscaped. Soft mulch on the ground for the dogs, seating inside for owners and outside for visitors and admirers. Lush vegetation and trees for shade. Water for the dogs.

The Essex County dog run appears to be a churned up parking lot adjacent to a toxic waste site. There might be a bench. This dog run, unfit for dogs is in a no man's land.

The dog runs in the city are integrated into these parks, destinations within destinations.

I hear the one in Livingston is nice although there is a fee.

Nonetheless, I hope there are no gunshots in or near any of these dog runs. Although if I had to bet, I would say the Essex County Dog Run is more likely to see gunfire than any I've seen any where in NYC.

Posted by: Kevin Lee Allen | Nov 3, 2005 5:44:28 PM

Here is a website with a section on dog parks:


Below is a quote from the dog park section dealing with the surfaces:

"Not all dog parks have a lush green lawn, especially in the southwest. Dirt is an acceptable surface. It takes no care and has give to it unlike cement. It is impracticable where there is rain, but in the southwest it works. Some parks use mulch or wood chips and one of the newer materials being used is stone dust.

Mulch and wood chips are inexpensive and can be used on inclines. They both need to be replenished (how often depends on the park) and will hold the smell of urine. Stone Dust (decomposed granite) can be very expensive. A two acre park covered in the recommended 4 inches of stone dust will cost approximately $10,000+ and needs replenishing occasionally. It also should be hosed down with water to keep the dust at a minimum and can only be used on a flat surface. But it does not hold the urine smell. You could consider starting out with multiple ground covers and keep it that way or decide on the one that works best in your park."

Please note that the mulch has to be replaced more frequently and holds urine smell whereas the stone dust surface does not. These were part of the reasons this stone surface was chosen. Please remember that the county has to maintain these facilities and have limited resources so the most cost-effective practical surface was chosen. If you don't find it appealing, I guess you won't go there. But please don't discourage others from seeing for themselves. The park is in a cozy corner at the edge of Watsessing Park and there are trees all around the area, just not in the middle of the dog park. Everyone I've spoken to who has gone there has enjoyed letting their dogs run around with other dogs.

Shade is nice but optional. Some parks have large trees, picnic areas and seating which is nice for people who wish to spend hours enjoying the outdoors. But many dog parks are set up as an exercise area. Dogs and their people are moving the entire time they are in the park and shade is not necessary. Think of it as playing tennis. You play for an hour or two in the sun and then go home.

Posted by: Mimi Michalski | Nov 3, 2005 6:03:00 PM

Note, the last paragraph in my previous post beginning with "Shade is nice but optional" was actually part of the quote from the website which got misplaced. (don't want any copyright issues!) ;-)

Posted by: Mimi Michalski | Nov 3, 2005 6:06:37 PM

As a frequent Watsessing Dog Park user, may I say that I'm relieved that Mr. Allen has such strong opinions on the matter - may he be happy and healthy in his own home (and not at my park). Such a critical, whiney tone would certainly make my afternoons much less enjoyable.

Posted by: Binks | Nov 4, 2005 8:19:00 AM

As a new resident of GR I brought my dog to the dog run at least twice a week. Now I am a little busier and sadly have not been going as much. However, it was always a pleasant experience. I did see the dog with the humping tendency and somewhat vicious dogs but there is no reason to make this a bigger thing than it was. That specific owner did not deal with the situation well and needs to learn better. However, the Watsessing dog run is a pleasant place with pleasant people and wonderful dogs. My dog is very non-aggressive and loves being there.

Posted by: Nicole | Nov 4, 2005 11:40:57 AM

All are welcome, who feel welcomed.

Plain and simple.
And if a view from the street is sufficient to determine the worthiness of the park - beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder.

A few points:
* shade - please look up... the trees are about a hundred years old, and plush in season. and yet, there are a few places to gather under the sun rays, as well...

* benches - last time I counted, we added about 8-10 benches around the inside perimeter of the park, seating 4/each comfortably, more if you want to get cozy... along with new BOLD AND BRIGHT lighting posts

* 2 double water fountains - each contains an upper fountain for the human kind, and a lower fountain for the canine kind.

* as mentioned in my post above, the intention was and continues to be to have a division based on weight. Cost was an issue. Funding is being pursued, donations are welcome, and are tax deductible if made out to "Watsessing Park Conservancy" as we are 501c3.

* can't put benches along the outside perimeter unless spectators would like to climb down into the Third River.

* There are some benches along the pathways throughout Watsessing Park that can view towards the dogpark area.
It was initially decided to keep the privacy slats in the fence; however, they will be removed, or cut by Springtime.

* Lastly, the ground cover. I visited Livingston park, surveyed the grounds, polled the members (who pay a fee as stated above), and they all agreed "NO GRASS". Mulch is used, and I, personally researched the use of mulch, which is both labor-intensive, and costly. Reason being, urine and feces seep thru the mulch, and can cause odor if not removed and replaced. This is also a breeding ground for parasites. After speaking with several veterinarians and other animal welfare groups, along with researching the internet, this was the best surface to utilize. Stones of any sort, are most often preferred due to the health concerns. It may not be a human's preference, but a dog is meant to withstand nature. It is best to say you should check the pads of your dog every time you take your dog on an outing, regardless of the ground cover. Stone, grass, dirt, and many other debris can get caught, and make your dog very uncomfortable.

Hope to see you all there, if you're willing to be a part of a community who takes the time to work together.

Please note - I'd love to go on, but Barista will ban me from further posts. If you'd like to better understand the Membership options that we pursued, and where we stand with that, I'd be happy to discuss offline. You all know how to contact me.

Posted by: Doreen | Nov 4, 2005 12:06:57 PM


If you travel South on Glenwood (from Bloomfield ave)- bearing left at Prospect and a left a Locust the dog park will be at the end of the block on your left. It at the south end of Watessing park.

We always have a good time when we visit- no mud 'cause the base is stone dust- two nice water fountains - lots of benches.

I see you joined the Watessing Yahoo Group- you can use it to make play dates for The Mister!

Posted by: exit_151 | Nov 4, 2005 12:52:13 PM

While I have not had an opportunity to visit the Watsessing Dog Run, I do frequent one of the best dog parks in Manhattan at Madison Park. It too has a small stone surface. While you may leave with dusty pantlegs...particularly if the gentleman with 3 Bull Mastiffs is there...it is a great park to spend an afternoon.

Given the number of well-behaved dogs I encounter at Mills Reservation & Brookdale Park, Montclair would be well-served by an investment in its own off-leash facility.

Posted by: Kelly | Nov 4, 2005 12:55:26 PM

I have to say that I'm reading this thread with much amusement.

Here's an animal that sniffs other animals' butts, eats garbage off the ground, relieves himself at will...do you honestly think he cares what the dog park looks like?


Posted by: I Love Dogs | Nov 4, 2005 1:05:32 PM

Dogs will be dogs. When humans understand DOGS are not humans, but a species unto themselves, then foolish mishaps will be less likely to occur.
What seems like rough play to us may be fun to the animals involved. As long as it doesn't involve a vet bill, I say, let dogs be dogs. I wholeheartedly echo the sentiments of
lasermike.."there are many bad pet owners" I think the park is great and Watsessing Park as a whole is 200% better than it was 10 years ago. Kudos to WHNA for making noise, rolling up their sleeves, giving their time and putting the neighborhood (back on) the map.

Posted by: Maryellen | Nov 4, 2005 3:26:46 PM

Thanks for all the positive notes about the dog park. Thanks, Maryellen, for your comments about Watsessing Park and the WHNA!

If, per Doreen's note, you are interested in donating to the Watsessing Park Conservancy, please send your check to WPC, Inc., PO Box 1783, Bloomfield, NJ 07003!

Posted by: Mimi Michalski | Nov 4, 2005 4:53:53 PM

Click & Jump to our INSIDE PAGES:

· In Case You Don't Look at Our Announcement Box
· Window Painting
· Flatulent Friar
· Ballyowen -- The Best $140 a NJ Golfer Can Spend
· Corzine Budget Gets MSU Calling For Action
· Open Space Call For Action
· Closed For Renovations?
· Thrill Seekers
· Heroic Dudes
· Making Montclair's History Demo-Proof

May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004

A Friend Writes
April Fool's!
Bada Bing
Barista Does the Math
Barista's Sunday Poll
Betty Says
Brand New
Civic Virtue
Comings and Goings
Culture Club
Current Affairs
Cute as Hell
Don't Ask: Dating in Baristaville
Flu Shot Central
Food and Drink
From the Crazy Mixed-Up Files of Raymmmondo
Funniest Home Videos
Good Reads by Neil Baldwin
Growing pains
Help Your Barista!
In Your Dreams
Intersections We Hate
Karma Violation
Lights! Camera! Craft service!
Lights, Camera..... Roll Tape
Major Dudes
Marlboro Inn
Movie Mojo
Only in Montclair
Our Favorite Diversions
Paranoia Beat
Parties We Crashed
Party With Baristanet
Photo of the Week
Pop Culture
Postcards from the EB
Really Freaking Weird
Scooped by Phil Read, Again
Scot's Photo Journal
Seasonal Decorating Violation
Seen around town
Seen in Cyberspace
Shopping With Barista
Songs We Can't Get Out of Our Head
Suburban Archeologist
The Daily Chat
The Sunday Barista Poll
The View from Her Pickup
Those Crazy Kids
Time Capsule
We All Bow to Java
We Ask Random Strangers
Where For Art Thou?
Win Stuff
Yard Sale Treasure Map