Joco Opinion

THE BUBBLE| With a little ambition, Leawood dog park could be worthy of a bark mitzvah

Updated: 2013-04-30T20:44:52Z

By SARAH SMITH NESSEL

Special to The Star

What this town needs is a bark mitzvah.

Yes, that’s a thing. I know this because the Reuters news service, not generally a purveyor of shallow pop-culture pieces, somehow decided to do a report on a new reality-TV series called “Spoiled Rotten Pets” (it’s on Nat Geo Wild, if you’re seriously wondering).

“Spoiled Rotten Pets” is the “Toddlers and Tiaras” of the animal-lover crowd. According to the Reuters article — which I did not fact-check for sanity-preservation reasons — its early episodes feature pigs that get spa treatments, rats outfitted in tuxedos and a Yorkie named Toto whose owner carefully irons countless canine dresses. Also, a Pomeranian whose coming of age is celebrated with a “bark mitzvah” that includes 70 guests and is presided over by an actual rabbi. This bark mitzvah, the rabbi says, is not her first.

Toto? Bark mitzvahs? How can this show not come to my little patch of Kansas?

We might have had a chance, had the Leawood City Council not suffered an attack of stinginess when it came time to talk dog parks. One is planned on donated land at 10601 Lee Blvd., east of the city park. Its budget of $300,000 — a pittance, by “Spoiled Rotten Pets” standards — was deemed a bit much for starters, so the council decided that pooches frolicking there will have to make do without the originally envisioned lighting and play structures. It should go without saying that such a minimalist facility could not possibly accommodate a proper bark mitzvah reception.

Still, $150,000 is earmarked for the dog park in both the fiscal 2014 and 2015 budgets. So with a little ambition, the 8-acre project could hit $300,000. That’s at least in the ballpark of acceptability for a reality-TV canine.

Joco has other fine dog parks, of course, but do they have the cachet of being in the shadows of Hallbrook (which really wishes everyone would call it by its proper name, Hallbrook Farms)? Certainly not. And as I can tell from my occasional strolls through that neighborhood, if there’s one thing Hallbrook has plenty of, it’s canines looking for cachet.

You learn many things when you have a child who insists that you help him explore neighborhoods far and wide on foot. Here’s one of them: The size of any given dog is inversely proportional to the size of the house it lives in. Thus, tiny-house neighborhoods have Rottweilers snarling from behind chain-link fences, and neighborhoods with affectations like “Farms” in their names have Chihuahuas yipping from lush lawns. It’s almost as predictable as the email that columnists get when they stereotype Rottweilers and Chihuahuas.

I really shouldn’t knock Leawood — for the most part, I like living here. Despite its population of tiny canines and its eye-popping budget for their recreational areas, Leawood can be pretty sensible and down-to-earth when necessary.

It doesn’t let people swagger around with guns, for instance, even though the Kansas attorney general thinks it should. In an abstract sense, I neither love nor hate guns, but I’d prefer not to be in the next booth over when some careless yahoo accidentally fires one in a restaurant, as happened in Lenexa a few months back. (Yahoos do end up here occasionally — must be glitches in their GPS devices.)

Libertarians recently sued both Leawood and Prairie Village over their concealed-carry bans, but the lawsuit was dismissed. That’s good, since money spent defending oneself in lawsuits is money that cannot be spent on other things. Like dog parks.

At any rate, I’m grateful not to be on the Leawood City Council, because I’d suffer whiplash from trying to discuss dog-park amenities and concealed-carry bans with equal seriousness. Even worse would be the task of getting the public to pay attention to any of it. Municipal government meetings tend to draw the same people over and over, carrying the same chips on their shoulders and bogging down the public comment sessions with the same personal gripes.

They’re passionate, these regulars, but they’re small in number and weak in influence. They’ll never reach a critical mass of public support for their agendas, because the rest of us are too busy hauling kids around, wasting time online and watching TV. After all, that’s where “Spoiled Rotten Pets” is, and we need to check it out. Because we have a bark mitzvah to plan.

Freelancer Sarah Smith Nessel writes The Bubble every week.

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