When she gets home in the evening, Lois Lorenz's three dogs — two bassets and a beagle — are more than ready for their daily trip to the Perry Paw Dog Park.
"When I walk in the house, Bella brings me my tennis shoes," she said.
Geoff Young said his West Highland terrier, Trixie, is thrilled when she recognizes the route to the dog park while riding in the car.
"She knows the car ride. She gets very excited," he said.
That excitement has been shared by hundreds of dog owners in Perry Hall and beyond since the dog park opened April 5. The park currently has 345 human members, including almost 200 who showed up the first day.
"I don't want to brag, but I think that's damn good," said Dave Roberts, chairman of the Perry Paw Dog Park Committee, which is part of the Perry Hall Recreation Council.
The park, the fourth to open in Baltimore County, occupies 1.3 acres at Honeygo Regional Park, about two miles north of White Marsh Mall. It is a fenced-in plain surrounded on three sides by woods. It is divided into two parts, one for small dogs and one for all dogs. It's just grass — no plastic hydrants or other gizmos.
On a typical evening, the park has more than a dozen dogs, some running excitedly because they just got there and others lying in the grass, ready to go home. It's a socialization place for the two-legged also — dogs are a natural conversation starter.
The park is for members only. A $30 fee gets you a year's membership and an access card that opens the gate. Dog owners from anywhere can join, and the park already has members from Baltimore City and Harford County.
Dog parks in some places, such as Montgomery County, are free and for anyone who comes with a dog. Roberts said Perry Paw's membership rule is in line with a county policy set for all its dog parks.
Perry Paw, which was in the planning and construction phase for about a year, ignited great anticipation. The grand opening was an event attended by, among others, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, local County Councilman David Marks and Parks and Recreation Director Barry Williams.
The first day turnout of people and dogs surprised everyone.
"I was amazed so many signed up so quickly," said Dog Park Committee co-Chairwoman Barb Waskiewicz, who, along with her golden retriever, Nala, is a park regular.
Since the opening, there have been a few bumps. The park has had to limit access on days when the athletic fields are in heavy use, which always packs the parking lot. Some access cards failed, which led to the park being left open, which in turn made it temporarily open to nonmembers.
The park regulations, printed out from the website, fill two pages. All member dogs must have license and immunization tags. Droppings must be picked up (bags are provided). Access cards are for member households only — lending it out can get you barred. Frisbees and balls are OK, but no rawhides or squeak toys, which can trigger aggression. No human park visitors younger than 12. The park is open from sunrise to sunset.
Are users picking up what their dogs deposit?
"Everyone is supposed to police themselves. So far, it's working," Roberts said, adding, with a grin, that if problems develop "maybe we'll put snipers in the trees."
Roberts stressed that the dog park is a cooperative initiative by volunteers, the Perry Hall Recreation Council, Baltimore County Parks and Recreation, and numerous financial sponsors, which include Chapel Hills Farm and Nursery ($5,280), the Shelter Group ($5,000) and the Avenue at White Marsh ($3,000). T-shirt sales so far have raised more than $1,620.
Interested dog owners are encouraged to register online at perrypawdogpark.org.