10/31/10 — A howling good time for a cause

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A howling good time for a cause

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 31, 2010 1:50 AM

Kristiann Herring's dog Jasper, a toy poodle, is like one of her children.

The other two are cats.

And on Saturday, she showed up at Stoney Creek Park for the second annual Howl-O-Ween event which incorporated a 5K run, one-mile dog trot and other pet-and-owner events in anticipation of the groundbreaking of the park's dog trail.

"We can't really do much with our dog here so we're excited to have the opportunity to do something locally," Mrs. Herring said, recalling how Jasper first came to be a part of her family.

"He was a stray that just showed up on our doorstep a little over a year ago, underweight and in bad shape. But he's healthy now. He's just been a great dog."

Having a local dog park is special for the animal lover.

"My husband and I go to Myrtle Beach and they have a real nice dog park that we like," Mrs. Herring said. "We really would like to get him out and socialize more and I think this will be a great way to do it."

Nearby, Kim Siefkes, also of Goldsboro, tried to get her dog under control as he caught sight of another dog on a leash.

Jack, a black mutt -- "we think he's a flat-coated retriver," Mrs. Siefkes said -- was dressed for the occasion in a T-shirt with an orange carved pumpkin.

"His name is Jack, so we dressed him like a jack-o-lantern," his owner explained. "It's not really his costume. He's a reindeer and his brother (a cat) is an elf."

Mrs. Siefkes said she and her husband had been "waiting forever" for the dog park to open.

"We heard about it at the pet health fair on the base," she said. "We don't have kids and all the other stuff for Halloween is for kids. (Jack) loves any time we can get together with other dogs."

Diamonds in the Ruff was also on hand with 11 dogs available for adoption.

Eileen Bennett of the non-profit canine rescue group, held Pappy, a long-hair chihuahua who is deaf, mostly blind and has a heart murmur. But, she noted, he also has a sunny personality and would benefit from having a good home.

"We have adoptions once a month, so this was our opportunity to meet people in the dog world," she said of their appearance at Howl-O-Ween.

"We're also supporting this dog park, obviously," she said. "I love the trail and can't wait until it's finished. I hope we do a lot more events here."

Not everyone might understand the need for play dates with pets or the importance of socialization among animals.

But Dr. Peter Roethling does.

For years, he has worked tirelessly to carve out the wooded area now known as Stoney Creek Park, into a place where the community can gather for picnics or to walk the trails, children can play and learn, and now will incorporate its use to include the pet population.

An estimated 60 runners turned out for Saturday morning's race and another 75 walkers navigated the dog trail with their pets.

Once complete, the dog park is expected to be about an acre in size, Roethling said.

"This is just a fantastic area to be out with pets, just enjoying the outdoors," he said. "It's just really exciting to see the people and the energy out here. It's the spirit of these events and people that enjoy the park."

Bob Waller, city councilman who represents the district encompassing Stoney Creek Park, can remember when the area on Ash Street was dense with trees, before some of the land was donated and others joined Roethling to create the park.

"This was a flood zone," he said. "A lot of citizens jut gave us this land. It's amazing the support we get. It's been cleaned out and now you see all ages of people, children, adults, bicycles, walking dogs, a chance to walk in the woods or just sit on a bench outdoors.

"I talk to a lot of people that say they come here because they feel safe. That's what we wanted."

He praised Roethling for having the fortitude to pursue the project.

"His efforts have been amazing and the time he's put in. He's been working on this for probably eight years, little by little," he said. "I'm proud of the efforts."

Roethling said he is more committed than ever to building onto the community park. Funding is still needed, with the next project to be a fence.

It'll be an asset, he said, "so that dogs can be off leash, really change the whole experience for owners and pets. It lets both socialize a lot easier.

"It's just a new element to this area. I think once it's open, people will really disover the fun and value of a dog park."