Markham Dog Association celebrates connection and inclusivity as park opens

Dog lovers celebrated connection and inclusiveness when Cornell Woodlot Park opened on August 28.

The park features a brand new fully accessible playground, shaded structure, walking paths and an off-leash dog area.

For the Markham Dog Association, the new off-leash park is a step in the right direction.

“The reality is that we have a lot of dogs in Markham, and the demand (for off-leash parks) is very high,” said Gregory Calleri, president of the Markham Dog Association.

The association started as a small gathering of dog owners who met at Cornell Woodlot Park during the pandemic.

“None of us were seeing family or friends, and we went there every day because there was nothing else to do,” Calleri said.

The group quickly became a “close-knit community” and celebrated occasions such as dog birthdays. Events escalated and the group decided to form the Markham Dog Association.

Now with over 2,500 members and growing, it’s clear that dogs and their owners have a big presence in Markham.

Dog parks are becoming more and more necessary in Markham, both as an obvious form of recreation for the abundance of our four-legged friends, but also as an important element of socialization for people,” said the Councilor for Ward 1, Keith Irish, whose family owns two dogs. .

In addition to the new Cornell location (319 William Forster Road), Markham has three other off-leash dog parks: Boxgrove (6780 14th Avenue), Huntington (116 Huntington Park Drive, Thornhill), and Miller Avenue (560 Miller Avenue).

“I am pleased to have secured funding for a second new dog park in Thornhill, and I am working with the city’s parks planning staff to determine the best location,” confirmed Irish, who added that the park will be fully accessible, will have running water, and an area reserved for small dogs.

“When you think about pets and animals, that doesn’t tend to be the priority when it comes to infrastructure and investments,” Calleri said.

The association hopes to improve accessibility for dog owners with an off-leash park in every neighborhood.

“The reality is that a lot of people who go to the Cornell Dog Park aren’t from the Cornell area,” said Calleri, who resides in the village of Markham. He said people had approached him about the possibility of an off-leash park in the village.

The group is also proactive in ensuring the welfare of dogs and their owners in the parks.

Through crowdfunding, the nonprofit purchased and installed motion-sensor lights for security after dark and solicited donations of storage bins for each off-leash location from The Home Depot.

The Markham Dog Association is all about inclusivity, connection, and the well-being of dogs and their owners. It’s about spending quality time together without the pressure of spending money that so many activities require.

The association’s first major event was a Pride celebration at the Miller Avenue location. The municipal councilors were present as well as the many dogs and their families. With 15 vendors, over 200 free gifts and “pride flags everywhere”, it was an exciting atmosphere.

The group’s vision, Calleri explains, is to connect and give back to the community. Organized events are an opportunity for the group to support dogs and dog owners in need. To date, the group has donated to five charities.

“Each of our events has some kind of charity aspect to it that is really beautiful, Calleri said. “We try not to ask for cash donations because we know it’s a difficult time for people.”

A linen drive for the OSPCA and a bottle drive to raise money for No Dogs Left Behind are two such community support initiatives.

Last Christmas the group held a raffle which raised enough money to donate 750 pounds of dog food to the Markham Food Bank and some local relief organisations.

Members connect using various social media platforms.

Facebook is a community platform that the group uses to post events, health news and other relevant information. According to the group’s Facebook page, the goal is “to connect Markham dog owners with each other and facilitate an open forum for knowledge sharing and friendly discussion.”

The Facebook page also welcomes questions from owners, like where to find a good vet or groomer or recommendations for overnight care.

“People will write and ask questions, and the whole community will respond, which is amazing,” Calleri said.

Each off-leash park has its own WhatsApp group. Group members can arrange meetings or keep up to date on weather and safety issues.

Instagram is for daily “free sharing” of information and comments.

Looking ahead, the association wants to see more ways for families to spend time with their dogs. In addition to increasing the number of off-leash parks in Markham, the group wants to make it easier to go out with their dog.

Calleri acknowledged a noticeable increase in the number of families with dogs during the pandemic, given the stay-at-home lifestyle she has created. With more people working and socializing away from home as the pandemic subsides, people spending quality time with their dogs is getting harder.

“Between people who work full time and have a social life that comes back, their dogs are left at home. So for us, it’s really important to see people going out with their dogs,” he said. declared.

The association’s latest initiative encourages local businesses to display a window sticker to indicate that dogs are welcome to join their owners inside. Restaurants, bars and cafes are among the businesses invited to participate. So far, the response has been very positive.

The next big event is the Tricks for Treats Gathering on October 23 at the Rouge River Brewery.

Visit the Markham Dog Association on Facebook or Instagram @MarkhamDogAssociation.

Jennifer McLaughlin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Markham Review