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Larryville's canine dreams are off and running

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

For city people whose best friends have wet noses, the lucky few can walk them to a land of freedom, where Thor can roughhouse with Rufus, Gracie can wander with her nose pinned to the ground and BooBoo can chase a ball.

Chris Lugo wants that for his 2 1/2-year-old poodle-pug, Dexter. Michael and Julie Devine's 9-year-old mutt Pepper is "a little older and a little crotchety," said Michael, but she'd love to roam around a big space and smell all the fecund deliciousity of a dogland. These people have chosen Lawrenceville like so many other recent transplants from other cities, but there's one amenity missing.

Frick Park, Allegheny Commons Park and Riverview Park are so far the only places in the city where residents can legally let their dogs off leash. The photo of the off-leash dog area in Allegheny Commons Park on the North Side, above, gives Lawrenceville's dog owners a hint of what they may enjoy someday.

Mr. Lugo and a group of about 20 people in Lawrenceville started a petition around last year to get an off-leash park from the city. They are also looking into cheap private properties. They're now trying to raise money for their cause.

With a soft opening tonight at 7 p.m. and tomorrow from 7 to 11 p.m., Zombo Gallery at 4900 Hatfield St. is holding a sale of dog-themed art to begin amassing the several thousands of dollars the dogpark committee estimates it needs.

"We're a bunch of dog lovers who run into each other and wish we had a place where our dogs could roam and socialize and not be as aggressive" as when they are unsocialized, said Mr. Lugo.

The group wants to use city land or buy property that requires little to no financing, said Mr. Lugo. It hopes to raise $5,000 to $8,000.

The Devines opened Zombo Gallery last year after a move from Portland, Ore. Mr. Lugo relocated from Chicago.

"People are coming to Lawrenceville from all over," saiod Mr. Devine. "We think that as the diversity of Lawrenceville grows, so will the diversity of its dog population."

Some people choose a neighborhood primarily because it has an off-leash area. Nothing like giving manic Mookey an hour of chasing and scampering before leaving him alone for eight hours in his crate.

But there's a side benefit for the dog's people. As dog owners on the North Side and near Frick Park know, an off-leash park is also a social scene, a "third place."

"Dog parks are for people as much as they are for dogs," said Mr. Lugo.

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