Glad you’ve come by to read…things will be getting more and more interesting as we approach the Week of the Dog (September 19-25 – see ABOUT).  Congratulations to our new National Dog Week Community Page Profile Dog, Darwin.  Meet and LIKE him over at!/pages/National-Dog-Week/218596591491974

Due to weather-related incidents, posting has been delayed…but tomorrow, we will present the official image of the 2011 National Dog Week Poster, meet its creator, and the details of a very cool Canines on Canvas Contest which you can enter by LIKING and posting on the NDW Facebook page…Oh, and we’ll even announce the new spokesperson for a new generation of NATIONAL DOG WEEK!

Welcome Dr. Patrick Mahaney, VMD CVA, our official Pet Health Consultant for National Dog Week 2011.  During the month of September, and throughout the year, Patrick will address issues affecting the dogs of the nation, suggesting ways we can make the “individuals” on both ends of the leash happier and healthier!

Dream Dog Park Makeover Finalist Kyle Mills with his dog, Darwin

Today’s post presents Kyle Mills, a twenty two year-old student attending Rutgers University in New Jersey. Majoring in animal science focused in the area of companion animals, Kyle resides on the grounds of Lawrenceville Prep where his father teaches and coaches football. “I have been an animal lover from the day I was born, and have owned a countless number of different species, from rodents, to lizards, to birds and other amphibians,” this focused and remarkable young man notes.  He was fortunate to attend High School at Millbrook, a small boarding school in Poughkeepsie, New York, the only school in the country with an AZA accredited zoo on its campus, where students are the primary caregivers to the animals.

Kyle is a finalist in the Beneful-sponsored Dream Dog Park Makeover Contest.  The Grand Prize Winner will receive $500,000.00 toward a community dog park, $10,000.00 cash and a year’s supply of Beneful Brand dog food.  This post is longer than most, but I really hope you read it through. Kyle’s attention to detail and thoughtfulness is very inspiring. Then, I hope you will help him achieve his goal!

Do you work or volunteer in the pet industry? I worked at Camp Bow Wow in Lawrenceville for about eight months where I gained valuable experience with up to 100 dogs at one time. I have also volunteered at the Trenton Animal Shelter for a few months. As I mentioned before I worked at the zoo at my school where I was in charge of animals such as otters, reindeer, lemurs, tamarins, marmosets, emus, and red wolves just to name a few.

How did you find out about the Dog Park Makeover Contest? My mom saw a commercial and mentioned the contest to me. I figured I might as well enter because I had nothing to lose and it’s a contest that is quite interesting to me.  

Prior to this, had you ever thought about how dog parks could be improved or designed? Yes, with my current dog park in the state that it is in right now, I had been thinking of ways that it could be improved. Being a dog owner and the son of a landscape architect I had the knowledge of how these projects take shape, from the original inspiration to laying out the things that I wanted in the park all the way to the finished rendering of what you see in my video. Unfortunately the video quality does not do justice to the rendering and some of the things, mainly the text in the legend is not as legible as I was expecting when I had originally uploaded the video.

What makes your plan and design stand out from other entries? My design stands out from the rest of the entries because I have incorporated practical features that specifically target instincts of dogs of many different breeds, as well as the mixed breed dog that just needs to get their energy out. I have also incorporated aspects that already exist in and around the existing dog park so to make the construction costs less, and therefore more feasible which is one of the judging criteria. This is also the only design that has an area dedicated to agility and obedience with stadium seating for competitions and seminars and that is not your traditional, (and in my opinion) boring, square park. It is aesthetically pleasing, contains the natural environment of the forest, grass, and water, and also uses K9 turf (dog specific astro-turf) around the pool to keep the water from getting dirty, all while incorporating aspects that are aimed to suit the natural instincts of different breeds.

Do you often go to dog parks with your dog, Darwin? Not as often as I would like, due to the condition and size of my current local dog park it isn’t really worth it. I have much more space to let my dog roam of leash on grass on the boarding school that I live at. So instead of bringing my dog to a dirty and dangerous gravel park (approximately 150 by 80 feet) where owners don’t pick up their dog’s waste, I prefer to let him out on The Lawrenceville School’s campus where he has hundreds of acres of pristine grass and farm field to roam, play Frisbee, on which to learn new commands.

Your plan is designed for different types of dogs. I love the sandy area for “diggers” and aquatic features for water dogs. Why is this so important? As an animal lover and former zoo keeper there is nothing more exciting to me than seeing an intelligent species try to figure out a problem or challenge to get to their food or toy, this is called enrichment. It is estimated that dogs and humans have coexisted side by side for 14000+ years, over time, dogs and humans have learned to rely on each other for food, protection, companionship and an extra hand (or 4) in the field. In just the last couple hundred years dogs have been bread for tens if not hundreds of different specific tasks which eventually culminates in what we identify as a breeds “job” (i.e. retrieving, shepherding and pointing). Due to the fact that there are such major differences in breeds and how they should be taken care of, it is my personal belief that it is irresponsible to be a dog owner and not know what to expect from your dog and how to responsibly care for the breed specific instincts they may exhibit. I learned everything that I know now by educating myself, either by reading books or articles on dogs and watching programs on TV, whether its Dog Whisperer (which a few of my friends here have started to call me), It’s Me or The Dog, Dogs 101, as well as other programs. The book that I learned the most from is an old one called How to Be Your Dogs Best Friend: A Training Manual For Dog Owners by the Monks of New Skete. The book focuses primarily on German shepherds but can be applied to most breeds. One of the reasons why I fell in love with dogs is because I had the opportunity to work in the field with a few hunting dogs and was fascinated by the fact that two different species can work together to perform a task flawlessly, while not speaking the same language.

Tell us about your dog, Darwin. What is his breed or mix, how did he come into your life, how old is he…does he like the dog park? Darwin is a year and a half and my best guess is that he is a Labrador retriever mix (at least that’s what I was told from the rescue organization I got him from). He has the frame of a Vizsla and similar coloring, called Fox Red. I believe that he has a little hound in him because his nose is going constantly. He came into my life back on May 16, 2010 when I finally convinced my parents to let me get a dog. I found him on through an organization called Wags Rescue that finds dogs in need of homes from Mississippi and brings them north where there are more families searching for the perfect pet. I came up with the name of Darwin before I even had a dog or knew that I was going to get one because I grew up surrounded by science, biology and the belief in evolution. My father has taken some of his students in previous years to the Galapagos Islands where as you probably know was at the heart of Charles Darwin’s theories. The name of the boat that Charles Darwin voyaged to Galapagos on is the H.M.S. Beagle, and I would like that to be incorporated into the pond because the name of the boat is obviously fitting. Like most ships would have had in that time period I wanted to add a plank for dogs to walk and jump off into the pond for the dogs that enjoy the sport of dock diving. When Darwin is at our local park he is indifferent to it, he does not seem to enjoy it any more or less than the grass in my back yard, and because the park is so run down there is rarely any dog there for him to play with, which is the only reason why I take him to the dog park in the first place.

How do you think Dog Parks help to improve the dog/human bond and unite dog owners? I think dog parks help improve the bond that humans have for their dog more so than expanding the dogs love for their owner because it is one of the few places that owners can let their dogs off leash and see them run around being happy and free. It is tough for an owner to see the natural instincts of their dogs while they are attached to a short leash. I think they are beneficial to dogs because they allow valuable exercise that they otherwise wouldn’t get if they were on leash their whole life. I think dog parks unite dog owners because it is a place where they can get together and already have something in common with each other. They are a great place for people to meet and form relationships and a great neutral territory for new dogs to meet each other if there will be a new dog introduced into a household.

Where can people see your video and plans for your dog park?

My video can be seen here, . The rest of the finalists can be seen here

Unfortunately the quality of the video that is posted on the site is much less than the one I had originally shot, due to uploading size limits, and it is tough to see the quality of my park plans. People can vote once a day, every day until noon on September 8th and I urge everyone to vote for Darwin because the dogs in our town deserve the same freedom and quality of life that Darwin has and unfortunately they don’t have it right now due to the lack of facilities.  If you would like to see a larger and much better quality photo of my park I would be happy to send you the file. Feel free to shoot me an email  at if you would like more details or to ask more questions. Thank you for this opportunity to explain my plans.

Thank you Kyle.  I think you have great potential as an educator.

While Dr. Mahaney sees the merit in any locale that promotes fitness and interaction, he encourages humans to get moving, too.

“A variety of outdoor venues can promote fitness for both people and pets.  My preferred means of getting your and Fido’s heart rate elevated for an extended time period is hiking.  A meandering, inclined trail will provide a moderate to intense prolonged opportunity to challenge both human and canine fitness.  Provided your dog stays on lead and is not exposed to extreme temperatures, the experience will be a safe and productive one.”

In their beliefs and action, both Patrick Mahaney and Kyle Mills embrace the mission and message of the National Dog Week Movement.