(Editor’s note: Ruth Baum Bigus is the proud owner of Maya, a Catahoula she and her husband Larry rescued four years ago. They are frequent visitors to Leawoof.)
Leawood is a special community-just ask Barkley, Roscoe, Chloe, Hobbes and Maya. They are some of the “regulars” – not at a local brewpub but at Leawoof, the city of Leawood’s own dog park dedicated to the canine crowd.
Opened in the fall of 2014, Leawoof is seven acres at the east end of Leawood Park near I-435. Leawoof has two fenced areas – one for small dogs and the other for larger dogs, with three covered benches for owners to sit back and watch. Concrete sidewalks leading to the benches allow human visitors to walk to the seating areas without getting muddy on rainy days. The city has an inclement weather line to check out conditions with information posted on a dedicated Facebook page @leawoofdogpark.
An agility course is set up in the northeast portion of the park, and canine-only water fountains are available within both the small and large dog areas as well as outside the gate.
According to Chris Claxton, the city of Leawood’s director of the Parks and Recreation Department, the idea for the park came from former City Councilman Louis Rasmussen. The neighboring property owners, Hallbrook Office LLC, donated the land to the city for Leawoof. Much of the work, such as clearing dead or diseased trees and constructing the fence, was done by the city parks maintenance staff, which saved thousands of dollars. The city foundation has also helped out with costs for a shaded rest area.
In the beginning, the park averaged 40,000 visitors annually. Claxton said the city no longer tracks the number “but it’s packed most of the time.”
Since opening, Leawoof has canine visitors from all over the metro. John Ritter and his two black and white Portuguese Water Dogs, Barkley and Roscoe, have been regular patrons who often arrive in Ritter’s red convertible.
“They just sit in the back, and they know where we’re going,” Ritter said. “It’s close to my house, and my dogs like to get out there. I’ve met a lot of people there — there’s always someone there that I know.”
Chloe, part German shepherd and part cattle dog, is another Leawoof regular. Chloe is a rescue who belongs to Mary Flores.
“She loves the dog park and she loves to play,” Flores said.
Across the open field a whistle blows. It’s David Richardson running the paces with his golden retrievers Boomer, and younger buddy, Jack. Richardson is a recreational hunter and puts the dogs through the paces.
Boomer and Jack are Numbers 5 and 6 for golden retrievers for the Richardson family. When Jack joined the family, Richardson found himself going to Leawoof more frequently.
“I have had to dedicate more time to Jack,” Richardson said. “Besides, it’s a great way to unwind after work. On some days I’m the one being walked.”
Paul Atzenweiler is one of three Leawood Animal Control Officers who help patrol Leawoof while the city Parks Department oversees the maintenance issues. Atzenweiler said officers usually drop by Leawoof Park about once a shift to make sure things are going well. Visitors are not allowed to bring in more than three dogs per visit, and they must be under the owner’s control at all times.
In the coming weeks, a new paw washing station will go in just outside the main gate. The obstacle course will be replaced “with something more steady,” Claxton said. “Bark The Musical” will be performed by the Leawood Stage Company with a portion of the proceeds funding the new elements. For more information on the musical, visit Leawoodstageco.org.
Leawood is a friendly place for canine “kids.” According to the website Bringfido.com,
Leawood has 27 pet-friendly restaurants that welcome dogs at their outdoor tables.
Here are just a few of the places that welcome your pooch:
Three Dog Bakery
Located in the Camelot Court Shopping Center, Three Dog Bakery is pet-friendly. Every time a dog comes in this store it gets a free treat and can take a drink from a filled water bowl just inside the door. The store holds additional special events throughout the year and hosts small rescue organizations for pet adoptions. 4322 W. 119th St.
With its proximity to nearby apartments and condos, this upscale boutique restaurant in Mission Farms welcomes the dogs to sit on its patio, hand sout dog treats and provides water for the pooches.
10561 Mission Rd.
Dogs are welcome to shop with their owners at this retail pet store located off West 119th St., next to Trader Joe’s. A full water bowl is always outside for thirsty canines, and samples are often offered inside the store, including a sample bowl filled with treats baked on site. Dogs must be on a leash. Patrons can also use the self-serve dog wash for a fee.
4209 W. 119th St.
Rock and Brews
Located in Prairie Fire shopping center, this restaurant allows pets on its large covered patio. A specific menu for pets includes grilled chicken, bacon, burgers and hot dogs. Staff members put out dog bowls that have the restaurant’s logo and have dog bones as their handles. This restaurant also hosts pet events and features local nonprofits that work with animals.
5701 W. 135th St. (Overland Park)