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Getting a Leg Up in Louisville

I want to say right off the bat (get it … Louisville Slugger) that we will come back to Louisville. Due to some work/travel scheduling issues, we did not get to see nearly as  much as we’d hoped. Based on what we did see, and from talking with the people we met, we got the feeling that Louisville is vibrant “small, big town” or “big, small town” – that also happens to be wonderfully pet friendly.

Sniffing Around

Located on the Ohio River, the settlement that became Louisville was founded in 1778 and is named after France’s King Louis XVI. While it is probably best known for the running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, Louisville also hosts the largest annual Beatles Festival in the world, Abbey Road on the River, over Memorial Day weekend. The city has 122 city parks  covering 14,000+ acres. Several of the parks were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of NYC’s  Central Park.

What We Did

We first ventured into the Highlands neighborhood to exercise Ty and Buster at the Patterson Dog Park on Morton Street. The park was shady, fenced in, and had run areas for small and large dogs. The dog owners were friendly, and we talked with them at length about why they believed Louisville was a pet friendly city. The city parks and the outdoor doggie dining options seemed to top the list of reasons.

Louisville, KY

Patterson Dog Park in the Highlands

After working off some energy we, walked over to Molly Malones, an Irish Pub on Baxter Avenue. We had lunch with Julie Bush of Tails Pet Magazine (LouisvilleTails will launch in June) and a surprise guest that I will talk about in tomorrow’s post. It felt good to be warmed by the sun on the outdoor patio. The staff was friendly and provided Ty and Buster with separate water bowls. Best of all, our boys were well-behaved, even with other dogs dining nearby. We then hopped across the street to dog friendly Quills Coffee for a caffeine injection.

Louisville, KY

Ahh – the mystery guest

Louisville, KY

The lunch gang at Molly Malones

The next morning, we came back to see one of the dog parks we heard so much about. Cochran Hill Dog Run at Cherokee Park (designed by the aforementioned Olmstead). The dog park is divided in half – one side for all dog use and one side for small dog use. At 2 acres the park was spacious, but there was little grass or shade. Still, it was a great dog run ensconced in a setting of old woods and rolling hills.

Louisville, KY

2 acres of run area … nice

Cochran Hill is one of five of Louisville’s permit-only dog parks – Champions, Old Louisville (under construction), Sawyer, and Vettiner Dog Runs are the others. The cost of a 2010 dog park permit is $30.00 for the 1st dog, $20.00 for the 2nd dog, $10.00 for the 3rd dog and $5.00 per additional dog in the same household. All funds from the sale of the permits go towards the dog park’s maintenance and improvement costs. Non-resident dogs can contact the park in advance to obtain access. See “Invitation to Comment” below. Interestingly, DogJaunt wrote just last week about a similar permit-only dog park system in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Where We Stayed

We stayed in Louisville for three nights. The first two were in the Lousiville Metro KOA in Clarksville, IN (just on the other side of the Ohio River). Amy described it best – it was a parking lot with utility hookups. Why didn’t we move? Too lazy, I guess, and we needed to catch up on our work. I doubt we will ever stay there again. The only redeeming feature was a nearby dog friendly park where we could exercise Ty and Buster.

We spent our third night at the Louisville South KOA in Shepherdsville (making Buster, our German Shepherd, feel at home. This rural park had a great nature trail that led you out of the park through the woods and down to the Salt River. The park also had a cute fenced-in area with play equipment that was perfect for small dogs. Added benefit: Shepherdsville is home to a Zappos fulfillment facility and … wait for it … an outlet store. Who knew Zappos had an outlet?! Attracted like moths to a flame – we came, we saw, we purchased. Score: 6 pairs of shoes (Rod, 2 – Amy, 4) for less than $200. Not a misprint.

Next Time

We love big cities that have distinct districts. And like many older American cities, Louisville has its well-defined neighborhoods, many with well over a century of their own history. The next time we’re in town, we want to do a walking tour of the Downtown and Portland riverside areas. If we stay an extra day or two, we were told that peripheral neighborhoods like Butchertown, Phoenix Hill, Shelby Park, Smoketown, and Old Louisville are a must-see.

Invitation to Comment

I am interested in your take on permit-only dog parks. Paraphrasing DogJaunt, I understand that park creators want their park to be used by healthy dogs with owners who have an investment in keeping the park clean and well-maintained, but it puts out-of-town dogs in a bind. On one hand, who plans that far in advance? On the other hand, there were other no-permit-required dog parks nearby. Thoughts?

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  • Thanks so much for sharing your insights, Teresita. I’m sorry to hear about your experience in the Tom Sawyer little dog park, but I’m glad to hear that, overall, you had a pleasant experience in Louisville. Waggin’ trails to you!

  • I have enjoyed my visits to the Louisville dog parks. The Tom Sawyer little dog park is the most unfriendly to new arrivals. It is like you are going to upset their little gazebo gatherings with the dogs on their laps. One man there has a history of making women very unwelcome. He acts as though he is the mayor of the place. All the others are wonderful.

  • guest says:

    As a Louisville native and resident (we say “Loo-vul”) I’ve always liked our dog parks.  I don’t mind the small fee and while it helps with upkeep, it also tends to keep irresponsible pet owners out that would let very ill-mannered dogs in the park that would cause a disruption or far worse. 

    I will contact my district council rep and suggest that the Louisville Metro website include more information about our dog parks, including the permit requirements, and suggest also a special permit for visitors.

  • Dee Green says:

    All dog parks in Southern CA require that off-leash dogs be licensed by the local animal control agency, so I guess that's sort of like a permit? My dream is to add a park that's restricted to paying members. The idea being that the membership income will cover the cost of having the park staffed during opening hours with dog-savvy attendants who possess the authority to require dogs/people to play nice. Right now, none of our parks are staffed (there are random license checks), which means a lot of lowest-common-denominator behavior. So many people with well behaved dogs don't use the parks as a result.

    Honestly, until I read your post, I never thought about out-of-town dogs needing a place to recreate. The tourist trade in my city, Santa Monica, is a huge part of the local economy, so if the park were staffed, we would be able to offer day passes to qualified visitors. Thanks for that idea!

    • Hi Dee. Having the park staffed and monitored is a super-fantastic idea! I would be happy to pay to join a park like that. I agree that sometimes the behavior of the other dog owners at a park is less than stellar, and the other people and dogs suffer the consequences. I really appreciate you for taking visiting dogs into consideration! As you may know, we spend a lot of time in a 24 foot Winnebago with a German Shepherd and a Shar-pei. Off-leash dogs parks are a not just a treat for us – they are a necessity! :-D

  • Lisa Widmer says:

    Was the 30$ a yearly permit? How much does it cost do go there for a day? I too think that is steep especially. But mostly because I could be spoiled. In my town of Weston, WI we have a 40acre Dog park that is open for anyone in the public to use. Through donations it has been able to stay open. There also is a Donation station right at the opening of the dog park where u can throw in change, or any donation.

    • Hi Lisa. Your dog park sounds fantastic!! I grew up near Gays Mills, WI and the next time I'm back visiting my family we'll have to check it out! Buster won't know what to do with himself with so much space to run!

      Now, to answer your question: the $30 was for a year, and it appears from the info on the website that visiting dogs may be able to play for the day for free, but you have to make arrangements in advance to meet with someone so that they can verify your dog's vaccinations. (We didn't plan ahead, so our boys didn't play at this park. Luckily, Patterson Dog Park didn't require a permit!)

    • Look for an update on Monday's blog that will answer your questions!

  • I think that permit for dog parks are great since the revenue will go towards the park maintenance, but I do think that $30 is a little high. Personally I wouldn't pay that to use a dog park. Maybe the city could put automatic ticket machines to buy a day use permit for out-of-towners?

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