DeKALB – When Jessica Rue and Kim Liker bring their three dogs to Katz Dog Park almost daily, they expect to see a group of dogs taking shelter underneath a picnic bench.
“A lot of the times it's so hot here the dogs kind of herd under the table,” Liker said.
That's because the playful pups have nowhere else to seek shade at the temporary dog park the DeKalb Park District created at an underused softball diamond.
But that could soon change. With permission from park district officials, supporters of the dog park started a campaign on gofundme.com to raise $4,300 for a shade structure. So far, they have raised $1,500.
Dog park users approached the park board in June about adding a shade structure and other amenities to the off-leash dog park because hot temperatures paired with a lack of shade or water could create dangerous conditions for dogs.
Among them was John Tobias, who runs the park's Facebook page and started the gofundme.com campaign. He said the structure is about making sure dogs don't overheat, but also about giving people a place to take shelter.
“Sometimes, when there's inclement weather, dogs still want to go to the dog park,” Tobias said.
Tobias started the online fundraising drive after talking with Executive Director Jason Mangum, who explained although the park district recognizes how much the dog park is used, leaders hadn't budgeted to spend any money on improving the temporary space.
However, adding a shaded area to the park would be possible, Mangum said, if dog park supporters were able to raise enough money and donate it to the park district.
Mangum, who also has allowed users to keep kid-sized pools at the park, said he's happy that they are willing to come together to support a need the park district can't meet.
"So far they've been really great stewards of that park and great to work with," Mangum said.
Staff will buy and install the 400-square-foot structure, which Mangum selected. The metal structure will be anchored to the fence around the baseball diamond.
Because it will take a few weeks for the park district to get the shade structure once it has the donated money, Tobias hopes to have all the money raised within a couple weeks in time for heat in late August and September.
“We are really excited about the future of the dog park,” Tobias said. “We want to move forward with this.”