Having a high-energy dog means exercise is a daily necessity.
Bred to tree big game, our 2-year-old Plott hound, Clyde, can't help that he's happiest when he's on the hunt — webbed paws moving at full speed and floppy ears flapping like flags in a stiff breeze.
But our long walks and games of chase in the back yard were becoming routine and a bit boring.
So we made a mutual decision to check out the paw playground at Walsingham Park in Largo. The 3.5-acre dog park is on the southwest side of the park.
Three fenced areas separate small and large breeds, so chihuahuas don't get run over by Rottweilers.
Despite the wear and tear caused by frenetic paws, each section has large grassy areas for dogs to run and play.
Benches are scattered throughout, offering owners — and sometimes their dogs — a spot to rest.
Watering spots and plastic bags for clean-up are provided, alleviating the need of bringing your own.
The park is less crowded on weekday mornings, regular visitors said. Late afternoons and weekends are busiest.
On a recent Friday, several dozen dogs wrestled playfully, gnawed on sticks and chased a seemingly endless supply of tennis balls lobbed by the nearest human.
They broke into impromptu races along the fence line and patrolled the yard's perimeter. The red, faux fire hydrant was a popular stop.
Gathered in small groups amid the controlled canine chaos, owners chatted about different breeds and traded pet care information.
Nearly everyone Clyde and I met during our two visits to the park said they came often.
Jim Kenderdine of Largo said he brings Nakia, his 4-year-old pit bullterrier and Australian sheepdog mix to the park each day. "Every day, she wakes me up in the morning and waits to get in the truck," Kenderdine said.
The doting dog owners can't always remember each others' names, but they rattle off the names of the dogs with ease: Snickers, Riley, Duke.
"Everyone loves Kanga-Rue," said Wendy Wilson, of Largo, when a 1-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback and Lab mix arrived.
The dog is a buddy of her 1-year-old husky and Shetland sheepdog mix, Nelly "Sugar Lips" Wilson.
Being the new kid on the block, Clyde wasn't quite sure what to make of the whole thing at first. But on our second visit, Clyde started to break out of his shell and even ran a little. I suspect he wanted to show his new admirers his speed.
The best part: two minutes into our ride home, he was fast asleep.
Rita Farlow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4162.