East Coast Shoot, Day 8: morning joy in the Long Meadow

July 6, 2009

The Long Meadow in Prospect Park is arguably the happiest place in the world in the hours before 9am on Saturdays.

Saturday, 8am, happy pups

Saturday, 8am, happy pups

The off-leash initiative started in the 1980s, when Tupper Thomas, Prospect Park Administrator, and now president of the Prospect Park Alliance, needed a way to get people back in the park.  Dogs are allowed to be off-leash in the park from 9pm to 1am, when the park closes, and from 5am to 9am in the morning.

Our crew was able to catch a beautifully joyous scene at around 8am on Saturday, June 27.  I racked my brain to no avail to see if I had ever been in one place with so many dogs.  We strolled among the throngs of dogs and their owners, many of whom also had adorable babies in tow.  The cuteness factor was almost too much to handle.

P1010042

The Great Lawn

Who knows if Olmsted could have forseen the popularity of this particular activity–early on, in the late 1800s, dogs did come to the park–leashless, it seems–but presumably in the interest of tending sheep.  Tennis ball launchers, of course, had not yet been invented.

Sheep in the Long Meadow, circa 1900-1905

Dogs and sheep in the Long Meadow, circa 1900-1905

With no sheep to tend to on Saturday, the raucous canine party left virtually no mess behind them, and by 9am, the dogs were diligently leashed back up and led either to the shaded paths of the Ravine, or the surrounding streets.  Later, when I asked Tupper about this incredible display of public respect for the park, she told me about the organization FIDO.  FIDO stands for “Fellowship in the Interest of Dogs and their Owners,” and is a community organization that works with the park to educate off-leashers about park rules, while encouraging the maintenance of a safe and healthy place for dogs.  Read more about FIDO here:  www.fidobrooklyn.org.

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