By Kent Mahoney
The Henderson News
After over two years of hard work, Henderson is going to be the proud owner of a brand new 1.7-acre dog park – Fair Paws – with a grand opening at 3 p.m. on Oct. 6.
For Mark and Shana Moland, it is going to be a bittersweet opening.
The Molands have been pet friendly all of their adult life. They have owned both cats and dogs.
Not too long ago, Cous-Cous, a Shepherd-Labrador mix, passed before getting to experience the park. There is a bench at the west end of the park bearing his name.
This is the Moland’s story about the park.
The Molands have four children ranging from a teenage girl, two elementary girls and a pre-K boy, who is just a bundle of energy.
It was a rare moment when the Mark and Shana had a night when the children were preoccupied with other interests. A walk in the park was just the right relaxing event to do.
“It was a Sunday night, and we were at Fair Park talking about life and dogs,” Shana starts the story. “And this crazy lady came out of nowhere and asked us to sign a petition for a dog park.”
The lady in question was Jan Pennal, who was spearheading the project.
“She was very enthusiastic about it and we told her about Connecticut and didn’t have a fenced back yard and didn’t have kids with our first dog, but didn’t know how much need we had with four kids and a fenced in yard now,” Moland said.
Pennal returned the very next week and asked if the couple would be interested in joining the efforts. As it happened, Pennel and the Molands were neighbors.
“Our dog cannot go to a dog park. Our dog would be a dog park reject,” Moland said. “That’s why I can’t get involved in the dog park. We were having so many issues that I might have to rehome her.”
Enter Kelli Ballenger, local dog whisperer and the president of the board of directors for the dog park.
Cous-Cous was a Shepherd-Labrador mix that was exhibiting an unexplained energy when people would walk down the street.
“Cous-Cous was our friend. I didn’t know her name or anything,” Ballinger said. “Roscoe would walk and she would run the fence line.”
“One time, she had run through the yard and hit the water faucet and turned it wide open,” she said. “It was a Sunday morning. I knocked on the door, no one answered, but the water was on.”
“They were gone, so I tied Roscoe up and jumped the fence,” Ballenger said. “Went to turn the water off; Said hi to Cous and that was our first interaction and she was our buddy.”
According to Shana, Kelli could sense when Cous was okay with something and not okay with something.
“Long story short, Kelli started coming over with Roscoe and with the first CPA (rescue) dog, Leo. That’s when Cous helped Leo, after Roscoe had helped Cous,” Shana said.
Ballenger would sit in the middle of the yard and we were worried Cous-Cous would eat her or something, Shana recalled.
“Understanding the dog, she (Cous-Cous) liked other dogs. If you brought another dog with you, you were fine,” Shana said.
“We would borrow a dog or something,” Moland said. “We would tell people, you can come (visit) but bring a dog.”
Mark Moland had a couple of reflections, too
“It took a long time to help Cous acclimate to people,” he said. “I have always loved animals growing up and I had a cat when I was single, got married and had cats and dogs. The cat didn’t like Shana. She died at 17, and the kids are allergic to cats.”
Shana had an insightful theory.
“I thought the dog park was for people with no kids and no fenced in back yard, not realizing how crucial it is for the socialization,” she said. “They still have the great need – the huge need – to socialize and play and not be lying on my couch all day.”
The Fair Paws Dog Park Board of Directors consists of Kelli Ballenger, president; Denise Faulkner, vice-president; Jan Pennal, secretary-treasurer; Allison Biggs, director, and Stephanie Eby, director.