Dogs Have Their Day in Wheeling

Sonny Fitzsimmons, left, and granddaughter Bella lead Fitzsimmons’ dog, Gabby, to drink at the fountain at The Fitzsimmons Family Dog Park: A PetSafe Park in East Wheeling.

WHEELING — Rambunctious 9-month-old canine Smokey — a large black lab and bloodhound mix — let out a few howls Tuesday while he anxiously awaited the re-opening of The Fitzsimmons Family Dog Park: A PetSafe Park in East Wheeling.

Smokey and his owner, Ted Weaks, of McMechen, arrived more than a half-hour before the gates were scheduled to open at the park. Young Smokey paced restlessly as Weaks led him on a leash around the nearby parking lot, sitting only for a short time when Weaks offered him some treats.

Smokey looked longingly at the gate as if he knew he soon would get a chance to run inside without a leash and free some energy.

Weaks has worked in the gas pipeline industry for the past five years. He brought Smokey back with him from Kansas earlier this year after he began to chase cattle and get into mischief, and his owners wanted him gone.

“I thought I would take him back to Glen Dale, get him neutered, and he would settle down,” Weaks said. “He’s going to be a really good dog. But he’s trouble. Trust me.”

City officials, members of the public and about a dozen dogs were present when the gates to the park opened at 6 p.m. All appeared to get along well and have a happy time.

The park initially opened last October, with organizers raising about $150,000 for its construction. But it was closed in March following reports of dogs cutting their paws on glass that was surfacing on the grass.

Several inches of top soil and sod grass have since been placed at a cost of $64,000.

“The city did not pay for any of it,” said Vice Mayor Chad Thalman. “The Fitzsimmons family and dog park committee donated all the money.”

Sonny Fitzsimmons and her white lab, Gabby, were among those attending the re-opening. She had nothing but praise for work done by city employees and the amenities in the park. Canines can get a drink at a fountain for dogs and even congregate with their buddies at a fire hydrant there.

Fitzsimmons was glad the dogs could get out to run and make some friends.

“It’s not about the space — it’s about the loneliness,” she said. “I don’t have two dogs — just her. And she just loves other dogs and kids.”

Also present was Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron, who brought along his Havanese, Stella.

“It’s very nice,” Herron said of the park.

Diminutive Stella played on the side of the park fenced for dogs weighing fewer than 30 pounds. Those weighing more than 60 pounds have a larger section in which to run.