It’s 7am at the bark park. Blue-green waves crash against the cement shoreline just south of Addison. Red wings bicker with blue jays over nesting rights in the tree-tops. And everywhere–dogs. I have two myself. Two little shits, really. Sage and Disney. Mother and son. A few years ago, little Sage, all of seven pounds, went out and, much to Bob Barker’s spay-happy dismay, bred with a whipper-snapper yapper of a Yorkie. A few months later, out came this needy Ewok of a creature, Disney. Bark park is just about their favorite place in the whole wide world. Ah–a dog’s life. But Chicago has lots more to offer pooch-people than just one stretch of Lincoln Park.
Is this a dog-friendly city? I ask Steve Dale, host of WGN-AM 720’s “Pet Central” and author of “Doggone Chicago” (NTC/Contemporary), due out August 15. “On one hand, or paw, it’s extremely dog friendly,” Dale says. “Where else can you go to a bar and down a cold one with your four-legged pal? On the other hand, there is only one official dog park, known as ‘Wiggly Field’ [Noethling Park, 2645 North Sheffield], where dogs are allowed off leashes.”
While dogs may only be sanctioned to squat off-leash in one Windy City spot, Dale’s book—a veritable Fodor’s guide for Chicago canines—points out many other parks where dog owners gather and authorities turn a cheek. He also reviews parks throughout the suburbs—the result of years of research with his own mutts, Lucy and Chaser. Also covered in the guide are numerous restaurants, bars and events where dogs are welcome. I tell Dale about one North Side establishment that wasn’t too happy with my little girl, Sage. The bartender walked up to me and asked us to leave. He said that Sage was the first dog he ever had to throw out.
“What did she do?” asks Dale.
There was a group of people devouring a mountain of nachos at a corner table. Sage took a rather vocal liking to them.
“It’s usually not the pets that are the problem,” offers Dale. “It’s the owners that don’t know how to discipline their animals.”
Ah, yeah, Steve. Thanks.
For owners who do know how to handle their mutts, Dale recommends the Lakewood Dog Exercise Area as the best, at Fairfield Road, south of Illinois Route 176, Lakewood, (847)367-6640. As for a watering-hole for you and your pooch, the Marquee Lounge, 1973 North Halsted, (773)988-7427, is tops. If there’s a little white dog screaming in the corner for nachos, come on over and say hi. I’ll buy you a cold one. (Sam Weller)