Serving Brooklyn's Off-Leash Community


Happy Brithday! FIDO Turns Ten
by Maureen sanders, FIDO's first Treasurer

How would the age of a puppy who sat on the steps of Litchfield Villa on September 2,1998 be measured in human years?

Well, it depends on the size of your dog. For a tiny dog of ten years, the human equivalent would be about 55 years, a youngster compared to the really big guys who’d have hit 80 at age 9 and might or might not be able to attend the 10th anniversary celebration. In between, small dogs who are bigger than cats (pardon the expresson) would be about 60, and medium size dogs would be a bit over 70.

None of the humans on that historic evening were as little as puppies, but we sat “in the doghouse” with the canines on the steps of the Villa. They wouldn’t let the dogs inside. Never the less, we made some progress. We talked of off-leash hours and various
sorts of opposition to them. We talked of ticketing by PEP officers and about the idea that in unity there is strength.

Quite a few people signed up for a future meeting in the Villa sans dogs. Not everyone showed, but we had enough in attendance to get started. We never really had elections, but people began to assume rolls. Jane Cameron, a prime mover, took on the presidency and Maureen Sanders, who volunteered to take notes, soon became known as secretary. Small donations were given from here and there and Maureen kept the records in the minutes; thus becoming secretary-treasurer.

During those early meetings, Maureen created the acronym, FIDO and Barbara Burger created the well known logo you might have seen on our donated trash pails before (I’m told) people from other parks stole them (I guess budget cuts make people desperate.) But to this day FIDO continues to donate money for more trash pails. We’ve also donated money for the dog beach, the dog water fountains and the tree and bench where memorials are held.

The Steering Committee soon settled into some ten regulars who are listed as initial directors in the not for profit incorporation papers that were aproved by New York State in 1999. Today only 3 of these original founders: Charlotte Gemmel, Diane Johnson and Maureen Sanders: remain on the Steering Committee but many other talented individuals have joined. Even some of those who have left continue to serve in more limited capacities. Founder, Paul Belliveau, continues to do design work for the newsletter, and founder, Mary McInerney, who recently resigned after 7 years as president, stays in touch.

Unfortunately founder, Nadine McGann passed away in 2004. Nadine was the force behind the spring and fall lectures. Now Diane Johnson is working with the Education committee headed by Theresa de Paul. We hope to resume our seminar series in the near future.

One of the first activities sponsored by FIDO was Coffee Bark. Coffee Bark made such a hit that it’s still held on a monthly basis, and over 100 months of coffee, tea and dog and human treats have been enjoyed. Jana Brenning, Charlotte Gemmel and Mary McInerney carried the ball (I mean Kong) for many years, and now Bob Ipcar is the coordinator. Over the years we began to sponsor several annual events including Pupnic, a Memorial Ceremoney for dogs who passed away and a holiday celebration, Bark! The Herald Angels Sing!.

This year a special event was held on August 2nd to celebrate our mutterly wonderful 10 years. Perhaps the crowning achievement of those 10 years was Commissioner Benepe’s agreeing to make a long standing “Off Leash” courtesy a park regulation. It is now legal for dogs to be off leash in New York City parks between 9pm until the park closes and from the time the park opens until 9am. Your dog can run, meet other dogs and even swim (and you wont get a ticket!). You can just socialize with other dog owners. Vaya con perros!

Of course, none of this could have been achieved without our lifeblood, our members. We should congratulate and thank ourselves for what FIDO has made possible for our beloved companions. May the years to come bring even more benefits to the dogs of Prospect Park. Under our new president, Tony Chiappellone, a new committee, Rescue, has been added o the exisiting Communications, Education, Events, and Membership committees. Please join one or many of them if you can add an extra hour or 2 to your weekly or monthly schedules. Be dogged! You CAN do it.

—M. Sanders, FIDO's first Treasurer