Barks and parks

  • John Schwonke and his dog Gus begin their hike towards Suttonfield in Sonoma Valley Regional Park on Monday, March 10, 2014. Almost all Sonoma County Regional Parks welcome dogs on leashes making them ideal places to visit with canine companions. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Aside from supper time or the random glimpse of a wild squirrel in a backyard tree, the high point in any dog's day is an outing with its owner.

Even veteran town dogs get weary of seeing the same old curbs and hydrants. A little more stimulating terrain helps keep life interesting.

That's why Connie Cloak takes Montana, her 9-year-old Border Collie, to Hood Mountain Regional Park on the eastern edge of Santa Rosa.

"My dog is the light of my life. We go to a city park every morning so we can walk around and she can socialize with other dogs," Cloak said. "But when we want to really get out and get some exercise and enjoy some natural beauty, the regional parks are where we go."

Park rules require keeping every dog on a leash, but even so, the regional parks offer a variety of trails and vistas that fenced dog parks lack.

"The regional parks are definitely dog-friendly," said Meda Freeman, spokesperson for Sonoma County Regional Parks. "We know that being out on the trail with your dog is a really wonderful experience."

The pastime also is pretty pleasing from the dog's point of view, said Cloak, who co-owns a Santa Rosa environmental consulting firm with her husband, Chris Carrieri.

"It definitely keeps my dog young to get out and be active and do new things, and part of what she likes is being with me," said Cloak, 57. "We're a team."

Occasionally, Montana has discovered a little more adventure than she can handle, happening upon a bobcat, coyotes and even a rattlesnake at different times.

"If she hadn't been on a leash, she would have run, and I think the coyotes would have attacked her," Cloak said.

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