After 16 years, a Husky named Maverick is still able to truly admire nature sitting alongside his owner, Greg Clifford, on a pleasant day in Riverview Park. (Photo/Jacob Flannick)
To view more doggie photos, check out the Riverview Dog Park Gallery!
With the ferocity of a miniature bull right out of the gate, a nine-year-old Jack Russell Terrier with a major Napoleon complex stormed into Riverview Park’s off-leash exercise area and charged toward the closest canine for a rambunctious meet and greet.
Two off-leash areas rest in the shadow of the world renowned Alleghneny Observatory. There, both large and small dogs blow off steam and unwind alongside their owners, who have formed a tight-knit, welcoming community.
Ashley Wisniewsky, who owns the Jack Russell named Max, also owns a Husky-Golden Retriever mix named Poohgirlie. She accepted Max’s raucous personality long ago.
“For some reason, it’s pretty common for small dogs to be very tenacious, they never give up,” Ashley said.
Sarah Grossman, a full-time student at the University of Pittsburgh, often makes the trip all the way from Bloomfield with her Chow Chow named Buddha.
“I’ve been to other parks, but I really like it here. Everyone knows everyone and we all make fun of each other,” said Sarah. She added that she is pleased that she and Buddha have found a place that is comprised of down-to-earth, friendly people — and dogs.
Despite Riverview’s two off-leash locations, one for small dogs and one for large dogs, nearly everyone frequents the area designated for larger dogs, perhaps because it is the area that facilitates the most social interaction.
Kelli Wargo, the owner of a Bullmastiff named Tacara, touched upon the vibrant social network in the larger dog area by classifying it as “the dog cult.”
The bonds developed between the dogs at Riverview flourish beyond the perimeter of the off-leash area.
Buddha the Chow Chow and Jack, a Husky-Shepherd mix whose owner, Dan Stori, called him a “spaz,” have had some sleepovers in the past.
“Buddha‘s best friend is Jack, he stayed with us for a week while Dan was on vacation,” Sarah said.
Jack and his owner Dan, of nearby Brighton Heights, have been a part of Riverview’s dog park community for quite some time, and are not the least bit shy about introducing themselves to newcomers.
“He inserts himself into everything,” Dan said about Jack, whose courageous curiosity has oftentimes led to short-lived scuffles between other dogs.
Encompassing 287 acres, the park also provides a variety of hiking, jogging and biking trails, as well as some horseback riding trails.
John Clark, the owner of a Hound mix named Cole and an American Lab named Saesha (named after a song by Prince titled “Insatiable”), typically traverses the trails branching throughout the park with his sidekicks.
“We usually walk around Riverview to get a good work-out in,” said John, who frequently gets together with his friend Dave Dornack and his English Lab, Pepper.
“Pepper and Saesha have been best friends for six years,” said Dave, who couldn’t imagine traveling anywhere without Pepper by his side.
John and Dave’s friendship shows that the relationships formed at Riverview are not just between dogs; bonds between owners also flourish outside the park.
Joann Hollinger and her mutt Sir Walter embrace the friendly nature of Riverview’s dog park community.
“It’s a whole social life, everyone’s very nice and watches out for other dogs,” Joann said.
Despite Riverview’s many amenities outside of the off-leash area, such as a swimming pool, a space-themed playground and a visitor’s center, many dog owners feel that it would be beneficial to install a water fountain, as well as some lights for night-time visitors.
“We’re trying to get some lights here, but it’s thought that they may interfere with the observatory,” Joann said.
Park-goers will get a water fountain soon, said City Council President Darlene Harris. The city already has the fountain, but is trying to figure out how it is going to run water lines to the park before the fountain is installed, Harris said.
Even sans fountain and lights, those who make the trip to the park recognize the many gifts that nature has bestowed upon Riverview for both people and their pooches to admire.
Greg Clifford, a retiree of Avalon, always looks forward to making the trip with his 16 year-old Husky named Maverick.
“He keeps me going just like I keep him going,” said Greg. “He gives me an excuse to get out and really enjoy the outside.”
Jacob Flannick graduated from York College of Pennsylvania with a degree in Professional Writing. Currently, Jake waits tables in Cranberry Township while looking to pursue his education in writing at Carnegie Mellon University next fall and eventually hopes to write for magazines.