On June 21, word started spreading through local social media that two dogs had become ill and one had died after (according to a post that originated on the South Bark Facebook page) “presumably ingesting/sniffing up some sort of poison (one vet thinks poisonous fertilizer) at Grape Street Dog Park.”
On June 28, the volunteer group Dog Owners of Grape Street (D.O.G.S.), held a meeting in which the recent poisoning accusations were discussed. Tyler Renner, a representative for Councilmember Chris Ward, confirmed to the group that the city does not spray any fertilizers or pesticides in the dog park.
The dog at the center of this story is “Porky,” a 6-year-old Yorkshire terrier that passed away four hours after visiting the park. By June 26, the Facebook page for Bodhi Animal Hospital had posted that three dogs had died, and was warning people who continued to visit the park to “supervise your kiddo closely and report any suspicious activity.
Jean DiCarlo Wagner, a volunteer coordinator for D.O.G.S. who has been following the story closely, revealed that Porky’s unfortunately “gruesome” death did have similarities to the death of a second dog that had also recently visited the park, with one major exception: “The second dog was liver cancer. It was the same gruesome death, because his liver exploded. So, internal bleeding, vomiting, diarrhea. So, it looked like it was the same thing.” The third dog is a bit of mystery. Wagner said she had heard about another dog, but that the symptoms were more akin to giardia, and that she was uncertain as to whether that dog had even died. “I don’t believe the third dog died,” she said. “I think it was sick, but many of the dogs, our dogs included, got giardia from drinking from the common bowls that are out there. That’s just usually a virus where they have a little bit of stomach ache or diarrhea if they’re young. If they’re very old, it can be really serious.”
Soon after word of the alleged poisonings began to spread, homemade signs were posted at the dog park warning patrons about the potential danger. As a result, Wagner says that daily attendance looks to be down “about 50 percent.” She has been visiting the dog park daily since the news broke and seems unconvinced of any potential dangers. “I feel that as part of the volunteer group that I would try to do what I could to figure out what had happened, and I really couldn’t find out anything,” she explained.
“Without anyone stepping forward — without any names, without any dogs, without any description — it just didn’t seem right to put out that something had to happen, even though people were posting signs. Personally, I think it’s been blown out of proportion.” Dick Miller, another member of D.O.G.S., has been a local at the dog park since the late 80s. He recalled witnessing dogs drop dead within the confines of the park at times over the years.
So was there ever a scare like this associated with any of those deaths? “No, but you have to take into consideration that there wasn’t social media back then either,” he said.