Larissa, Annie, Bob and Blue

A Dedication to Dogs Brings Neighbors Together


Submitted 7 months ago
Created by
Molly O’Hara

Dog ownership can introduce more beautiful gifts into our lives beyond experiencing the unconditional love and support they provide. For some, dogs encourage exercise, for others, they provide much-needed therapy, and for many, dogs bring people together and help create new friendships. For Larissa Pyer of Lebanon, some of these friendships were also the foundation around which the idea for another Upper Valley dog park arose.

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When Larissa and her husband Bob first adopted six-month-old Annie in 2012, a beagle, from the Upper Valley Humane Society (UVHS), she had no idea how far into the dog world she would go. About six months after they adopted Annie, they added a second beagle rescue to their home, two-year-old Blue. Larissa, Bob, Blue, and Annie regularly visited the Watson Dog Park in Hartford and quickly bonded with a few people there. Some were from Hartford, but many came from surrounding New Hampshire towns such as Lebanon, Enfield, and even Mascoma and Grantham.

One person was Bill Stearns and his dog Milo, a Chihuahua/Jack Russell Terrier mix. Milo was adopted when he was six-months-old and is now about four and a half. Bill was involved in the Watson Dog Park in Hartford, but like so many on the other side of the river, he was excited about the prospect of one in Enfield.

“I think a number of us felt the park in Enfield was needed. It’s a bit of a drive over there [to the Hartford dog park]. It’s not prohibitive; it’s not as if you couldn’t make it but, for me, I can go five minutes down the road and Milo can be out on the grass, or the snow in this case. And with the Watson Park, you had to block out a couple of hours, but I still have friends over there.”

It was around this time that Larissa ran into a former high school teacher of ours, Cynthia Sanschagrin, at the Watson Dog Park. The two of them began timing their visits so they could meet at the park and started discussing the benefits of having a second dog park in the Upper Valley, in the Lebanon area, since the travel time was difficult.

Cynthia introduced Larissa to the woman who would soon become her “partner-in-crime,” Marcia Herrin, who was equally passionate about the idea of a second dog park. While Cynthia had to bow out of the mission, the two women formed the Mascoma Valley Dog Park Supporters, a 501c3 with the purpose of building and maintaining public off-leash recreation areas for dogs and their people.

Marcia pursued the idea with the Town of Enfield and Larissa sought land in Lebanon for the new dog park, but while Lebanon was – and continues to be – very supportive of the idea, land in Lebanon is hard to find.

Enfield gave them the green light, so the two women decided to direct their energies there and raised the money to build The Shaker Field Dog Park. Bill Stearns, the owner of the adorable Milo, was essential to the building of the park as well, according to Larissa.

However, Bill said, “Larissa is very kind. She and Marcia Herrin deserve a knighthood for all they did to build the dog park. I helped with the benches; I occasionally helped out with little bits and pieces. They needed a shed at one point or some tools; those were the things I threw in.”

Larissa and Marcia haven’t stopped working with the Town of Lebanon either as they still intend to build a dog park there too. “Our original purpose and overall would be to perhaps eventually expand and have a dog park in Lebanon that the organization was supporting,” Larissa said.

There was a lot of support from the Hartford dog park. The board provided the Mascoma Valley Dog Park Supporters with a good deal of advice about how they set up and ran their dog park, and, while Larissa and Marcia researched plenty, Larissa said they modeled much of their dog park off of the Watson Dog Park. What’s really nice is that many people go back and forth between the two, occasionally visiting their old stomping grounds and friends in Hartford, because no matter where you go, dogs and friends are waiting.Bill summed it up nicely when he said, “It’s a lot easier to make friends at these dog parks because you have a common talking point already. How are your dogs doing today? How are they feeling?”

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