Group tries to keep canine memories alive at Oak Brook dog park
Greg Mondek shows the dog tags that hang from a small tree at the Mayslake Dog Park in Oak Brook. The tags are a memorial to dogs that have died and were place there by their owners. | Chuck Fieldman—Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 18, 2013 1:15AM
OAK BROOK — Eight dog tags have become the center of concern for a group of people who regularly have brought dogs to the Mayslake dog park.
The dog park is located off St. Paschal’s Drive, just south of 31st Street and west of Illinois 83; it is part of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. Those who have secured permits are allowed to bring dogs to the fenced-in, four-plus acres to run and play without wearing a leash.
A few years ago, a group of about a dozen dog owners decided to hang a chain on a small tree they had donated to be planted at the dog park. The eight dog tags that are attached to the chain are memorials to dogs that have died.
Nothing was said about the chain or the tags until about Dec. 10. That’s when a maintenance man who works for the forest preserve district showed up to remove the chain and tags.
Greg Mondek, one of the dog owners who initially displayed the tags, talked the maintenance man into leaving the chain up, at least for now. But the future of the chain and dog tags remains uncertain. Dog owners have been emailing Joseph Cantore, District 2 commissioner for the forest preserve district, to plead their case.
“These dogs mean a lot to these people,” Mondek said. “This is just a way to remember dogs that have died. It’s open to anyone who wants to put a tag there.
While the sentiment seems harmless, it doesn’t seem to mix well with policy.
“Normally, it’s not OK for a private person to be appropriating public resources for their own use,” said Bonnie Olszewski, public affairs specialist for the forest preserve district.
Still, Olszewski said forest preserve staff is sensitive to the feelings of dog owners.
“Hopefully, we can find an alternative way to memorialize their pets,” she said. “We’re open to discussion about it, and I don’t think we’re just going to pull the tags off now.”
The tags and chain are barely noticeable. Olszewski said a forest preserve staff member recently noticed the tags and chain, which is what promoted the almost removal.
Dog owners made aware of the situation are hopeful that the memorials will remain.
Bob Byrne of Elmhurst has visited the dog park for the past nine years. He has yet to place a dog tag on the chain, but hopes to have that opportunity in the future.
“I will have one, and I’d much rather put it here than just leave it at home where it probably will get lost,” he said.
Karen Chiganos of Downers Grove has been coming to the Mayslake dog park for the past three months and hopes the dog tags remain.
“I think it’s a wonderful memorial,” she said. “People love their pets.”