Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pooch Profile: Meet Max

Name: Max

Owner: Stacey

Nickname: Handsome

Age: Stacey's best guess is 13!

Breed: Westie

Place of Origin: Westie Rescue in Round Rock, Texas (2004)

BDPFs (Best Dog Park Friends): Stacey says Max "loves everyone equally." (Zia adds that Max sometimes tires of female company and tends to wander off behind the men who walk at Dog Park.)

Mortal Enemies: Any male dog that still has his "manhood"

Loveliest Features: His confident, oblivious, bouncy strut. Stacey says, "He is his own private Idaho!"

Movie Star He Has Been Compared to: James Dean 

Signature Move: "Peeing on babies :)"  
Zia adds: Another signature move is the stealth departure move,  in which Max decides to follow his own path and sneaks off. Not so long ago, a bunch of us searched for Max in the dark because he had disappeared. He was tired of walking, so he simply trotted off to the nearest parking lot and waited patiently by a stranger's car. He had no doubt that Stacey would find him and take him home. 

Friday, April 3, 2009

Our (New) Neighbors to the West

Check this out! This is the artist's rendering of the residential complex currently under construction directly across the street from Dog Park. The point of view, in fact, is from Dog Park. Gosh, isn't it idyllic? It's always April! Notice all the beautiful, blossoming shrubbery in the foreground that is currently not planted on Dog Park. Look at the cars, modest sedans, lazily cruising down a cobble-stoned Bull Creek Boulevard. And the tiny, well-dressed people who are walking to and from the foyer of the building housing their expensive "multi-family units," along with their private pools and gymnasium. After all, where else would they be walking? To the nonexistent nearby grocery store? To the thriving local businesses? To the nearby University? The reality is, they are either walking to see their grannies at the retirement home around the corner, the plastic surgeon two blocks down, or to the Dog Park. And how will they cross the street safely, I wonder.

Because the fact is that once these 329 units are available (which, according to were supposed to be ready and available now, completed by "4Q 2009"), the lovely, tree-lined boulevard pictured above will become a traffic nightmare, especially around prime-time Dog Park visitation hours. (After all, to get to the conveniently located Mopac Expressway, Post-West Austin dwellers will need to make two left-hand turns, the first from their own parking garage driveway, without the benefit of a traffic light.) And, despite some speculation around Dog Park that the units might be corporate apartments, which would limit the number of potential new Park attendees, the site bills the "units" (apartments? condos? Are these words suddenly politically incorrect now?) as "multi-family." Which means what? Where I come from, the (sub)urban northeast, multifamily means a jumbling Victorian house whose floors were converted into shag-rug-and-panelling lined apartments and whose residents yell out the windows ("Yo, Tony! Where's Frankie?"), hang laundry on lines strung between the buildings, and throw firecrackers from their porches for most of the month of July. I doubt that is what the good developers of Post West Austin intend. 

When I went to the Web site listed above, I was unable to find answers some basic questions: Are the units condos or apartments? How much are they? How many people can live in each "multi-family unit"? Will pets be allowed? Will there any conditions on the pets—their size and number? The site is obviously aimed at giving credit to the developers, not providing much info to potential buyers or renters or their existing neighbors. There is no schpiel about the neighborhood, other than its convenient location near Mopac and the University. What I want is insight into the kinds of people who will live in the things. Who are they? What do they want from my neighborhood? I want to be able to predict their impact on my insular little world of Dog Park. Right now, the vibe I'm getting is not a good one, despite the artistry of the rendering at the top of this page. More to come, I am sure. 

Art source:


Thursday, April 2, 2009

HB 4536 R.I.P.?

Good morning, all. Those of you who are not members of the Dog Park listserv, here is the latest on House Bill 4536, which was supposed to go to the House Land & Resource Management committee yesterday: 

On Tuesday night, many Dog Parkers received an e-mail from Laura L. Her lobbyist friend had made calls to the Dallas representative, Dan Branch, who originally sponsored the the bill—to sell the land that makes up half our Dog Park—at the State Cemetery Board's request. Branch decided to withdraw the bill from consideration, so the Committee would not have a chance Wednesday to vote on it and pass it forward. For those of you who have more modern computers than mine, you can hear the relevant final minute of the Land & Resource Management committee meeting at the following link:  (Jump down to the broadcasts created on 4/1. Click on 81st Legislature.  Then scroll to Land & Resource Management. This info is courtesy of Dog Parker Laure McLaughlin.) With this news, everyone at Dog Park enjoyed a brief sigh of relief. 

It was brief, however, because we still need to be watchful for a couple of reasons. One is that the bill can still be tacked on to a larger one without discussion. Laure warned that the bill may receive a hearing next week, so we need to keep an eye on it. (I signed up to receive alerts at My TLO, but I have not gotten any. Laure recommends checking out the agendas for future committee meetings, at )  Also, Laure and Laura  both recommend that we continue to keep the issue alive by writing to all the pols in the Travis County delegation, which include Senator Watson and Representatives Bolton, Naishtat, Howard, Dukes, and Rodriquez. Again, their contact information can be found through

Another reason to worry, I think, is that although the land does not have an interested buyer at the moment (which may have been one factor in the decision to withdraw the bill), Laura reports that Gary Bradley, a notorious Austin real estate scoundrel, may have "his eye on the property." A quick Google and Dog Park grapevine check suggests that Bradley, who was responsible for the Circle C development in South Austin and was at the heart of the development controversy that spawned Save Our Springs  [S.O.S.] in the late 80's, is, like many of us during these troubled economic times, on the down-and-out. Dog Parkers in the humble but proud Rosedale neighborhood say that Bradley has been living among them for years and driving beat-up trucks instead of the high-end foreign sports cars he once tooled around in. All this is news to me. I was a bubble-headed 20-something living with five strangers in an East Side wreck when S.O.S. was a big deal. All our fortunes have risen and sunk since then. Austin's economy is constantly on the roller-coaster of boom or bust. So when we come out of the current bust, Bradley and a whole host of fellow scoundrels are likely to be waiting with cash in hand to develop our town and our Park whether we like it or not. So, let's be careful out there!

(Many thanks to Laura LaValle, Laure McLaughlin, and Chris Taylor for their e-mails and updates and knowledge of how the Texas State Legislature works. Thanks to Dean for the scoop on Rosedale.) 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lupinus Lunacy

Lupinus texensis, March 30, 2009

As promised in an earlier post, here is a comparison of the bluebonnet crops in the north field at Dog Park. All the photos in this entry were taken on the last few days of March. 

Joey, March 2007 (photo courtesy of Erica S.)
"Large fields of bluebonnets, resembling a sea of blue are not uncommon, especially around the highland lakes of Central Texas." --Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide (UT Press, 1994)

Joey, again, March 2008 (photo courtesy of Erica S.)

Roma, March 30, 2009

According to Texas Wildflowers, the bluebonnet (Lupinus subcarnosus) has been the Texas state flower since 1901. Since 1971, however, the state legislature thoughtfully voted to include all species of Lupinus as the state flower, including L. havardii, which grows in the Big Bend area, and L. texensis, shown above. 

Perhaps one argument we can make in order to preserve our Dog Park (the land that appears in the photos above is part of the State Cemetery Annex, which is currently under consideration for sale, pending the state legislature's approval on Wednesday, April 1, 2009) would be to tell the pols that new development on "our" land would certainly wreak havoc on the bluebonnets. The bluebonnet as political tool! 

Other arguments suggested by Dog Parkers include reminding the pols of their own mortality and suggesting that they think of their legacies. Wouldn't they like to be buried one day under the majestic canopies of live oak in the state cemetery, circa 2039? To be honest, I'm not sure which is worse--a housing development or dead politicians sullying our Park. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Dog by Any Other Name, Part 2

Thanks to everyone who helped me remember more of our doggy friends' names. (The original list can be found here: Apparently I blanked mostly on names that start with the letter s. Here are another 18 names, bringing our grand total to 136 names . . . and counting. 

Saatchi (spelling?)
Sky or Skye


Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday: Update 2

Regarding HB 4536: I sent an e-mail to our state representative Elliott Naishtat this morning and his office replied within hours. 

Here is what I wrote: 

"Dear Mr. Naishtat: I am writing with regard to HB 4536, a bill proposing the sale of land designated for the Texas State Cemetery Annex. As a neighbor of and regular walker on this land, I am deeply concerned with its proposed sale. Development of this land will seriously alter the quality of life in this part of our city. (Land across the street from this plot is already dominated by a new corporate apartment complex.) Also, I understand that any development of this land will put our neighbors to the west and south at increased risk of flooding due to run-off. Finally, I must object to the sale being proposed by Dan Branch, a legislator who is not from Austin and who has clear ties to commercial real estate developers. Please speak out against the sale of this land when the bill is proposed later this week." 

To be fair, before I sent my e-mail, I had not read the description in the General and Land Office Report, which recommended that the land be converted into single family residential tract, not commercial property. But Branch's connections to commercial real estate and the city's recent desire to turn every spare piece of land into vertical mixed use or massive corporate apartment complexes like the one going up across the street from Dog Park naturally inspires suspicious thoughts. It's not impossible that another Triangle--or worse another Domain--could be built in our neighborhood. 

Here is what Dorothy Browne, Naishtat's Chief of Staff, wrote back: 

"Rep. Naishtat is aware of Rep. Branch's bill. We have been in contact with his office and with several of the neighborhood association members.

"From what I can learn, the State Cemetery Board asked Rep. Branch to file the bill on the last day before the filing deadline.

"As you may know, the bill is scheduled for a hearing in House Land & Resource Management Committee on Wednesday, at 8:00 a.m in E2.012 of the Capitol Extension. I encourage you and other interested Austin citizens to attend the hearing."

Okay, so why did the State Cemetery Board ask a rep from Dallas to put this bill forward? And why wait until the last day? It seems a bit sneaky to me. From e-mails I've read on the listserv, others agree with me.

The right thing to do would be to drag my sorry self to the Capitol building on Wednesday morning. Ugh. I so hate early mornings. If any of you are able to attend, I would be happy to drive. I am not sure I can face state bureaucracy by myself. I like my politics the way I like football. On TV, in the fall, and only sparingly. Also, to be honest, I really only like politics (or football) when my team is winning. Can we win this one? Stay tuned, sports fans. 

Monday: Update

An update: For those of you who want to contact state representatives about HB 4536, the sale of Texas State Cemetery Annex, the people to contact are: 

From what I can tell, HB 4536 will reach the House floor this Wednesday, April 1, between 8:00 and noon, in Room E2.012 in the Capitol building. Again, if you want to updates on the bill from the Legislature's Web site, you can sign up for alerts at MyTLO (My Texas Legislature Online), available at

Also, Laura LaValle, a regular and long-time Dog Parker with her dog Fiona, has contacted a friend who is a lobbyist. If you are interested in learning more about her efforts, again, please e-mail me and will forward her contact information and e-mails on the topic. 

By the way, courtesy of Carl Helmshoth, below is the description of our beloved Dog Park land that appears in the most recent General Land and Office report. (I've corrected the misspellings, natch; all itals are mine):
"This site is [c]urrently a vacant property and is underutilized as a proposed state cemetery. It is under the management and control of the Texas Cemetery Commission with a restriction designated by the Legislature for state cemetery use only. [ . . . ] The surrounding properties include uses as residential and commercial development, medical, government, and business offices, the Austin Memorial Park Cemetery, and Camp Mabry. 

"The appraisal indicates the highest and best use for this property is to develop the site as a single residential tract. The tract is located in a highly desirable residential and mix[ed]-use area in Austin. It is estimated the site will not be needed as a cemetery in less tha[n] 30 years[,] with some estimates at twice as long. This site was presented in the 2007 Report to the Governor and was approved with conditions being the removal of the statutory restriction for cemetery use."

The description appears on p. 97-98 of the Report. If you'd like the link to the entire report, please let me know. 


Monday Bloody Monday

Sorry I'm late with a post this morning. I spent the weekend as a yard warrior and can barely move 80 percent of my muscles. Poor dogs. Every time I turned around, one of them—whom I will not name—was lying in a patch of freshly weeded and seeded dirt, and got yelled at as a result. The other I accidently (seriously, I wasn't aiming) sprayed with the hose, and she was deeply offended. 

So here's the deal. Over the weekend, Dog Parkers were alerted to a serious issue that could permanently alter our park experience. A state legislator—not from Austin—is supporting a bill to sell the state land that makes up roughly half of the park area. Based on what we know about this legislator's connections to real estate developers, the land is likely to be sold for development, which will not only put our park at risk but also the neighborhoods next to it, which are prone to flooding during heavy rains. The legal eagles at the park have been all over this—both the proposed bill and the sudden push to the lege, but I need more time to process it. If you are not a member of our listserv and would like to see the entire discussion of late, please send me your e-mail (in a blog comment, which I won't publish, or directly to, and I'll send you very easy instructions for joining. I will also send you the entire e-mail exchange from this weekend.

In the meantime, here is the link to the bill as it stands:

I believe that the bill will be introduced to the lege this Wednesday, so it is important for us to act quickly and contact the appropriate state and local pols. I will get that information together, too. 

Sigh. Mondays. --zia

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Quotable Dog

"The old dog barks backward without getting up.
I can remember when he was a pup." 

—from Robert Frost's "The Span of Life" (1936)

In memory of Sue Hill's Kilmer 

(Art: "Hounds at Rest"  by unknown artist, 19th century British School, from William Secord Gallery, inc., found at