ESCANABA - A new sign installed at Harbor Hideout in Escanaba teaches kids - and adults - how to greet a dog and what to do around an excited dog on the loose.
The dog awareness sign was placed in position at the Ludington Park playground on Monday, courtesy of a concerned citizen, Penny Rounce of Escanaba, and an anonymous donor. Two Public Works employees installed the learning tool.
"It's for education and public safety," explained Rounce when asked why she spearheaded the project. She said its the first "Let's Talk Dog" sign of its kind in the nation.
Escanaba Public Works employees, from left, Bill Boyce and Tom Boudreau, install a dog awareness sign at Harbor Hideout in Escanaba on Monday. Looking on, from right, are Penny Rounce of Escanaba, who spearheaded the educational project, and Recreational Director Tom Penegor, who assisted in the process. (Daily Press photo by Jenny Lancour)
Earlier this year, Rounce, owner of two dogs herself, asked Recreation Director Tom Penegor about putting up a dog awareness sign in the park. She was concerned about children knowing how to approach dogs, how to read dog body language, and what to do around a dog in stress. Penegor said the proposal was brought before the city's recreation board in August. The board voted in favor of the sign and forwarded the request to city council, which approved the project the following month.
Using simple images and brief wording, the sign instructs kids what to do around a loose dog or an excited dog: stand in place, keep hands in front, and count until the dog leaves. The sign suggests the proper way to meet a dog is to first ask the owner, then ask the dog, and then pet the dog under the chin.
The sign also depicts common body language signals that may show a dog is in stress including lip licking, turning away, half-moon eyes, yawning, a closed mouth, and movement like the dog is shaking off its fur.
The Let's Talk Dog! Awareness sign was created by Joseph and Carrie Perk of Texas who lost their 2-year-old son when the family's dog unexpectedly bit the child in the neck in 2009. The couple "created the Liam Joseph Perk Foundation in their son's memory to help parents and dog owners create safe and healthy environments for children living with canines," according to their website.
In addition to distributing educational material to prevent dog bites, the foundation's newest project is the dog awareness signs. The sign is also equipped with a code that points mobile devices to the foundation's website for more information on dog bite prevention.
The local sign was paid for by an anonymous donor from Escanaba in memory of Jim "Smiley" Lewis.