Dogs get cabin fever, too.

With all of the rain, following all of the red tide, Mila was acting like a caged animal. Except her cage was our 1,600-square-foot home.

A blue heeler, she chewed on everything. For the second time this year, she ate my phone.

So when a walk around the block seemed insufficient, and a trip to the recently red-tide-infested Brohard Beach paw park seemed unsafe, we decided to head south.

Watching beachgoers seek alternative vacation spots is not pleasant, but tourism advocates in Southwest Florida will have to live with that reality until red tide has been declared “gone” for a while. It’s just too risky, and unpredictable.

So when the rain stopped and the sky cleared, but the threat of red tide remained, we drove past the turn to Brohard Beach, on the island of Venice. Instead we drove 15 miles south to another spot, one recommended by

How do you tell a dog who gets excited when she hears the word “beach” that she’s going to “Ann Dever Regional Paw Park, at 6791 San Casa Dr., in Englewood”? My Garmin told her one turn at a time.

She caught on and got excited when we entered the parking lot.

The lack of red-tide stench at Dever Park pleased me, and Mila seemed to enjoy her new surroundings. Dever Park is a vast, wide open space. The three other dog owners present on this recent mid-Sunday afternoon were a combination of regulars and newcomers — new to the park and to the Englewood area.

While they talked about having lived in New York and Boston, and used the little black “poopie” bags wedged carefully in the cracks of a picnic table, their dogs played with Mila.

At first Mila, an Australian cattle dog, played with Bones, a like-sized pit bull Weimaraner mix, and a smaller schnauzer in the small-dog area. A versatile middleweight weighing about 35 pounds, Mila then played in the large-dog area with Luca Brasi, a golden Labrador, aka yellow lab.

Not having cattle or sheep to herd, sometimes Mila likes to herd other dogs. Watching the 14-month-old try this with the 80-pound Luca Brasi was comical.

Jackie Williams, a retired special education teacher, adopted seven-year-old schnauzer Bowie, across the street from the park at the Suncoast Humane Society. A resident of Port Charlotte, she brings Bowie here every day.

“The people are really nice,” Williams said. “The grass is kept ‘cut’ lately and most people clean up after their dogs.”

Bowie succeeded Bobby, Williams’ Jack Russell terrier who died last year at age 14. She says the transition was easy because Bowie “is such a good dog. He cuddles. He listens to me. He was well-trained by his previous owner, apparently, and he’s a funny dog.”

From the last comment, I knew Mila would have a good time. She also enjoyed playing with Bones, owned by John Caputo, 16, of Englewood, a junior at Lemon Bay High School. John and his father Marty were bringing the 6-month-old to Dever Park for the first time.

“It took him a minute to open up,” John said. “But … I’m seeing how he interacts with the other dogs; if he gets aggressive, which he won’t.”

They found Bones and his sister on social media and adopted them from a litter that was headed “to the pound.” She was not at the park on this day. There are two other dogs at home as well.

Bones might have been at Dever Park sooner but they had to wait until he had received all of the required shots, John said. Rules are important at dog parks.

After Williams and the Caputos left, I took Mila to the large-dog area to play with Luca Brasi. named after a fictional character in Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather. This dog was accompanied by owner Buddy Damato and friend Paul Scanlan, a resident of Boston who was on vacation.

Back home, Scanlan has a cat named Gus, but no dog.

“The first day, we found this,” Scanlan said. “This is a nice park. Look at how big it is.”

It was their second trip of the day to Dever Park. “This morning we came down; the place was jammed,” he said.

“It’s a fantastic resource,” Damato, a recently retired contractor who moved to Englewood from Massachusetts, said of the park. “We have nothing like this up in Boston. I’ll probably be here two or three times a day” with the 20-month-old Luca Brasi. “Especially with the red tide. I don’t want to take her to the beach.”

As Damato spoke, Mila tried to lick his face, making visits to Dever Park with his dog “an offer he can’t refuse.”


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