WEST VILLAGES — One of the pillars of our community is wellness. As developers, we’re committed to creating a community where residents are inspired to stay healthy in mind, body and spirit.

Parks are ideal places to walk, enjoy nature and connect with friends.

Blue Heron Park, about a half-mile south of West Villages Parkway on River Road, is open daily from dawn until dusk. There are about two miles of walking trails and places to sit and relax while enjoying old Florida. We included several sustainable features including solar lights and a solar powered aerator in one of the ponds.

We are pleased so many people have visited Blue Heron Park and brought their dogs to Central Bark. There are two separate dog areas—one for large (greater than 30 pounds) and one for small (30 pounds and less).

Here are guidelines for maximizing the experience for everyone:

• Make sure your dog knows you’re the boss! Take charge and teach your pal to come when called. Special training treats are a good reward for encouraging this behavior.

• If your pet is showing signs of illness or disease, forego the park entirely until they are healthy.

• Don’t bring a puppy less than 4-6 months old. Puppies need exercise, but they also need several months to acclimate to their surrounds and socialize appropriately.

• Similarly, don’t bring a female dog in heat. For obvious reasons, this is just asking for trouble!

• This one should go without saying: Keep an eye on your dog! Don’t allow your pet out of your sight or to become aggressive with another dog.

• Obviously, you must always pick up your dog’s waste. Luckily, there are multiple pet waste receptacles stationed around the park that also include disposable bags, in the event you forget yours.

• Leave the food, both for yourself and your dog, at home.

• Although there are several doggie drinking fountains, consider bringing a portable water bowl for your pet. Some dogs are anxious drinking out of community fountains and prefer the comfort of a familiar dish.

• Always keep small dogs in the designated small-dog section of the park. Your pet may enjoy or have previous experience socializing with big dogs, but the segregated areas are there to ensure safety for all attendees.

• Bring a ball, Frisbee, stick or other toy, but also be prepared to lose it.

• Never allow your dog to run in a pack. Intervene if your pet seems anxious or if play begins to get too rough.

To celebrate the opening of Central Bark, we’re now holding an online contest until January 31, 2019. Bring your camera or phone so you can take some photos and/or video of Fido or Fluffy in Central Bark and upload them on our blog to enter the contest. Rues and the entry form are on our website at www.MyWestVillages.com/blog or visit our Facebook page. You could win a $25 gift card to Pet Supermarket.

We encourage you to visit soon and enjoy your time with your human or canine friends.

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