TA Park Immortalizes Canine Friends With Concrete Paw Prints

Not yet 7 years old, Freddy was immortalized for Tel Aviv's centenary celebration - along with Franco, Assia, Noga, Daniel, Nana, Lucky, Sexy and other dogs that accompanied their owners to the newly renovated dog zone in central Tel Aviv's Meir Park on Thursday.

There, their front and back paws were imprinted in concrete, as if they were Hollywood stars.

The concrete paw prints were part of the dog park's general overhaul last week, designed to increase dog owners' feelings of belonging, so that they take better care of the site.

"I wanted to create a sense of pride in place," says Dr. Ariel Sela, a local veterinarian who came up with the idea.

"There are 40 dog parks in Tel Aviv," says Sela. "They are good for the dogs, but less so for their owners. The changes I initiated will help them feel more comfortable there."

Sela says he was inspired partly by dog parks he saw in New York. One idea being implemented includes a sign shaped like a dog bearing the names of pets that have died.

On Thursday, the park was full of dogs of all sizes, ages and breeds. It seemed that the owners were the ones most excited by the ceremony, however, since some of the canines appeared not to enjoy having their feet dipped in wet concrete.

"She is leaving her mark on the world. Isn't that what everyone would like to do?" said Yair Ganni, the owner of 9-year-old Assia, a giant Great Dane.

"It's great. It's for me, not for the dogs," added Moran Luxembourg, the owner of two mongrels, Freddy and Franco.

"Some of the dogs are not very keen on the idea," admitted Sela. "But it's for a good cause - a dog owner whose pet's paws are imprinted in the park will feel as if it belongs to him or her."

He added, "Some guys come here regularly, 24 hours a day. The groups change - some come in the mornings, others in the afternoon, and some in the evening. The average Tel Avivian takes a long stroll once a day."

Orit, the owner of Daniel, a small 12-year-old mongrel, said the park was cliquey, and that she no longer frequents it for that reason - even though Daniel used to come every day, even before when there was a special dog section.

Daniel is also too old to enjoy the park now, she adds. Nevertheless, his paw print will remain there for generations to come.