WICHITA — The four-legged guests of honor at a ribbon-cutting Friday tried to contain themselves before the gates opened at the new dog park at the Murfin Animal Care Campus.
Most of them sat patiently, wagging their tails, through the official speeches.
But a few barked, catching the attention of Wichita City Council member Lavonta Williams.
"They're saying they're ready to play," Williams interpreted.
The dog park, near K-96 and Hillside, is the final touch at the Kansas Humane Society's 2-year-old digs. It features three fenced-in play areas for pooches two for large dogs and one for small dogs. The small-dog area will always be open. The two large-dog areas will rotate to give the grass a chance to recover.
Dogs packed the park on its first day. Dalmatians, Chihuahuas, goldendoodles and Labrador retrievers sniffed each other, chased each other and slobbered on each other.
Tammy Allen, chairwoman of the society's board of directors, kicked off the opening of the park by thanking supporters for their contributions to the campus, which combines the society's shelter and Wichita Animal Control.
Barry Schwan, who co-chaired the fundraising campaign for the campus, said the new center last year prevented 100,000 unwanted puppies and kittens through spaying and neutering, saved the lives of 9,056 homeless pets that were adopted by families or rescue groups, and reunited 1,700 pets with their families.
"We're helping more animals than ever before," Schwan said, adding that the society is moving closer to its goal of ending the euthanasia of adoptable animals by 2014.
To do so, Schwan said, the shelter must reduce the number of animals coming in and increase the number of animals being adopted out.
Sue Kleinheksel, a volunteer for the society, was one of the first visitors to the park. She brought her mixed spaniel dog, Bridget, who had been adopted through a companion animal program. When Bridget's companion died, Kleinheksel adopted her.
Bridget goes everywhere with her, she said.
"How many dogs have gone to lunch at the Wichita Country Club or to dinner at Ya Ya's?" she asked. "She's been to a military funeral and puts on fashion shows."
Bridget's collar was blinged out with Halloween decorations.
J.C. Combs and his wife, Karen, brought Chuck, their goldendoodle a cross between a golden retriever and a poodle.
The visit was Chuck's first trip to a dog park in Wichita. The city has another dog park at Chapin Park near MacArthur and Hydraulic.
"This will be a great place to run off energy," J.C. Combs said.
Williams said the dog park will give owners an excuse to exercise, too.
Dog parks, she said, help dogs keep in shape and also help them socialize with other animals.
"A tired dog is a happy dog," Williams said.
The park will be open every day from dawn until dusk. Dogs must be at least 5 months old and current on all vaccinations, including rabies.