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TC Jester Park: Houston’s Bag of Chex Mix

On Valentine’s Day, my four-legged loves and I headed to TC Jester Park. We had a good time, but that isn’t always the case. This has to be the most unpredictable park in Houston. It’s our bag of Chex Mix.

I love Cheddar Chex Mix. It’s my favorite road trip food, and my old VW Beetle had cheesy fingerprints on the steering wheel by the time my Virginia to Texas trips were over. The problem with Chex Mix, however, is that some of that processed cheese goodness is incredible, and sometimes you pull out some dull tasting cracker. You never know what’s going to happen when you put your hand in that bag, and TC Jester Park is equally unpredictable.

The girls can't wait to get the walk started.

Cheddar Chex Mix has triangle-shaped cheese crackers and Chex Mix cereal covered in powdered cheese. These two pieces are the most coveted pieces in the mix. Rejoice if you find one in your hand. At TC Jester Park, the well-groomed paths, mostly kind people, Texas wildflowers along the bayou, and the many different activities you, your family, and your dogs can enjoy are the cheese crackers and cheese covered cereal of the park. There are two full Frolf (frisbee golf) courses, a public pool, playground, exercise station, baseball field, picnic tables, and dog park.

My dogs always enjoy doing a full lap on both of the paths, often switching from the paved to the dirt path and taking time to roll in the grass. There are always plenty of dog owners out for a run, walk, or headed to the dog park. I have noticed lots of the dog owners here are more in tune with their dogs and dog behavior than in other parks, which I appreciate. You see a lot of hardcore dog owners at TC Jester.

The boys checking out some dogs in the distance.

There is a dry piece of Chex Mix cereal in the Cheddar Chex Mix bag, and I can only imagine that it’s there as a palate cleanser. It is pretty tasteless alone, but if you grab it with the cheddar pieces it compliments them. There are parts of TC Jester park that are just as mediocre, at least for the dog owner.

The dog park portion of the park opened in late spring 2011, and both the large and small dog sections were originally covered in mulch. After some complaints about the pain that could cause puppy paws, the mulch is much more sparse now. After even a light rain, the park is pure mud. Depending on the dog, that can be good or bad. Or maybe that depends on how much you worry about your car’s interior. The dog owners here are much more involved ¬†than at other parks. You rarely see people lounging and talking. They do talk to each other, but friendships are built while throwing tennis balls for the dogs and sharing dog training tips. This is definitely a park where lots of caring pet parents bring their pups.

The path leading towards the dog park

There are other downsides to the park, aside from the dwindling mulch and mud. We once had a problem with a man sitting outside the park and throwing his half-eaten fried chicken, bone included, into the park. He didn’t like my requests to stop, despite my explanation of the dangers for the dogs. There is also trash left frequently, the trash can is outside of the park (requiring you to leave your dog when you throw away his poop), and the gates to each side of the park have been damaged or completely off their hinges more than once.

Oliver hunting a squirrel in the small dog park

The remaining two pieces in the Cheddar Chex Mix have no place in that bag. Why are they there? One of them is about an inch long, white, and a cross between a cracker and a pretzel. The other is the worst tasting pretzel…ever. And I love pretzels. So what can we do without at TC Jester Park? My top two are bikers and trash.

Mondays are the worst day to visit this park because of the giant crowds that flock here over the weekend. There are picnics, parties, and baseball games. On Monday, the trash cans are overflowing, confetti is stuck in the grass, and I am constantly trying to keep my dogs from picking up leftover food. It’s really great that Houston families are spending time outdoors together, but the park is absolutely trashed.

The other nuisance is bikers. White Oak Bayou runs along the park, and there is a bike trail (the paved trail) that begins at 11th St. and TC Jester and ends near 43rd St. Sometimes you’ll meet a family or a couple who are on a bike ride on a sunny day. These bikers are not the problem. The hardcore cyclists are, and they do not care about signs instructing them to yield to pedestrians. Two of my dogs are terrified of bikes, and being run off the path by rude and speeding cyclists has only escalated their fear. I think the bikers should be allowed to ride as fast as they please on all of the White Oak Bayou Trail except the small portion that runs through the park. There are often toddlers, dogs, and families on the path, and the bikers can be dangerous.

Practicing for the Tour de France

When you put the gross pretzel and cracker, the dry cereal, and the pieces covered in cheese together, you have a great snack. Sure, I almost always leave the pieces I don’t like at the bottom of the bag, but they are still a part of Cheddar Chex Mix. They’re the mix part. Whenever I’m loading my dogs in the car and deciding where to go, I always have mixed feelings about TC Jester. Am I going to get a clean, drama and cyclist free walk? Am I going to have to pull chewed chicken out of my dogs’ mouths? What will the walk hold? It’s a mixed bag.



Danny Jackson Dog Park (Westpark): Where the Pet PTA Meets

Dog parks are a blessing to the city dog, and Houston really puts pride in ours. For a long time, Oliver and I were regulars at Danny Jackson Dog Park on Westpark, near the intersection of 59 and 610.

Location of Danny Jackson Dog Park

In 2008, Oliver and I walked the Memorial Park loop, and then we headed to Westpark. We were regulars, but that particular day changed us. A beagle jumped in my lap while her sister and dad were nearby. Nearly four years later, those beagles are now my sweet little girls, and their dad is my boyfriend. We have great memories of the Westpark dog park because of that, but we do not enjoy going there anymore.

Many dog parents refer to this particular dog park as the one with a Pet PTA. A group arrives at nearly the same time, sets up chairs, and loudly chats and laughs while their dogs cause all sorts of trouble. We’re all glad they’re having a great time together, but the cost is their dogs’, and our dogs’, safety. This group is rarely involved in what their dogs are doing, and the PTA’s presence changes the dynamic of the small dog section.

The large dog section, however, is full of life and dogs flying into the water after tennis balls. If you have an athletic pup and don’t mind getting muddy, the large dog section is worth a visit. Grab your rain boots, a Chuck It!, and head over to Westpark!

Fun in the large dog section

The small dog section leads me to the importance of being a good pet parent at the dog park. When you take your two-legged kids to the playground, you watch everything they do, who they talk to, and play with them. Why not do the same with your four-legged kids?

Good dog park behavior is an article itself, but here is a list of ways to be a responsible pet parent while your pup is interacting with others:

1. Exercise your dog before  arriving. This allows him to be less energetic, aggressive, and nervous. He will have plenty of play energy left, but it will allow him to be a good buddy for others.

2. Stay within 20 feet of your dog. If a fight starts, you are not too far away to get your dog’s attention.

3. Toss the ball with your dog and his new friends.

4. Pick up your dog’s poop!

5. Every so often, call your dog so he knows you are still present and paying attention. It will help his energy level and training, too.

Please feel free to share any experiences at either the large or small sections at Danny Jackson Dog Park, and watch for reviews of all of Houston’s dog parks.

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