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Brainerd's park system going to the dogs

Few political decisions are more perilous than naming a building, a bridge or some other civic amenity after someone. No matter how widely respected the honoree is, someone will be offended.

So when the Brainerd City Council named its new dog park Buster Park Monday night, one could almost hear the howls of protest.

Literature and the entertainment world have given us Clifford, the big red dog of children’s books, Rin Tin Tin and Lassie.

Nothing against Buster, but has he ever rescued a young boy who was trapped in a well? Does he have a crime-fighting record that compares with that of McGruff? I think not.

Did the council fully investigate this dog’s background? Who were his parents? Is he a drooler? What skeletons might be buried in his backyard?

How could we ignore the famous dogs of history? Surely Fala, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Scottish terrier, deserved consideration for his White House service during World War II. What about Liberty or Bo, who were the loyal companions of President Gerald Ford and President Barack Obama?

Brainerd’s Gregory Park was named after J. Gregory Smith, a president of the Northern Pacific Railroad. No one’s claiming that Buster is a titan of industry in the tradition of Mr. Smith.

Dispatch reporters have already documented Buster’s link to his owner, the very generous Bob Rudsenske, who donated $15,000 to build the city’s first dog park. What sort of influence did Buster use to receive this honor?

No, it’s clear the council acted rashly in its decision. Too much talk of sidewalks and federal elections and not enough consideration to whose dog should be honored.

I’m currently living in a dogless home but would have been happy to have provided references for Lightning, Tag or Simon, all loyal canine companions who would have loved to have had a city park named after them. Oh well, every dog may have his day, but only Buster gets his own park.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860