Kyle Jensen / The Record — Murray, a 7-year-old border collie and Australian shepherd mix, returns his ball to owner Lynn Kiernan.

Freeland man rents out property as private pup park

Not all dogs are suited to the puppy party that is a dog park, Freeland resident Ron Michelsen says.

Some just need their own reserved space to play, run around and let off some steam. That’s where Michelsen, president of off-leash dog park volunteer organization FETCH!, comes in.

“There are a lot of dogs who don’t get along so well with others, so they don’t go to off-leash parks since their owners aren’t sure about their temperament,” Michelsen said. “I realized there wasn’t a space where owners could reserve space for their dogs to play. I started thinking as an alternative, my property could be a safe place for those owners to bring their dogs to.”

After chatting with dog owners who’ve previously had issues with their canines at dog parks, Michelsen realized South Whidbey needed a place where dogs could run wild — solo. Michelsen had done work on his property about 15 years ago to accommodate numerous dogs for a daycare, which he operated from 2004 to 2008, so making the switch to a private pup park was easy.

Thus, Lucky Dogs Farm was born.

Michelsen started renting out two fenced-in grassy fields on his property in early March. The plots of land measure 1 acre and about .7 acres. The larger field is more open and square-shaped, while the smaller field has a more long and narrow configuration, better suited to dogs that like to play catch. He charges $5 an hour for a single dog, and $7 an hour if an owner wants to bring two pups to play. That’s the maximum amount of dogs allowed during one drop-in session, although groups can be arranged ahead of time. The fields have water, doggie bags and trash can on site. More information can be found at

For Coupeville resident Sue Hamilton, the private space has made a real impact on her 8-year-old rescue mix, Dylan.

“Dylan wasn’t able to exercise for about a year before Ron started renting out his space,” Hamilton said. “The first time we came here, I threw a toy and he grabbed it and ran the full length of the field. I’ve never seen him run like that, but he looked so happy to be able to run around.”

Hamilton and Dylan weren’t able to go to other off-leash parks due to Dylan’s temperament. He’s aggressive toward smaller dogs and is uneasy around men, which Hamilton says must be indicative of early abuse prior to being rescued. Whenever he can run at Lucky Dogs Farm, Hamilton says it mellows him out and improves his behavior.

It’s a similar situation for Freeland resident Lynn Kiernan, owner of 7-year-old pit bull and lab mix, Walter. Walter is shy around other people to the point where Kiernan has struggled to train him at off-leash parks, but she says Lucky Dogs Farm better enables her to train him.

“This environment is great because I don’t have to worry about other people or dogs making Walter uneasy and out-of-control,” Kiernan said. “He’s able to exercise and train here, which is great for me at home. As the old saying goes, ‘A tired dog is a good dog.’”

Contributed photo — Buster, a mastiff who is “not the most social dog,” enjoys his first time at the park by rolling around in the grass.

Kyle Jensen / The Record — Kiernan holds treats for Murray and Walter, a 7-year-old pit bull and lab mix.

Kyle Jensen / The Record — Murray retrieves his ball.