UPPER WEST SIDE — Marilyn Williams was thrilled when she took home a new puppy, Chloe, last fall.
Her joy quickly turned to dismay when she took the perky black and white Havanese to her neighborhood dog run at 105th Street in Riverside Park.
The facility had deteriorated significantly since Williams last visited with her former dog several years ago. The water fountain flooded frequently, leaving stagnant puddles tempting pets to wallow — a potentially dangerous practice because dogs can contract giardia from standing water.
There was no separate entrance for the small dog area, so petite pups like Chloe had to walk past big dogs who would sometimes jump at her. The ground surface was worn away, exposing sharp rocks that could cut tender paws.
Exasperated and worried for Chloe's health, Williams took action and contacted Riverside Park officials for help.
Around that same time, real estate broker Michelle Jason, 45, who owns a 125-pound bull mastiff named Ricky, found herself wondering why no one fixed the deep holes at the dog run.
"I kept thinking, Ricky is going to fall into one of those holes and break a leg," Jason said. "I kept thinking, why doesn't someone fix those holes?"
Then it hit her that she was that someone, Jason said.
"I'm not in the habit of doing stuff like this, but somehow I got really motivated," said Williams, a psychologist who's lived at West 101st Street and Riverside Drive for more than 40 years.
"We just jumped in without knowing what to do or how to do it."
They discovered that the dog run had been built about 13 years ago, but had fallen into disrepair because, unlike Riverside Park's dog runs at West 72nd Street and West 87th Street, there was no organized group responsible for maintaining it.
Now Williams and Jason are leading an effort to spruce up the long neglected run. They've formed a board and launched a Facebook page and new website, and met with architects and volunteer coordinators from Riverside Park.
They're kicking off their campaign with a volunteer day on Sat. May 19 where they'll rake leaves, repair the fence and fill holes that dogs have dug.
Williams said she was pleasantly surprised when she started asking fellow dog owners about whether they'd be willing to help out. She quickly collected the names of 30 people, many of which had suggestions for how to improve the run.
Aside from elbow grease, the group needs money to succeed. The repairs they'd like to make at the dog run will cost $50,000, Williams said.
The group wants to resurface the entire run, change the location of the water fountain to prevent flooding, install a separate entrance gate for the small-dog enclosure and repair lighting.
In addition to the physical improvements, Williams said she's hoping to build a lasting commitment from dog owners to keep the 105th Street dog run well-maintained.
She noted that it plays an important role in both human and canine social life. She still goes to dinner with friends she met years ago at the dog run.
"I'd like to change the culture so people feel it's theirs and they want to protect it," Williams said.
"But they'll have to invest some money first to do any of these things. That will make them feel more part of it."
Jason said her main motivation is to make the dog run safer for Ricky, who cut a paw on a rock at the dog run last winter.
"I love that dog and he likes coming here," Jason said. "He loves running around with the other dogs, and I want him to be safe while he's doing it because he's my puppy."