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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Socializing with the dogs

Trying to enjoy a meal out while dogs jump on tables to snag a fry may be a stretch for most diners, and dogs, for that matter. But Bark Social, a human and dog social club in Manayunk, puts such interactions to the test.

Located at 3720 Main St. in the Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia, Bark Social combines elements of a dog park, including a large turf field, free water and open dog baths for dogs to run in and out of, with a restaurant and bar. The chain has four other locations in Baltimore, Bethesda and Columbia, Maryland, and in Los Angeles.

For as long as I can remember, I have always had a dog sitting by my side. Over the course of my 21 years of life, my family has had seven dogs. At St. Joe’s, I have a job walking two small doodles Mondays through Fridays. Combining my love for dogs with my love for a good barbecue pulled pork sandwich and drink sounded ideal.

Paige Bircwell, who has been a yearly member with her shih tzu, Marble, since Bark Social opened its Manayunk location in April, liked that combination, too: a safe place for Marble to run around and for Marble’s humans to grab food and drink.

While dogless patrons can enter Bark Social without charge, for those who want to enjoy a meal or drink with their furry friend, yearly membership prices start at $364.99, or a monthly rate of $39.99.

Bircwell, who said the neighborhoods of Roxborough and Manayunk lack good dog parks, enjoys how well-kept Bark Social is in comparison. Plus, Bark Social requires all dogs to be up-to-date on their shots.

“The dog park that’s in Manayunk, it’s all dirt, and there’s rocks coming out, so it’s unsafe,” Bircwell said. “Here, [the dogs] have their shots, and I like how it’s really well maintained. So it’s a no-brainer.”

With welcoming vibrant blue, pink, yellow and green colors lining nearly every square inch of the space, picnic tables around the outer edge of the dog field and high bar stools under a large tent, the bright scenery is out of a child’s picture book. The interior keeps the same color scheme but also offers a large variety of craft beers along the front wall as well as “wet slurps” and “bark bites” menus.

As soon as my two roommates, Ashley Radell ’24, Sarah Halupa ’24 and I sat down to dig into our food, we felt a looming presence at the bottom of our feet. In between bites, we were greeted by big puppy dog eyes begging for a treat.

The other dogs, who were not enticed by the scent of our pulled pork sandwiches, tussled and ran freely on the large turf field placed in the middle of the outdoor space.

Sarah King, the check-in and retail associate for Bark Social’s Manayunk location, said Bark Social is where friendships are made. Canine friendships, that is.

“Dogs become best friends here, and it’s really cute. You’ll hear people say, ‘oh, your friends are here,’” King said. “That’s the running joke that nobody knows each other’s names, just the dogs’ names.”

One moment there were two dogs on our table top begging for a fry, and the next, a large lab had a quarter of its mouth wrapped around a 10-pound terrier.

Having two dogs of my own, I expected horse playing and wrestling, but sometimes it can be hard to differentiate the playful from the intentional. When a dog acted up, staff members were ready with leashes to put the dogs who misbehaved into “time out” for a moment.

Scott P. McRobert, Ph.D., professor of biology, who specializes in animal behavior, said it is up to the dog owner to determine whether or not Bark Social is the place for their furry friend.

“Many dogs have a personality where a dog park will work just fine,” McRobert said. “But you would have to hope that owners of their dogs would understand that if they had a dog that had a difficulty with these settings that they would stay away. It’s a strange environment with a lot of new animals that could definitely cause stress. You just have to hope that the owners are careful.”

I’m not sure if I would bring my dogs, Ignatius and Deacon, to Bark Social. Ignatius, who is getting to the ripe old age of sleeping the day away, could care less about chaotic pups running around. Deacon, who I am convinced is part kangaroo, would be overstimulated. Despite being on polar opposite ends of the spectrum, neither would fit this dog social club status.

But, like McRobert said, knowing your dog’s personality is the key. While this may not be the setting for my boys, it very well could be a great doggie paradise for others.

For now, it’s a paradise for people like me who are separated from their dogs by college. My friends and I are already planning our next trip back to Bark Social to see our furry friends and indulge in Wednesday night trivia.

Ashley Radell ’24 with Hazel, a pup trying to snag a french fry.
PHOTO: HANNAH MADEYA ’24/THE HAWK
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Hannah Madeya
Hannah Madeya, Features Editor
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