A lot of my blogger friends are advocating for their various cities to win in the Go Pet Friendly contest for the dog friendliest city. Me? Not so much.
I’ve always been really confused by the dog culture here. Rates of dog ownership are high, and this is a big city. There’s a thriving local chain of top-notch pet food stores with what feels like dozens of locations. Every shopping center in our suburbs has a PetCo or PetSmart. You name a brand of dog product, and I can probably buy it locally. People here have dogs, and they spend money on them.
On the other hand, you see surprisingly few dogs out in public, aside from their regular walks around the neighborhood. Last time I took Silas to PetSmart in the evening, we saw one dog. I might see five or six on a Saturday. Every now and then I’ll run into a dog at the local pet stores, but it’s rare. I take Silas to two fairly busy parks, and we almost never see dogs in either. (In their defense, one of these parks has an area that is quite popular with dogs. Silas is afraid of that side.) There are a few really nice dog parks in town, but no off-leash natural areas.
Partly I think the problem is the weather, as I mentioned to Jen at Back Alley Soapbox a few days ago. For over half the year, it’s too hot to leave your dog in the car for even a few minutes. If I need to pick up dog food and grab two things from the grocery store, Silas has to stay home.
There are also very strict health codes here about dogs and food. Dogs aren’t allowed at my farmer’s market, for instance, because a few vendors sell food to be eaten on-site. Dogs are allowed on restaurant patios, but most restaurants don’t have direct access to the patio without going inside. (I assume this is related to liquor licensing. Most coffee places have open patios.) So, no dogs.
Mostly, though, I feel like the great humanization of dogs just hasn’t happened here on a broad scale. People have dogs. People love their dogs. But, they’re “just dogs.”
I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining–just stating the facts. In reality, I am A-OK with this. We encounter a good level of dogs for Silas, and I get to eat in restaurants without having to share my dinner with him. Because taking your dog isn’t the default behavior, I’m spared seeing all those dogs who are more afraid to be out in public than their owners understand. Also, in my somewhat limited experience, “dog-friendly” often means “Everyone loves dogs! Who cares if they behave or follow the rules!” If I see an off-leash dog on my side of town outside of a dog park, chances are very high that it’s perfectly well-behaved. (Most recently, a labrador who sat and gazed adoringly at his owner while I rode by on my bicycle. It was like the Twilight Zone.)
Is your town dog-friendly? Do you like it that way?