Blog Break

  
After the French Fridays wrap up, I decided to take a little blog break.

Starting July 28th, I’m back with my usual Tuesday fare. And I’ve revamped Fridays into “Catch Up Fridays” so that I can bring you some of the French Fridays with DorieCottage Cooking Club, and Tuesdays with Dorie selections I missed along the way, or some of the events I’ve been meaning to tell you about.

Hope your summer has been going as well as Roxy’s!

Be A Better Dog Steward

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Today Roxy went for her annual vet visit – a wellness exam, according to the bill. And she is indeed well, even earning ‘dog of the day’ status for not freaking out during the exam or booster shot. We left with precautionary dewormer and preventative flea treatment (it’s going to be another hot summer). It got me thinking about how the concept of a good dog owner has changed over the years.

It seems more complicated than it did when I was a kid. Our vet wasn’t too concerned with shots, beyond the puppy years. Kids and dogs wandered all around the neighbourhood and if someone had said dogs didn’t belong in the playground, even adults would have laughed. We fed the dogs whatever dog food was sold at the grocery store, gave them scraps from the table, and tastes of whatever we happened to be eating. They got flea baths or flea collars every summer, but they didn’t go to a groomer unless they were show dogs. All the dogs in our neighbourhood seemed none the worse for wear.

These days, you have to be more careful – choosing food that you can be sure was made with safe ingredients, visiting the groomer at least a few times during the year, keeping them on leash and out of playgrounds, and scheduling check ups, tooth cleaning, and booster shots with the vet.

I’m not particularly nostalgic for the old days, but I do think there should be places for dogs to run off leash and times (realistically, short times) when they can shed the perfectly-groomed-city-dog look and get as muddy and messy and smelly as they please.

And there are also ways we could be doing even better:

We’ve stopped sending biodegradable food scraps to the landfill, so it’s probably time to stop dumping biodegradable dog waste there, too. The most environmentally friendly options are pick up by dog composting companies or simply flushing it down the toilet. (But don’t send your cat’s waste down the toilet – even after treatment, it’s still toxic to ocean life.) The biodegradable bags, unfortunately, have to go to the dump, where they probably won’t break down very quickly. There are plenty of other ways you can be an eco-friendly pet owner, too.

Keep your dog, and everyone else’s pets, protected by keeping their vaccinations up to date and using preventative flea and tick treatments. Ticks are on the rise worldwide and some vets are now recommending year-round protection against them.

It’s important to have your dog tattooed or chipped, sure, but you should also get them licensed. It doesn’t just mean avoiding a fine if they get picked up by animal control, it also means getting a more accurate census of the number of dogs in the city, which can translate to more city resources being allocated to amenities for dogs and their owners.

Don’t support puppy mills – get a dog from a well-respected breeder, or better yet, adopt one from a shelter. Then, make sure they are spayed or neutered when the time comes.

If you live in a potential disaster zone, as overdue-for-an-earthquake Vancouverites do, make sure you have a disaster kit for your dog, alongside the ones I know you are not procrastinating about making for the human members of your family.

And don’t forget to support the folks in your community doing good work on behalf of the canines in our community. Donate, volunteer, recommend – those shelters and rehabilitation centres, along with dog advocacy groups, could use your support.

Room to Run

Muddy dog

This is one of my favourite photos of my dog, Roxy. Not because it’s a good photograph, not because she looks her best (obviously not), but because it’s at the end of a good play session at one of her favourite parks. She’s tired out and ready to go home, no mean feat for a feisty terrier cross.

Trout Lake, or John Hendry Park as it’s officially known, has been an east side institution for dog owners for many years now. Though most of the park requires dogs to be on leash and there are sections where dogs are not allowed at all, there is also a big off leash area that includes access to the lake, a large green space, and shady treed areas. There is plenty of room for dogs to run and play there. There’s also enough room that small dogs like mine can run in areas away from the rougher play of larger dogs. People bring their dogs to Trout Lake from all over East Vancouver, as there’s a dearth of off leash areas on the east side and across the city, really.

Unfortunately, this resource is under threat from the Vancouver Park Board. The proposal before the Board aims to reduce the off leash area by 80%. Though it’s being touted as being the size of a football field, the layout would amount to a narrow strip that includes boggy terrain, a steep slope, and deep water. An 80% reduction would also lead to crowded conditions, which would prevent many of us from allowing our dogs to play there. Though dog owners use the park 365 days a year, rain or shine, the Park Board seems to be privileging those who use the park lightly and only in good weather, those who also have most of the park in which to picnic, play, and swim dog-free.

The Park Board’s lack of support for off leash areas seems counter-intuitive, as regular users of parks, like dog owners, should be natural allies for the Park Board’s goal of increasing green space for residents. It’s also strange, given the City of Vancouver’s commitment to building a Healthy City. The off leash area of Trout Lake has become a community hub, for dog owners and lovers alike, which is in line with the City’s goal of cultivating connections in a place that’s famously alienating. Another of the Healthy City strategy’s pillars is to promote active living and getting outside – Trout Lake provides regular exercise for dog owners alongside their pets.

The Park Board’s stance on off leash areas is being implemented across the city, with reductions and restrictions being proposed for many of the most popular destinations for dog owners. There are plenty of overdeveloped, groomed park spaces in Vancouver – surely there’s room for natural spaces and room to run for the dogs that improve the quality of life for many urban dwellers?

If you’d like to take a stand against these proposed changes, Dog Lovers of Trout Lake is a good place to start. You can also let the Park Board, City Council, and the Project Manager know how you feel at the following addresses:

debra.barnes@vancouver.ca
mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca
pbcommissioners@vancouver.ca

Dog Social

.Roxy, content after meeting and playing with many dogs.

Having a dog in the city is an inherently social act. You don’t realize that until you suddenly start having conversations with folks around the neighbourhood that you’d never spoken to before, just because they like your dog. Going to the dog park leads to an acquaintance pool full of people you only know by their dog’s name. It’s something that helps me feel even more rooted in my neighbourhood.

Dog Social in Pandora Park

Vancouver East Village and the neighbourhood business association there capitalized on this by hosting a pet social for neighbourhood folks and neighbourhood dog-related businesses. Full disclosure: I live on the edge of the next neighbourhood over, but I dropped by anyway. I’m glad I did, too, since I won the draw for a bag full of doggie goodies from Dog Country. I’m looking forward to picking it up later today.

Greetings galore

I think events like this are smart. Neighbours get to connect with each other and local businesses, while dogs get to do what they love best – meet, greet, and play. (Best not to mention the rolling around on dubious patches of grass.)

A veiw over the fence at Pandora Park's community gardens.

While we were there, we also got to enjoy the beauty of Pandora Park’s community gardens. I’m lucky enough to have a back yard big and bright enough for vegetable beds, but a lot of urbanites don’t have that luxury and sign up for community garden patches, instead. They’re spreading across the city and it’s a wonderful way to enjoy gardening and grow your own food. I bet there’s as many connections being made in community gardens as there are in dog parks, too.

Lushness in Pandora Park's community gardens.