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Tag: dog parks

L.A. flaw: Where’s a downtown dog to pee?

downtownlapee

Downtown Los Angeles is enjoying a spurt in growth, and with that has come a growth in spurts.

But just where in that concrete Shangri-La-La is a dog supposed to pee?

With the revitalization of downtown, and a campaign to attract upwardly mobile types (and their dogs), more of both are relocating to the area — only to find that convenient places for dogs to urinate weren’t part of the makeover, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The latest attempt to address the problem has been to locate small — and we do mean small — patches of artificial turf in areas designated (by humans) for canine toileting needs. As you can see above, it’s hardly a dog park.

Blair Besten, executive director of the Historic Downtown Business Improvement District, said patches began being installed in August as part of a trial run. Three tree wells that no longer contained trees, in spaces away from restaurants and heavy pedestrian traffic, were used to install 4-by-4-foot patches of artificial grass.

If they’re popular and hold up to regular use, the program may be expanded, Besten told the newspaper.

By redirecting dogs to the patches, she said, the city can cut down on odors, peed-upon buildings, sidewalks and trash cans, and the residue that is tracked into offices and apartments. The patches are located at Spring and 7th, near the corner of 7th and Main, and on 6th just after Main. 

“They should have put them in a long time ago,” said downtown resident Helena Gaeta, who has trained her dachshund-Chihuahua mix to go in tree wells.  While downtown advertising campaigns targeted dog owners, she noted, there isn’t much greenspace available to dogs.

A survey by the Downtown Center Business Improvement District this year showed one of every three residents of the area owns a dog.

“Dogs have been the greatest thing for the downtown L.A. renaissance,” said Hal Bastian, executive vice president of the district. ”It creates a community because more people are on the streets. It’s a better environment.”

But even with dog owners scooping up poop — and, of course, not all do — pee remains a problem.

Not all dogs find the patches pee-worthy. Josh Jacobson, who recently moved from downtown Long Beach, said his two Chihuahuas avoid the turf patches, possibly because they hold too many scents.

“The dogs are still trying to figure it out,” he said.

(Photo: One of the patches of artificial turf installed in downtown L.A.; by Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times )

Getting to (sniff, sniff) know you


Humans need a play stance.

I came to this conclusion yesterday — adding yet another item to the list of things dogs do better than us – as Ace and I arrived for the first time at the only dog park in Winston-Salem proper (and Winston-Salem is pretty proper).

Being new and mostly friendless in the town in which we’ve decided to temporarily base ourselves, we left our quarters in the basement of a mansion and, for a little socialization, headed a couple miles down the road to Washington Park, where dogs can run and play in a fenced-in area.

Of course, Ace hardly romped at all. It being a new scene for him, his first priority was to give all things a good sniffing  – other dogs included. But, on this day, he was more the sniffee than the sniffer.

The second I closed the gate behind us, five other dogs — realizing there was a new face — bounded over for a whiff, following so close behind his rear end that, when he stopped abruptly … well you know the rest.

Butts aside, it’s an intriguing thing to watch, this seeming welcome, and one I noticed often back at Ace’s old park in Baltimore. When a first-timer arrives, all the other dogs come over to give the new guy a sniff. To view that as an act of kindness is, of course, anthropomorphic. But still it’s kind of sweet.

This weekend, Ace — though he was used to being the dean of his old park — was the new kid on the block.

He courteously sniffed those who sniffed him, but was more interested in checking out the space, the water bowl and the humans than in playing with the other dogs. We’d been there a full hour before he even chased another dog — all of whom were playing energetically with each other.

Dee Dee, a beagle, and Bailey, a whippet mix, (both pictured atop this post) had great play stances and used them often: Butts pointed skyward, front legs stretched all the way out, heads lowered. It, in the canine world, is a universal signal, a way of saying “You don’t need to be afraid of me, this is all in good fun, it’s playtime, let’s go.”

I can think of no counterpart when it comes to human body language — no gesture or stance we have that is as easily noticeable and understood. The handshake? No, that’s just standard procedure, basic manners. Perhaps the one that came closest was the peace sign.

Rather than having a universal play stance, we resort to words, which often only make things more confusing. We try to make sense of subtle body language and interpret what we think are queues, neither of which we’re that good at, either.

All that could be resolved if we only had a human play stance — a position we could place our bodies in that signifies we’re open to getting to know a fellow human.

We’ve got the war stance down. We all know the fighting stance, or at least enough to put our dukes up. But there’s no simple gesture or motion we humans can make — at least not without possibility of criminal charges or restraining orders – that sends a signal that peace, harmony and fun are ahead.

We can’t, without repercussions, do the butt-sniffing thing. We can’t, of course, go around peeing on each other’s pee.

But why can’t we come up with a play stance — one that says I’m open to getting to know you better, and perhaps even frolicking a bit?

Because that would be too easy for a species as complex as ours? Too honest? Too direct?

It was easier when we were children. A simple ”Wanna play?” sufficed. Somehow, on the way to becoming adults, we started opting instead for far less direct, far stupider comments, like “Do you come here often?” and “What’s your sign?”

Adopting a play stance for the human race, at this point – with all that we have evolved, with how sophisticated and suspicious and manipulative we as a society have become — would be difficult. It might be too late.

Two thumbs up and a grin? Standing with arms outstretched, knees bent, while waving people toward you? Most anything I can come up to signal you are accepting new people into your life would have the exact opposite effect, and send them running.

In the final analysis, being human, maybe we’re stuck with words, and small talk, and being less straightforward, sincere and, quite likely, pure of heart and motive than dogs.

Ace will make friends his way, and I will make friends mine (which is most often with his help). But between him and my conversational skills, I’ll be fine. And by the way, do you come here often?

(Story and photos by John Woestendiek)

Seattle: Where dogs are king

To my list of top five dog parks in America — which for all I know may number 16 by now — I must add one more: Marymoor Park in King County, Washington.

This is what a dog park should be — not some over-landscaped half acre, not fake hills covered with fake grass, not a field of gravel or a stretch of pavement.

Marymoor’s dog park is about as organic as dog parks get — this is Seattle after all — with the only obvious addition to its 40 acres of nature being the tons of mulch on the trails to keep things from getting too soggy.

“Doggy Disneyland,” as some call it, is huge — and hugely popular. When Ace and I visited this week, we saw two jam-packed parking lots, and well over 100 dogs romping about, some in the river, some in the open fields.

Located on what used to be a farm, the dog park features several hundred feet of river access and numerous walking paths. It’s less than two miles from the main Microsoft campus, which is something to behold as well.

The Seattle area, just as it draws high tech companies, seems to attract dog lovers — either that or it sprouts them from its well-watered soil. The abundance of dogs,  the esteem in which they are held, and lots of hard work have combined to make it a good place to be a dog.

Seattle and its surrounding area started opening dog parks before a lot of cities even started thinking about them.

The Save Our Dog Area committee of Marymoor Park formed in 1987 when citizens learned the King County Parks Division planned to close the off-leash area.

It managed to convince the county that dogs and their owners were as deserving of some recreational space as soccer-playing kids, kite-flyers and picnickers.

In 1995, the King County Council voted to adopt the new Marymoor Master Plan which called for keeping the dog area open and operating. After that SODA, which initially stood for “Save Our Dog Areas,” became “Serve Our Dog Areas,” working to maintain the acreage devoted to dogs.

Within the city of Seattle, another group, COLA (Citizens for Off-Leash Areas) was formed in 1995, seeking permanent off-leash recreational access in some of Seattle’s nearly 400 parks.

After opening seven dog parks on a trial basis, the Seattle City Council in 1997 voted 9-0 to establish permanent off-leash dog areas, giving COLA the responsibility of stewarding the sites for the Department of Parks and Recreation. There are now 11 of them.

In our 17,000 miles of traveling so far we’ve seen a lot of dog-friendly towns, including the dog-friendliest, but the Seattle area, in our book, has got to be one of the dog friendliest big cities in the country … Rain or shine.

Now THAT’S a dog park

Those who loyally follow my travels with Ace know that we feel a far stronger connection to the poor than the rich, and that our compassion for the former stems largely from our envy of the latter, along with our liberal bias, and the fact that we are, for now, living a few steps under the poverty line.

From time to time, we come close to bashing the wealthy — mostly for good reason, sometimes for no reason at all.

In our travels so far, we’ve noticed that some of the nicest parts of this country — be they desert, mountains or  oceanfront — have, in effect, become playgrounds for the rich, sometimes to the extent that the not so rich are nudged, pushed or priced out.

From Santa Fe to Cape Cod, we’ve seen communities that were established and long occupied by the working class – miners and fishermen and the like — that have refocused on tourism and are appealing to an upscale demographic, turning them into places everybody wants to come, but not everybody can afford.

So it was a bit to my surprise, and ran counter to my thinking — namely, that rich people achieve that state through selfishness — when I learned that the postcard-pretty, wonderfully open, unfenced and totally free dog park Ace and I were walking through in Bar Harbor, Maine, was a gift from a rich man’s family.

The philanthropy of John D. Rockefeller Jr. and family — donors of much of the land that would become  Acadia National Park — included ensuring that there would also be a place on the island where dogs can run free. And you don’t have to be a Rockefeller to go there.

Dogs on leashes are permited in Acadia National Park, but if you ever head up that way with your dog — and by all means you should — you need to know about the trail around Little Long Pond. I don’t have a problem with National Parks enforcing leash laws, but it always strikes me as incongruous that when walking through our country’s most free and open lands we must rein in our dogs’ spiritedness by means of a rope.

At Little Long Pond, dogs can romp through woods and grasslands, run on the deck of the boathouse, leap into the pond and sniff nature to their heart’s content.

Ace and I worked in two visits while on Mount Desert Island, and while he seemed to thoroughly enjoy peering over rocky cliffs to the ocean below, being the first dog in America to see Sunday’s sunrise, and spending time at the home we were staying at, with two cats and two horses, Little Long Pond seemed his favorite place.

Unlike Sag Harbor, the now upscale, former working class fishing town in Long Island where we started this leg our journey, retracing the route of John Steinbeck, Bar Harbor was pretty much upscale from the get go. Mount Desert Island  was settled by the rich and for years was their mostly private vacation spot.

When it opened up to the public, it did so carefully, and under the guidance of the wealthy families who came here first. That’s why, in Acadia National Park, you can still ride in a horse drawn carriage, along paths designed by Rockefeller, to get tea and popovers. That’s why the roads for cars are designed not in a way that get’s you where you going most quickly, but in a way that affords the best view.

Yes, the island is still pricey — that’s in its heritage — but there are lots of affordable options, and even some freebies, like the dog park, which adjoins the park service lands and is still owned and maintained by the family.

Acadia National Park is well worth the price of admission, and well worth spending more than the two days I scheduled.

Steinbeck didn’t include Bar Harbor on his route; instead, he visited Deer Isle, located on the next peninsula south, where he stayed at the home of a friend with an unfriendly cat. Rereading that part of the book, it doesn’t sound like either he or Charley had a real good time there.

In that way, given our days on Mount Desert Island,we’ve already got them beat.

The dog-friendliest town in America

Once again, we’ve stumbled upon a little piece of paradise.

Between its natural beauty, its abundance of dogs, and the respect townsfolk seem to have for both, Provincetown is the sort of place you don’t want to leave, but can’t afford to stay.

For example, dogs are allowed on all the town’s beaches — all the time. And between 6 and 9 a.m., they don’t even have to be on leashes.

Just about every restaurant with outdoor seating welcomes dogs, and most kick in some treats and bowls of water as well.

Its dog park, Pilgrim Bark Park, is spacious, tidy, free and open to everyone, and it’s generally rated among the top five in the nation. There are gobs of businesses devoted to dog — from groomers, to vets to doggy boutiques.

Another big factor in P’town’s dog-friendliness is the Carrie A. Seamen Animal Shelter (CASAS), which put together this past weekend’s schedule of doggie events. Seamen was a Boston lawyer for 20 years who settled in Provincetown and in 1971 helped to found the Provincetown Animal Shelter. Upon her death, she bequeathed money to establish a new, no-kill animal shelter.

All of that, and more, have earned Provincetown the title of America’s “dog-friendliest city,” an honor bestowed by Dog Fancy magazine last week, which, by the way, was Dog Appreciation Week in Provincetown.

The weekend’s activities included the official presentation of the honor, the dedication of a dog statue at the town hall, dogs shows, dog blessings, a doggie parade and more.

I pulled into Provincetown knowing nothing about it – other than that it was northernmost tip of Cape Cod, loved dogs and was likely to be expensive.

(Which is why we ended up camping out — more on that and Provincetown tomorrow).

Driving up Cape Cod, where I’ve only been once before – for a quick newspaper story – I quickly became enamored. With each passing town, found myself saying to myself, “I could live here … I could live here.”

Hitting Provincetown, and its artsy, restaurant-laden, cedar shake rusticness and near overwhelming quaintness, I said it again, but — after a $17.50 parking space — added, “if I was rich.”

It doesn’t take long for anyone to see that it’s also very gay friendly town — both when it comes to tourists and those who call it home. Hanging around in town, dog and people watching, I noticed that pretty close to the majority of couples walking down the street — and the majority of those holding hands — were of the same gender.

It struck me — part of my travels being devoted to recording how the country has changed since John Steinbeck and his dog crossed it 50 years ago — that this was probably one of the biggest ones of all.

Attitudes toward gays — though in a lot of places they still have a long way to go — have changed a lot over the past five decades.

In Steinbeck’s day, a same sex couple walking hand in hand down the street would likely be subject to name calling or worse. Today, in Provincetown and a lot of other places, it doesn’t merit a second look.

As the bright and warm morning turned into a gray and chilly afternoon, I sat on a bench and wondered if there’s a connection between the two — a place’s level of dog-friendliness and its level of gay-friendliness. What, other than tolerance, is the common denominator, if there is one?

Part of it, likely, is a function of capitalism. Appealing to the gay crowd, like appealing to the dog crowd, can bring in customers. Part of it is probably sheer numbers. Maybe places with a lot of dogs are more likely to become dog friendly, and places with a lot of gays likely to become gay friendly.

Does the influx result from the friendliness, or does the friendliness result from the influx?

These are the things I pondered as I sat on a bench, and the skies grew grayer, and the people and dogs kept passing by.

Florida dog fatally shocked by lake

A walk in a park turned fatal for a Florida man’s dog, which was apparently electrocuted last week when he jumped in a lake while playing fetch.

Victor Garcia was walking with his 6-month old Labrador retriever, Ruger, Wednesday afternoon at the Perrine Wayside Dog Park in south Miami-Dade when he threw an object into the park’s man-made lake for the dog to fetch,  CBS4 reported

After the dog jumped in, Garcia said, he began acting strangely.

“All of a sudden, as he got closer to the center of the fountain, he started screaming, yelping, bloody murder,” said Garcia.

Garcia said when he ran into the lake to rescue he too was zapped by what felt like electric shocks.

“I just couldn’t pass this wall of electricity and I had to watch my best friend drown right in front of my face, essentially, I mean that dog is my whole entire world to me, he’s the reason I wake up in the morning.”

Garcia didn’t require hospitalization, but his dog was killed.

Park officials say the fountain in the center of the lake was turned off, but apparently it was still sending an electric current into the water. Electricians have removed the fountain to inspect it.

Dog-friendly? That’s the Point

Revisiting my old south Baltimore haunts while I’m briefly back in Baltimore, I made a point to stop by Miguel’s Cocina y Cantina – partly because it’s on my shortlist of dog-friendly local eateries, but mainly for the guacamole.

Between their ever-so-fresh guacamole, cold Mexican beers, dog-friendliness (in the outside dining area) and its proximity to Locust Point Dog Park, Miguel’s is hard to pass up, though difficult to find.

Miguel’s is located on the ground floor of Silo Point, a high-rise condominium in Locust Point. It has a fair harbor view, especially if you like big gray government vessels, and a spacious outdoor seating area.

Earlier this week, after a play date at the dog park — on a day too hot to play much — Ace and his friend Bimini (who you may remember from our pin-up photo session last year) — went on over to Miguel’s, where, being nearer the water, the breeze blows cooler.

We’d issue a cautionary note about feeding your dog guacamole — avocados aren’t good for them — but it’s probably unnecessary. You’ll want to keep it all for yourself.

(“Dog’s Country” is the continuing account of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America.)

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