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Tag: urban

How to keep dogs out of tree wells — NOT!

treesidewalk

Here’s a handy tip to keep dogs from doing their business in those sidewalk tree wells — one that works better than bricks, better than fences, and is all but guaranteed to keep those disease-carrying beasts from tainting our otherwise pristine urban tree life:

Take cuttings from thorny plants, like rose bushes, and spread them around the tree.

It may sound like a tip from Satan’s Helpful Household Hints (not a real book, to our knowledge). But it’s actually the advice offered by a Baltimore neighborhood association bedeviled by dog poop that’s not getting picked up.

The advice came in the January newsletter of the Fells Prospect Community Association.

“… You can make it clear that you don’t want pets approaching by planting thorny plants (roses, bayberry), or covering your tree pit with pine cones or cuttings from thorny plants that are uncomfortable for dogs to walk on. A sign will also encourage some people to move their dog to the next house.”

Of course moving on to the next house isn’t really the answer — is it? — unless dog and walker keep doing so until they are outside the boundaries of Fells Prospect, a neighborhood near Fells Point and Butcher Hill. Even then, the problem isn’t over. It has just moved somewhere else.

Even if every single resident of Fells Prospect adopted a tree well, nurturing it and the tree it contained (be it a live one or a dead one),  even if they filled said well with thorns, lead paint chips, discarded hypodermic needles and perhaps a few strands of barbed wire, that’s all — other than some canine and human casualties — that would be achieved.

This is a hardly a new issue. In big and densely packed cities, there are few options when it comes to dogs relieving themselves. Everything is so paved over that a tiny patch of turf or dirt surrounding a tree is the only place for dogs to go. So dogs go there. Responsible dog owners, at least, pick it up. But some dog owners, like some community association officials, are thoughtless and uncaring.

So the tired old battle wages on — escalating to levels that could involve bloodshed — when, if everyone would just pick up their dog’s feces, it could finally shut the whiners up, or at least most of them.

Setting booby traps that puncture and maim is not the answer.

It’s generally accepted that the best route is education, perhaps along with some enforcement of the law that threatens $1,000 fines for unscooped poop.

It’s generally true that a tree well that is well-maintained, with a healthy tree, and some flowers around it, will be avoided, if not by the dog, at least by their walker. Ace and I always tried to steer around those when we lived in Baltimore.  Sure, we’d come across dog poop on the sidewalk from time to time — just as we’d come across rats, both dead and alive, dirty needles and used condoms, and once in my backyard, a buried handgun.

cutthecrapBaltimore has bigger problems than dog poop. That’s not to say unscooped dog poop shouldn’t be addressed, only that it makes sense to do so with some perspective, in a reasonable matter that doesn’t involve installing weapons of mass destruction.

Alisa Peters, owner of You Silly Dog, was one of those that expressed concern about the community association’s advice: “It’s going to be uncomfortable and/or painful for the dog,”  she told the Baltimore Sun. “Why are we punishing the dog? It’s not the dog’s fault.”

Veterinarian Gregory Burbelo, owner of the Boston Street Animal Hospital, which advertises in the newsletter, told The Sun he plans to ask the association to retract its comments.

“It’s sort of trickery,” he said. “It hurts the dog but doesn’t serve as a warning to the owner to keep the dog out.” While a dog may have a fair chance avoiding a thorny bush planted in a tree well, sharp clippings spread across the ground could go unseen and lead to injuries.

Officials of the Fells Prospect Community Association declined to comment to The Sun, including Phyllis Fung, who co-founded Cut the Crap Baltimore last year to combat dog waste in the neighborhood. She’s the association’s secretary.

Making the issue even more thorny is the fact that residents don’t own the sidewalks, or the tree wells within those sidewalks, so they lack the right to install booby traps in the first place.

Worse yet, any such traps could injure not just dogs whose owners are scofflaws, but those belonging to law-abiding, poop-scooping owners as well.

“We’re ignoring the fact that we’re attempting to punish 100 percent of the animals for the issues of 10 percent of owners who are irresponsible,” dog owner and neighborhood resident John Lam told the newspaper.

“I’m hoping people will ignore [the suggestions]. There are are a lot of homeowners who think they own their tree pits and don’t realize they’re in the public right-of-way. I have a big concern that people will start putting stuff in the tree pits to hurt dogs.”

(Top photo by Gail Langellotto; graphic from Cut the Crap Baltimore)

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 )

Built like a brick shithouse

I have heard the term “brick shithouse,” but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one — until Saturday, when I encountered something close: a toilet made of brick in a restroom made of cinderblock at a park well outside Harrisburg.

It — the term — is, at least when I’ve heard it, generally used to describe someone of sturdy frame, as in: “He (she) is built like a brick shithouse.”

Urban Dictionary offers these definitions: “…very muscled and tough; impervious, unassailable …  a stand alone toilet, constructed from brick.” (Is there a rural dictionary? There should be.)

I’m not sure of the phrase’s origin, but I’d guess, when outhouses were common, most were made of flimsy wood — until someone constructed a brick one, and word spread about how sturdy it was. I’m guessing people flocked to see it, making comments like, “Now, that’s a shithouse.” Somehow, from that point, the phrase began being used to describe large and sturdy people.

Ace and I were on our way to visit some puppies for sale by an Amish breeder (story to come) when we stopped at a municipal park to stretch our legs (to use a more polite euphemism). I stepped into the bathroom to see a toilet seat perched atop what appeared to be a chimney.

I’d imagine sitting on it — a purpose I did not require — would make one feel a little like Santa Claus.

Anyway, having seen a brick shithouse, or at least something close to it, we can cross it off our list and continue our travels, staying on the lookout for hell in a handbasket, a two-dollar whore, raining cats and dogs, and lipstick on a pig.

Moscow’s strays: A study in reverse evolution

On the streets of Moscow, the evolution of dog is playing out in reverse.

So contends Andrei Poyarkov, a biologist and wolf specialist who has dedicated himself to studying the city’s vast population of strays — the 30,000-plus dogs that, while learning such new urban skills as using the subways, are in reality moving back to something closer to a wolf-like state.

His efforts were recounted in an enlightening piece in yesterdays Financial Times.

Poyarkov began studying the strays in 1979, starting with those living near his apartment and the ones he encountered on his way to work. He made recordings of the sounds that the strays made, and began to study their social organization. He photographed them and mapped where each dog lived.

Poyarkov, who works at the A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, says Moscow’s strays are somewhere between house pets and wolves, in the early stages of the shift from the domesticated back towards the wild. It’s a process that he believes can’t be reversed, at least not in individual dogs. The strays are resistant to domestication, and many can’t stand being confined indoors.

Most of Moscow’s strays rarely wag their tails, are wary of humans and show no signs of ­affection towards them. A few remain comfortable with people, but more have moved on to a second stage, where they will approach people only to get food.

A third group interact mainly with other strays and get their food from garbage bins.

The last of Poyarkov’s groups are the wild dogs. “There are dogs living in the city that are not socialized to people. They know people, but view them as dangerous. Their range is extremely broad, and they are ­predators. They catch mice, rats and the occasional cat. They live in the city, but as a rule near industrial complexes, or in wooded parks. They are nocturnal and walk about when there are fewer people on the streets.”

Walks With Dogs: 50 routes in New York City

New York dog writer Nadia Zonis recently appeared on New York’s WNYC to tout the newest in a series of guides for walking your dog in the city.

Zonis, the New York editor for Urbanhound.com, is the author of “City Walks With Dogs, New York,” which includes 50 flash cards, each depicting a different route, and the pet-friendly attractions you’ll encounter along the way.

Some of the walks included are SoHo and the West Village, Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Roosevelt Island and Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue. You can order it from Amazon here.

Vick makes first anti-dogfighting appearance

Michael Vick, in the first of what he hopes will be dozens of appearances around the country to urge low-income youths to avoid dogfighting, spoke to a small gathering  in Atlanta yesterday — but most press was banned from the event.

Vick’s visit to a suburban Atlanta community center was largely off limits — both to the news media and most members of the neighborhood it was supposed to be helping. Only 55 people and a crew from “60 Minutes” were allowed to attend, the Associated Press reported.

An Associated Press reporter, videographer and photographer were among the media banished from the property by police. Most people who live in the largely black neighborhood southeast of Atlanta were unaware of Vick’s appearance.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said the group wants to be open and reach as many people as possible with its anti-dogfighting message, but Vick’s handlers insisted on tight controls on the meeting.

“We don’t want this to be a flash in the pan,” Pacelle said. “We are committed to transparency over the long run and having Michael involved in many community-based events to speak about the issue. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but he wants the opportunity in a controlled setting to make his first statement on the issue. But I’m sure he’s going to be speaking out more based on what he had to say today.”

“We’re giving him an opportunity to plug into our community-based forums,” Pacelle said. “But he obviously has his own set of individuals who are working with him and want to present things in the way they want.”

Read more »

Texas-sized condo will cater to dogs

austonianThe Austonian, a luxury high rise condominium that will also be the tallest building in Austin once it’s completed in 2010, is taking aim at the doggie crowd.

The 56-story building will feature a 10th-floor pet park, a pet grooming area and a team of personal assistants available around the clock to better serve you and your pet’s needs.

“Knowing that leaving the building is not always the most convenient alternative, a dog park offers a secured outside area on the 10th floor of the building. The surface of the park includes a Synlawn synthetic grass surface with a sanitary drainage system,” a press release about the project says.

Next to that will be  a pet grooming area with a raised bathing area where owners can groom their own pets or avail themselves of the services of a  professional groomer

Residents will also have access to pet food delivery, personal shopping and pet sitting and taxi service to and from appointments outside the building — all provided by Lofty Dog, which is headquartered two blocks away.

A veterinarian, kennel and “bakery services” provided by Groovy Dog Bakery will also be at the beck and call of residents.

And if all that weren’t enough, the Hike and Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake, which includes places for dogs to swim and play leash-free, is just two blocks away.

All that for the low low price of …

Well, they don’t appear to be saying yet on the Austonian website, but I’m guessing it’s more than the average mutt can afford.

The Austonian is the second North American luxury real estate project by Grupo Villar Mir (GVM), creators of the Mayakoba golf, hotel and residential resort located on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Finding love at a street festival

I don’t know if it was love at first sniff, but the two dogs in this video clearly took a liking to each other outside Kildare’s Irish pub in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia.

The video was shot by Don Groff, a former colleague of mine from Philadelphia, during the Manayunk Arts Festival last weekend.

“I shot it Saturday … while seated at a sidewalk table,” Groff says. “It’s short on plot and dialogue … but viewers might grin over how two urban dogs can turn a patch of Main Street into a gleeful romping field.”

Don also does a blog, which you can find here.

Wearing your dog out — inside

Every dog owner knows that a tired dog is a good dog.

But between busy schedules, foul weather and the recent rise in leash law fears here in Baltimore, wearing your dog out with a good romp can be difficult.

My spring schedule involves farmers markets, trips to see family and friends, graduations, cook outs, baseball games, and weekend journeys – all of which starts to eat into my time to exercise my border collie.

It has been made much worse lately by the monsoon season we have been experiencing — great for the crops, terrible for dog owners.

The soon-to-be-corrected hike in leash law fines to $1,000 really cut into the number of people taking their dogs to Baltimore parks, too, with many who once let their dog play off leash, turning instead to settling for a quick on-leash walk.

It’s harder to raise a dog in the city, harder yet when the weather doesn’t cooperate. A dog owner in an urban area has no choice. Assuming you don’t have a pricey doggie treadmill, you, like the proverbial mailperson,  have no choice but to be out there – rain, sleet or snow. And even if you do have a yard, you still have to deal with snow covered fur, wet dog smells, and muddy paws. This April, soggy as it was, reminded me how important it is to have a variety of ways to exercise your dog in your own home.

So, I thought I would share a few:

1) Spend a couple minutes a day training your dog. If you have taken an obedience class or even watched Victoria Stilwell, you have some basic idea of how to teach sit. Running through a couple minutes a day with your dog on behaviors they already know, or things you want them to learn, will keep them out of trouble.

2) Play ball in the house. This is only an option if you aren’t an antique collector, and it won’t work for large dogs unless you live in a warehouse. But roll a ball across the room to your dog. Let him/her bring it back. Repeat. Keep repeating until one of you grows bored.

3) Present new or new-again toys. If your dog has toys that have fallen out of rotation, or that are no longer fun, take them away. Wash them, and hide them in a closet. When you have a rainy boring day, or a 10th rainy boring day, you might be surprised how excited your dog becomes for any kind of distraction. Other ways to make toys fun, even if they weren’t before, include burying the toys in kibble for a day to get it smelling like food, and inserting replacement squeakers because, as we all know, it’s all about the squeak.

4) Take a class. This is great in the dead of winter and in the sweltering days of summer. Sign up for an obedience class. The spaces are climate controlled and you will be amazed how tired your dog is after an hour of using their brain. It also helps you have options for training sessions in the house.

5) Mental Puzzles are another great option. You could buy a commercially available dog puzzle, such as the ones here. You could serve dinner in a food dispensing Kong. Even dumping kibble on the kitchen floor, putting it in a stuffed animal that has already been gutted, or turning dinner into a game of fetch will buy you some exercise credits.

6) Set up a play date. If you have friends with dogs that get along with your dog, set up a play date. Move the fragile stuff out of the room, and let them play. Better yet, find a friend with a garage and get a couple dogs together. Even an hour of romping and wrestling will wear your dog out. Some of the daycares and training spaces in Baltimore are available for rent in 15 minute increments during off times. We rent out our training space for play dates or practice sessions any day of the week.

The key to surviving rough weather with a pet that requires exercise is to find ways to entertain them. If none of the above seem to be enough, I can recommend a great place to buy rain boots.

Ahhh, spring: A day at the park

Days like yesterday (and let’s hope that kind of weather holds out for today’s March for the Animals) are meant to be enjoyed, so we got up early and headed to Baltimore’s Riverside Park with Ace and Eli (a visiting dog) to soak up some sun, take care of business, and pitch in with a park clean-up that was getting underway.

We filled a couple of trash bags with the shrapnel of urban life — discarded socks, potato chip wrappers, tiny zip lock drug baggies, condom wrappers, cigarette butts, beer cans, diapers and more.

Among the handfuls of debris I was picking up — some mysterious, some identifiable — was this, a fortune cookie fortune, which said:

How cool would it be, I thought to myself, to get two more dogs, and name them “Excitement” and “Intrigue?” Then they could follow me wherever I went. (I didn’t play the lucky numbers, but feel free to try them if you like.)

Returning to the task at hand — bending over, picking up, bagging — I noticed I was having a hard time keeping my pants up (a common ailment among men as they get older and fatter). So I took Ace’s leash, put it through my pants loops and used it for the belt I forgot to put on that morning (forgetting being another common ailment among old fat men). Cinching it tight, I continued with trash patrol.  

Our bags nearly full, we stopped and visited with the bench-painting detail, where Ace supervised as a fresh coat of park green was applied. 

After that, we made a loop around the park, stopping to talk to Athena, a mastiff friend. As we chatted, Ace, tired from all the work, decided to lay down. He was about ten inches from feet — and still unleashed — when what to my wondering eyes should appear but:

The officer rolled to a stop. “Better get that dog on a leash,” he said. “There’s a $1,000 fine.”

I immediately complied, figuring the penalty for losing my pants wouldn’t be nearly that much. And while I’m thankful for not getting a citation, I couldn’t help but wonder a bit about our city’s priorities. It’s not so much that I was fingered while exhibiting — like many other dog owners involved in the cleanup — some civic responsibility. It’s just that, based on what was in my bag, the park, like the city, has bigger problems than an unleashed dog laying 10 inches from his guardian’s feet.

In a park where drug dealers regularly conduct their business, and hookers turn tricks in the porta-pots, having police crack down on unleashed dogs seems almost comedic.

As we completed our loop around the park, I noticed the officer had made a loop as well, and — unless I was being paranoid — seemed to be keeping an eye on me.

I was being followed, alright. But it was by neither excitement nor intrigue. It was the Baltimore Police Department.