5 Ways Dogs Save the World–From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

Three of my favorite places in town are not dog-friendly.

The Ithaca Commons is our local pedestrian mall—open-air, no cars, unique shops. What’s not to love? No dogs allowed, that’s what.

Ithaca Hemp Company Store on the Ithaca Commons

Yes, you can buy bongs at 4 different stores on the Commons. But no dogs allowed.

Stewart Park is a lovely place to picnic on the edge of Cayuga Lake. It’s a short walk from my house. The weeping willows frame  gorgeous views up the lake. But I rarely go there. They don’t allow dogs.

Stewart Park on Flickr.com

Looks like a perfect place to walk a dog, doesn't it? Sorry. No dogs allowed.

The Ithaca Farmer’s Market is the place to go on summer weekends to get your macrobiotic corn fritters, mizuna, and locally made hard cider. During the height of the season, the traffic leads you to expect the Giants and the Eagles on a gridiron, not a gathering of farmers and crafts people.

So I get it. I would never bring my dog into the crush of people at the market where she could get hurt.

But the Farmer’s Market is only crazy busy during the summer. And the “No Dogs Allowed” sign is up all year around.

Selling His Wares at the Ithaca Farmer's Market by Jenn Vargas on Flickr

The sights, the sounds, the atmosphere--all it's missing is a few dogs.

Why don’t people understand that allowing polite dogs and their people access will save the world?

Dogs Save the World.

Here’s my brief and woefully incomplete list of how dogs and their people save the world.

1.  Eyes on the Street.

If you walk some suburban neighborhoods at night, the only sights you’ll see are the ominous glow of a blue television screen through the window and an occasional dog walker. Yep, dogs and their people are the only creatures protecting your stuff when you go on vacation. 

2. Lower Gas Prices.

If it weren’t for dog walkers, we’d pay more for gas.

Here’s how I figure it. Seventy percent of American’s car trips are less than two miles long according to the oft-cited but never attributed statistic. Two miles or less is a reasonable walk for a large dog. So when a family runs out of milk, needs to mail a package, or has late DVDs to drop off, why take the car? We’ll just walk the dog and get two chores done at once.

That decision by millions of dog walkers all over the world decreases the demand for fossil fuels. And lower demand keeps prices down.

Ok, I’m no economist. But it’s my blog and I’m sticking with it.

3. Protection from E. coli and Salmonella.

Have you ever hung out where Canada geese have set up headquarters? It’s disgusting.

Goose poop is commonly mistaken for dog poop because of its mass. It’s loaded with disease-causing organisms. And geese don’t have conscientious people (or poop fairies) picking up after them.

Bend, Oregon had such trouble with geese in their parks they  began killing them.

But now, human and canine volunteers patrol the parks in the evening to keep the geese from becoming too comfortable.

4. Keep Health Care Costs Down.

WebMD created a slide show of 27 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health. Benefits of having an animal companion include lowered blood pressure, greater bone density from walking, and lower rates of depression.

And if people can improve their health with diet, exercise, and an animal friend, that will lower health care costs that we all share through insurance or national health services.

I say fewer drugs and more dogs!

5. Benefit Nesting Birds.

Birds are an integral part of our ecosystem. They aid in pollination, keep insect and rodent populations under control, and provide food for larger predators.

Thank goodness we have dogs to benefit our backyard nesting birds.

When I groom Honey, her stray fur ends up in the compost pile. During nesting season, that hair will be gone within the hour. I like the notion that Honey’s fur is nurturing young nestlings. And I love that it’s not sticking to my clothing, furniture, and my lips.

Golden Retriever rolling in the grass

How am I saving the world this time? Killing invasive weeds?

The World Without Dogs

Without dogs, the world would be a pretty dreary place. A world without dogs would also be more expensive, less healthy, and suffering from a lack of biodiversity.

So give your pooch a smooch. And thank her for protecting us from a postapocalyptic hell the likes of which have never been seen on earth.

Something Wagging Train Your Dog Month Challenge 

Something Wagging Train Your Dog ChallengeIt’s not too late to celebrate Train Your Dog month with us. Because the goal isn’t to meet some really tough challenge but just to enjoy learning something new with your dog.

And if that’s not cool enough, you might be chosen at random to get a $50 donation to your favorite animal welfare cause.

Here’s how you can join the fun:

  • Grab the badge in the sidebar to let us know you’re in.
  • Stop by Something Wagging anytime between January 31 and February 7 to share your blog post about your training challenge with your dog (or bird or cat or rat or whomever) via a linky list.
  • Don’t have a blog? No problem. You still have 3 ways to enter:

I hope lots of people will join us. Whether you’re teaching your dog to load the dishwasher or just working on having him accept the nail trimmers without panic, the time you spend will strengthen your bond. And maybe, just maybe, save the world.

[Photos: Ithaca Commons, Stewart Park, and Farmer’s Market on Flickr.]

Hop on…

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  1. Of course the line I most remember from this post is that I can buy bongs in your town. Woohoo! What a great place you live in [even if they’re misguided about where dogs should and should not be allowed]. We have the same problems here :(

    • That’s the joy of living in a college town. Kinda makes you wonder why all those Cornell parents are bothering to pay $41,000 a year in tuition, though. You can get high in your mom’s basement. :)

  2. Bongs? Holy cow! I think I’ll get high off of hanging out with my dogs thanks! :)

    Hear! Hear! for the dogs!

  3. All sounds legitimate to me! Good argument for why dogs should be allowed every where!

  4. No dogs at Farmers Market set me off. Our FM is held downtown on public streets and the lady in charge decided that dogs were not allowed. Now normally I am not an activist, but this was just too much for me to handle. It’s very spread out so there are not throngs of people at any spot and it didn’t seem to me that one person could ban us from public streets.
    So we talked with her and then had to go over her head to the board of directors. We won. I may try this activism stuff again sometime though i respect private property rights. We did prove that dogs (and humans) can be good citizens since none of the dog walkers left a mess.

    • Glad to hear that you stood up for reason and won. It seems amazing that anyone would have the temerity to try to regular behavior on public streets.

      Even better is the fact that the dogs and their people were good ambassadors. That’s the most important part when you stick your neck out to actually cause change.

  5. Very good points! I honestly wonder why dogs aren’t allowed almost everywhere! Maybe we could just keep them out of intensive care units and cynophobia support group meetings…Even there I could see where dogs could be helpful!

    • I’m not pushing for dogs to be allowed everywhere. My mom is afraid of dogs and has been startled to find a German Shepherd in her local hardware store (albeit a very quiet and well-behaved one; phobias aren’t rational).

      But I can’t see why we can’t share public outdoor spaces. After all, if people can smoke outdoors… :)

  6. The places that don’t allow dogs are missing out! I love the picture of Honey killing weeds 😉 She’s such a good little helper!

    • I also think people and their dogs are missing out. I suspect dogs would be better behaved over all if people could take them more places. It would certainly teach the importance of working with your dog.

  7. Great points! Jen had to take her work car in for some repairs not so long ago and the place she had to take it was within walking distance of our home. So instead of getting someone to go with her to drop off or pick up the car, DeDe went with her. One way was a walk, one way was a ride. Now DeDe wasn’t supposed to be in the work vehicle, but the way we see it, it saved her work money, a co-worker’s time and the environment. Jen would not feel safe walking in that area alone but was just fine with DeDe.

    • Jen said the area around the repair shop was a bit too busy for a rambunctious fella like me *sigh*

      • My point exactly, RumpyDog! Thanks for sharing. Although I’m sorry you couldn’t join the fun walk.

        Cheer up. Maybe Jen’s work car will break down again (cross your paws) and she’ll let you go with her. :)

  8. Only four places to buy a bong? Living in progressive Vancouver must have skewed my brain. Here, you can find beautiful hand blown glass bong in places as silly as the corner store! I am so lucky to live in an area where my dogs are welcome most places that I am, I can’t imagine not being able to run a few errands while I walk the dogs. it would be awful. We at Kol’s Notes are in full support of your Dog-Friendly Vision.

    • You can in Halifax too. With four university campuses in one city, and a laid-back Maritimer attitude… Bongs are available in almost every gift shop downtown. I just wish this city was half as dog-friendly as it is pot-friendly!

    • The Commons are only two blocks long. So we have four glass shops in two blocks.

      But Ithaca is a tiny place. We only have 28,000 people when the students go home for the summer. I think Vancouver is what Ithaca wants to be when it grows up. :)

      As for Halifax, Kristine, do you think they’d be more friendly to pot smoking dogs?

  9. Our farmer’s markets are all indoors, so they don’t allow dogs either. Anything outdoors, however, is pretty much dog friendly. I really can’t understand a park with no dogs allowed. The only public space with that rule in Halifax is the Public Gardens. But they don’t even let people walk on the grass there. I once got yelled at for sitting on the grass under a tree while reading a book. Dang Garden Nazis.

    My wish is for there to be more dog-friendly patios. In the summer I’d love to be able to sit on the harbourfront with my dog. Most restaurants won’t even entertain the idea. I also wish our local gas station would allow me to take Shiva in to get that jug of milk you mentioned. Unfortunately, they expect me to tie her up outside. Therefore, we usually end up driving those two miles anyway.

    Very cool info about Bend, Oregan. That is such a terrific idea!

    • We have so much goose poop at Stewart Park it’s hard to walk there. About once a year, some ignorant soul writes an editorial letter complaining about all the dog poop.

      Ironic. If they allowed dogs, we’d have far less poop. Even if the occasional person forgot to scoop.

      I hope you can find some dog-friendly restaurants. There’s gotta be better options than eating in the car after going through the Tim Horton’s drive through.

  10. Don’t even get me started with the Goose Poop! Well, okay, get me started 😀
    Where I live, In Brampton, we have HUGE problems with Geese. Right across the street from my house there is a massive water run-off pond that the Geese love to hang out in, and it’s not a few Geese, it’s a few hundred Geese. As a result, the surrounding park and sports fields are flithy, especially in the Spring. It’s gotten so bad that I actually avoid one of the parks during certain times of the year. I wish that Brampton would install a Goose chasing program….

    • I can feel your pain. I used to run barefoot in Stewart Park but the poop dodging was terrible.

      Ever think of volunteering Jersey to chase geese? Or would she just try to befriend them?

  11. Wonderful post. You have my vote. I don’t understand forbidding dogs from most venues – Europe does fine with them invited into restaurants even! Like the idea of doing errands and walking the dog at the same time – helps me with my Dog Training Challenge of walking a dog a day!

    • I have a strong suspicion that dogs would behave much better if they could accompany their people more places. It’s called socialization. :)

  12. There are two farmer’s markets near us, one that allows dogs and one that does not. Even on days when it’s too hot to take the dogs, I go to the dog friendly one to support it. I wish we had more places that were dog friendly here, because I’d support them to the hilt!

    Another way I’ve seen dogs benefit people is through out nursing home visits. Sometimes our dogs are the only visitors some of those people have all month. But I’ve learned from them how to be kinder and gentler with people, even when I’m not holding the other end of a leash. They always have time for people, and I’ve learned that I should be more that way, too. And you know, I thought of the Puppiness Project when I wrote today’s post, too! 😉

  13. A wonderful post and an inspiration for my dog blog. Speaking of farm markets, I took our assistance pup in training to our local market for a socialization experience. Dropped a link to your blog to give you credit for giving me the spark of inspiration.


  14. Great post… such good points, yet I laughed through the whole thing. (In fact, I lost it on the last part: “So give your pooch a smooch. And thank her for protecting us from a postapocalyptic hell the likes of which have never been seen on earth.”) I really do think many of those no dog policies are misguided, so I heartily agree.

    (Also, I can’t stop singing the “No Dogs Allowed” song from Snoopy Come Home after reading this post… I think I have a problem.)

  15. I completely agree with you! It seems in some places the knee-jerk assessment is that it’s better not to allow dogs. Then you travel to places like Bend or Austin where the general rule is that pets are welcome in most places. I wish that the people making the “no dogs” rules could see how wonderfully dogs and people can co-exist. It’s a frustration that I live with constantly.

  16. we had a program like that for the geese at the golf course in my neighborhood! we kept joking that we should volunteer with desmond, but we never actually got around to it. hopefully they will run it again this summer.