I love taking my dogs places. I love it so much, I’ve even changed what I do with my free time.
In college, I was a serious film buff. I’d sneak into my (now) husband’s film theory class at 8:00 a.m. to see Eisentstein’s Battleship Potemkin and watched many of the art films showing in town. But you can’t take a dog to the movies so I’ve only seen one this year.
And art museums? I used to spend hours in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But now, most of the art I see is the graffiti appearing on the back of a building flanking my favorite dog walking trail by the creek.
Much of my recreational time is spent doing dog-friendly activities: hiking, boating, visiting outdoor markets (although I hate recreational shopping), slogging through the snow. So with warm weather coming, I’m once again considering when Honey should go with me and when Honey should stay home. Here’s what I ask myself:
Is it safe?
We have a wonderful, and very popular farmer’s market a short walk from my house. And I shudder when I see people bringing small dogs to it. Besides prominent signs stating that dogs aren’t allowed in the farmer’s market building (see question #3), it is so unsafe. I can’t enjoy the market without thinking of some distracted shopper crushing and seriously injuring that small dog.
Will my dog enjoy it?
Both Agatha and Shadow found being around strange dogs very stressful. I would never have taken them to a dog show or agility competition like I have for Honey.
Of course, I might have hovered on the outskirts with a clicker and treats to improve their tolerance but that’s not quite recreation, is it?
Is it legal?
Yes, I get irritated when I’m not allowed to bring my dog somewhere that makes no sense. Our city park right on the lake is a perfect example.
But sometimes banning dogs from places makes a lot of sense. Some of our favorite beaches in Cape May, New Jersey no longer allow dogs. We were very disappointed until we found out it was because people were not preventing their dogs from harassing the nesting birds. Cape May is a major flyway for birds who stop there to feast on horseshoe crabs and hatch their young. And finding a new beach to play on is a small price for protecting so many other species.
Of course, I’m not always a strict legalist. I try to interpret the intent of a rule. So when we hiked out to the lake one snowy day, I noted two things: First, the dog profile in the sign with the line through it was obviously a German Shepherd. Since Honey’s a Golden Retriever, they obviously didn’t mean to keep us out. Second, the trail ran along a public golf course and marina. Since no one was using those facilities in the dead of winter, I doubted it was a problem. And the smile and wave from the park ranger who passed us indicated I probably guessed right.
Can we bring our dog without upsetting people who are afraid of, allergic to, or just hate dogs?
A few years back we asked a boat captain if we could bring Agatha on his bird watching boat trip through the salt flats of Cape May. He said it was fine with him as long as none of the other passengers minded.
We showed up early to talk to the other customers and with a plan that Agatha and I would go home if anyone raised any objections. She was quiet and calm and no one had any problems with her being on the boat so we got to stay. If you can’t accept that other people may not want to share space with your dog, you’re probably better off going to more conventional, dog-friendly places like parks and campsites.
Some of my favorite places to take a dog:
Parades, outdoor festivals, picnics, outdoor concerts, parks, beaches, flea markets, hiking trails, boats, marinas (just to sit and watch the boats), excursion trains, agility competitions, dog shows, outdoor films, car rides, ice cream stands, chariot races, baseball games, dragon boat races, restaurants with outside seating, Porchfest, the lake….
What have I missed? And what else do you ask yourself when you’re thinking of taking your dog somewhere?
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