Jake is 12. His black-lab muzzle has gone grey, his limbs are a little stiff and his hearing isn't as sharp as in his canine prime. But his master, graphic designer Jamie Sinclair, still takes him regularly to the Halifax Common and Jake loves being out there, where he's been walked most of his life.
The Common doesn't have an official off-leash area. It is a friendly public space---in the summer used by people playing softball, soccer and cricket---but it seems that dogs, their owners and the rest of the non-dog-owning community manage to get along, whether the dogs are on a leash or not.
"If you're asking about conflicts, it can happen out there," says Sinclair, recalling a time when he was walking a friend's dog, it was off-leash and briefly disrupted a ball game. "I thought they were really self-righteous. I remember saying to this guy, we come out here twice a day, 365 days a year. So this is our park, and you're visiting two or three times a year to play baseball. But I'm not exaggerating when I say that at least 95 percent of dog owners are responsible out there."
And it's not an exaggeration to say that Halifax is a dog-friendly city. People are tolerant of our fuzzy friends. There are a number of off-leash parks where tails can wag free and unfettered, doggie daycares, groomers and more businesses are allowing people to bring their dogs in with them. That said, dog-friendly is a relative term.
"Compared to Europe, where dogs are allowed in restaurants, (and) pretty much anywhere humans are allowed, we've got a long way to go," says Adina MacRae, an entrepreneur who owns several dogs and who runs dog-walking service Dogs On The Go, in-home behavioural consults Canine Coaching and also is the president of Clicker Leash Co., which offers a leash designed with a clicker in the handle, to help with training. She's impressed to see more dog-related stores in town, too, remarking on Bark & Fitz and Metro Dog Wash. "It's really in the right direction" to buy "quality pet items that aren't from stores that sell animals."
Susan Richard, the owner of House of Dogs on Quinpool, has measured an up-tick of the dog-friendliness in Halifax by noticing that a number of hotels are opening up to guests with pooches. Richard is seeing dogs in even less likely places. "In the Superstore on Quinpool Road the other day, I saw a lady with a little dog in her cart, walking around, so obviously they're more dog-friendly."
Lynne MacKay is the editor/publisher of Furry's, a print and online magazine for Halifax pet owners. She values the good things the city has to offer dogs and says there are areas that are very dog-friendly.
"If you're down in Point Pleasant before 10 o'clock in the morning, I would say completely dog-friendly. It's an absolute treasure, and I hope that people understand how amazing it is to have that facility in the middle of the town."
But MacKay feels that the rules about dogs on restaurant patios are absurd, "in that you cannot have your dog officially under your table. It's an HRM restriction having to do with food. And you tell the sparrows and pigeons walking under your table that they aren't allowed. In terms of sanitation, it's insane. I prefer to have my dog under the table because I feel he's under better control. I don't think that's going to change."
Kyra Foster at Willow's Pet Place on Dresden Row has gotten around this issue with a deft new business idea. She's partnered up with eateries in the area---Quizno's, Sushi Nami, Cora's, The Cellar Bar & Grill, Il Mercato---offering the patio outside her shop to diners and their dogs. She has the restaurant menus, customers place orders and the food is delivered to the Willow's patio, where the dogs are free to lounge in their own shaded dog beds and partake of Willow's doggie-treat menus, while their owners eat the human food from nearby restaurants.
As Foster rightly points out: "It's hard when you go out with your dog to find a place to eat."
Dogs On The Go, 441-9775
Hounds Around Town, houndsaroundtown.com
Metro Dog Wash, 6021 Cunard, 422-9364
House of Dogs, 6448 Quinpool, 492-3647
Willow's Pet Place, 1526 Dresden Row, 405-3161
Bark & Fitz, 5431 Doyle, 406-3489
Glamour Puss & The Naughty Dog Pet Boutique, 1551 South Park, 405-4763
My Dog Wash Plus More, 145 Portland Street, Dartmouth, 406-3339
Canadian Tire, 6203 Quinpool, 422-4922
Biscuit General Store, 1661 Argyle, 425-5436
Lululemon, 5486 Spring Garden, 422-6641
Venus Envy, 1598 Barrington, 422-0004
The Trail Shop, 6210 Quinpool, 423-8736
The Last Word, 2160 Windsor, 423-2932
Pierceys, 2854 Robie, 454-6411
Attica, 1566 Barrington, 423-2557
The Lord Nelson, 1515 South Park, 423-5130
Best Western Hotel, Chocolate Lake, 20 St. Margarets Bay, 477-5611
The Westin Nova Scotia, 1181 Hollis, 421-1000
Delta Halifax, 1875 Barrington, 474-5150
Cambridge Suites Hotel, 1583 Brunswick, 420-0555
Prince George Hotel, 1725 Market, 425-1986
Metro Branch SPCA Shelter Dog Jog, June 21, 11am-2pm, Point Pleasant Park, 835-4798, spcans.ca
Where to find HRM Off-leash parks