My previous post mentioned that we went to visit Doodle in Ottawa over the Thanksgiving weekend. We decided to skip the muss and fuss and hustle and bustle of a big turkey day dinner and getting Doodle from Ottawa to home by herself… and back again. Instead, we experienced the hustle and bustle and muss and fuss of transporting four adults, one large dog, and a van-full of stuff for Doodle’s slightly barren residence room on a 6+ hour drive to Ottawa.
Have you ever had that moment of epiphany? The moment you look upon something, and think, “OH! Now, I get
it… that is how it’s supposed to be.” That’s what this was like.
On the drive, we stopped at the most extraordinary place. A dog park… whose design and construction had been done with the enjoyment of both dogs and dog owners in mind. It might seem strange to you that I find this shocking. But, you see, Toronto’s dog parks are not made with enjoyment in mind. They are made, against fierce opposition, in the least desirable parts of parks, using the fewest resources possible, and, from what I can tell, designed by people who aren’t really sure why dog owners want such places to begin with. Local dog owners aren’t given the opportunity to give suggestions, and the suggestions they do give are generally ignored. “Be grateful we even let you have dogs in public green-spaces” seems to be the motto.
We stopped at the Quinte Dog Park in Belleville, Ontario. It is three fully fenced in acres of wooded parkland. In low areas where the ground would otherwise be muddy, woodchip has been put down. On higher ground, it is grassy or covered in pine-needles, depending on what kinds of trees are nearby. It is big enough that the dogs pounding the ground don’t tear it up nearly as much as they do in smaller dog-areas. There are benches scattered throughout the park, as well as fire hydrants – a feature I find hilarious. Did I mention that there are trees in the park? Trees = shade and protection from the elements. For dogs, trees = squirrel-homes and the potential to chase squirrels… not to mention all the sniffing opportunities.
The Quinte Dog Park has garbage cans spaced out along the fence line. It also has boxes full of unused poop-baggies beside each garbage can. I used my own doggie bags, because I had them with me – but making dog-bags available is brilliant. People can no longer use the excuse of ‘I forgot my bags’ or ‘I ran out of bags’ to ignore their pooch’s mess. And, while I can’t say I walked everywhere, I can say, I didn’t see any dog-poop on the ground.
It has a small bus-shelter type thing near the fence. A simple shelter, donated by a construction company in the community, that gives people a place to stand if it starts raining, or just to get a bit of protection from the wind.
It has a water cistern with a gravity spigot at the bottom, donated by another local company. No installing expensive plumbing, just a simple tank that probably gets topped up every week or two by the company that donated it.
It has a board with tennis rackets and a chuck-it hooked on to it. Items I’m assuming were donated, for the sole purpose of a bit more intense game of fetch.
I think one of the main differences between this amazing dog park and the parks I find in Toronto is that the dog-owning community is allowed – even encouraged – to help maintain the park. There is a donation box, and a dog park Association that finds contributors and helps maintain the park itself. It was so clearly designed by dog owners, for dog owners. It has sponsors to help in the maintenance, instead of relying solely on city money. It is purposely built and maintained, rather than being a side-note like so many GTA dog parks are.
I realise that I’m sounding very harsh on the parks in Toronto. Some of them are quite good (Cherry Beach and High Park, to name a few). The ones in my area (all new/newer construction) are… functional… “At least there is a dog-park” is about all I can say about them. The grass lasts for about a month out of the year, leaving it muddy and unpleasant the rest of the time, and there isn’t a stick of protection between you and the north pole during the winter. No shade in the summer, either.
Seeing the Quinte Dog Park confirmed – Toronto could do so much better. Hopefully the City will take the challenge.