Amsterdam, Holland: Guard Dogs at the Amsterdam Zoo

amsterdam zoo dog sculpture 2

One of two dog sculptures greeting visitors at the Amsterdam Zoo

Amsterdam is a city of movement. But it’s not ideal for dogs, and a week away from my furry family left me longing for their company … even in one of the most captivating cities in the world.

Especially during the summer, throngs of tourists crowd the narrow streets of Amsterdam looking for glimpses of the fabled liberal lifestyle. Or they hustle to the popular flower market (Bloemenmarkt) to buy the iconic tulip bulbs and more from floating florists on barges moored on the canal – an obsession that survived tulip mania 300 years ago.

The 17th century was good to Holland, especially Amsterdam, and this is the era that left the greatest long-term impact on the city. During this time, the canal ring evolved – a defining characteristic of Amsterdam that even today hosts several hundred thousand houseboats along the canal walls.

I love being here – but I always miss my pets when I’m away.

“Which way to the zoo?” I ask the tram driver who stopped at exactly where the Amsterdam tour book said I should get off the incredibly reliable and easy to navigate Dutch public transit system. I’ve heard about a zoo in the middle of town, and I’m prepared to walk a distance to find it.

“Right there,” the tram driver points to the corner in front of us: “Behind that sign.”

dog, sculpture, amsterdam

Amsterdam zoo dog sculpture

And there it is: the street-front entrance to Artis Zoo Amsterdam’s city central zoo bordered by a canal, a condo complex and two busy city streets. I was expecting to head further, but no, this easy to navigate 35-acre zoo is more like a large city park with exotic animals.

Inside the entrance is something I don’t expect to see: two giant-sized bronze-cast sculpture of woeful looking retrievers greeting people at the entrance of a zoo that is remarkably dog-free. No artist is credited for their creation, nor does anyone around know why domestic dogs are honoured at a zoo filled with wild species. Maybe they’re to remind us how important all species are, whether they share our living rooms or not.

After all, urban and wild meet here. The continuous sounds of a honking male sea lion mix with the routine dinging of the street car bell announcing another stop at evenly spaced intervals along Plange Middlenlaan, a street that runs parallel to the zoo.

The Artis has been in Amsterdam since 1838, so let’s assume the city developed up to its boundaries. Now elephants and giraffes are simply part of the city sites, along with a leashed dog or two on the sidewalk outside.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam canal

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