Municipal elections are important. Ok, all elections are important. But municipal elections traditionally experience low voter turn out, which is surprising considering so many local decisions impact our day-to-day lives especially in a small town – such is my case.
I live in a town with a population of about 6,000 predicted to grow to 20,000 during the next decade. Yet there are some fundamental resources missing here including a leash-free dog park. This is a dog town.
“I discovered that while going door-to-door,” one candidate said at a townhall last election. “If there wasn’t a dog at one house, there was two in the next to make up for it.”
And yet, he dismissed the idea of a dog park. I didn’t vote for him.
Clearly, dog parks – or lack there of – is not the most pressing need in town. But it’s on the list along with affordable housing, a long-term care facility, accessible daycare, public transit and improved emergency services. Actually, that’s Cheryl Beemer’s list. Beemer is running for town councillor and if you live in Caledonia, Ontario please vote for her October 22, 2018.
If you don’t live in Caledonia, please ask your local candidates about their ‘dog’ platforms. Seriously.
Granted, not all pet parents like leash-free dog parks. Everyone’s heard a horror story. Bites are a risk. But there are ways to do parks right, from large and small dog divisions to educating owners about signs of canine aggression. And dog parks can be beneficial for many reasons – if this wasn’t true, there wouldn’t be one in (almost) every community.
Benefits of Dog Parks
Exercise – Obviously. Health-related obesity issues are rising for both pets and people. Dogs need to run and running wouldn’t hurt some people either. Leashed walks don’t always offer a full energy burn – at least not with dogs like mine – and that can lead to an array of behaviour and anxiety issues. Few can argue getting outdoors and moving isn’t a good thing.
Socialization – Again, not just for the pups but that’s the first thing about a dog park most people talk about. Dogs are social creatures – some more than others, but pack life is in their DNA. The more positive social interactions dogs have, the better. Plus, sometimes only another dog can run a terrier tired.
Community – Ultimately, dog parks can be positive for everyone because they’re a gathering site for people (and yes, pets). We need more of that. Towns and cities need more of that. As urban planning is becoming more decentralized, we are losing opportunities to gather and connect with people outside our families and familiar circles.
Dog parks offer like-minded people the opportunity to connect with others, or just be there exchanging a few words. Dogs are conversation starters, particularly among fellow pup people. You’ll might even interact with others you’d otherwise never cross paths with. Add a Facebook group for the local dog park, and you’ve taken community one step further: sharing complaints in a public forum; educating park users; and even posting obituaries of both dogs and people resulting in supportive replies. You create a tribe.
Healthy communities can’t be developed by traffic flow solutions and economics alone. Healthy communities need parks, conservation areas, nature trails, art galleries, community centres, libraries and yes, dog parks. Healthy communities are what attracts educated skilled labour and thus fiscal growth. And if that labour force happens to love dogs, don’t fight it. Build it.
If you live in Ontario, please vote October 22 for the local representative who will make your community just a little more pooch friendly. If you live in Caledonia, please vote for Cheryl Beemer.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, Cheryl Beemer did not win the Haldimand County Ward 3 seat, but here’s hoping the new person who did is open to the dark-park idea,