Victoria is seven months old, which means my pandemic puppy has been with me five months. Five months – it seems longer considering she’s a 24/7 going concern and requires constant attention. But it also feels like time is creeping along because we’ve been in a holding pattern, and as part of the world opens up (including our US neighbours to the south), we are locked down …. Again.
The Canadian province of Ontario is in ‘lock down’ since May 1, 2021, and that’s been extended into June. Fortunately, dog parks remain open and an option for outdoor exercise. Since the Canadian/US border has been closed for 14 months – something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime – and cross province travel is curtailed, it’s local dog-park and hiking trail adventure for me and my still new baby-dog Sprocker (Springer/Cocker Spaniel cross).
Welcome to my Sprocker’s travel adventure to nearby small-town dog parks.
Yes, a lot of dog people have issues with dog parks, but I’m an advocate with caution (see here). Dog parks saved my sanity both during this ‘unprecedented’ time (let’s please retire that word) and during my initiation into the chaotic world of high energy spaniel puppy-hood.
Victoria’s got to run … and run, and run and run. Check out her adventure last week at Bronte Creek Provincial Park – our first dog-park stop. Today, we travel with the dog to Waterford, Ontario in Norfolk County.
Suggested dog-park adventure: Waterford, Ontario, Canada in Norfolk County.
Common sense is a good tool at the dog park. I look for parks with either a lot of room and/or separate big and little dog zones. Also, fenced parks in smaller towns are less crowded, especially before noon on cloudy days.
Before noon on a slightly rainy day is exactly how my dog and I had the Waterford Dog Park in Norfolk County all to ourselves for more than an hour. In other places, I’d have to pay for that privilege by renting a park.
For a small town, Waterford, population 3,000, is surprisingly forward thinking when it comes to appreciating the human-animal bond, especially considering surrounding rural counties (like Haldimand) are arguable anti-dog and dog park. (Or that’s been my experience).
Waterford, Ontario Dog Park
The Waterford Dog Park (32 Church Street) is a simple fenced double-gated area beside the municipal arena and two sports fields. The Waterford Dog Park is actually incorporated into the community recreational area, a noteworthy recognition that the pets are an important thread in community fabric.
After a relaxing hour alone in the park, we’re eventually joined by an older arthritic dog, understandably not interested in puppy play. Between people, however, polite interaction is part of dog park etiquette. I learn about the big hole – no longer there. The dog’s person was glad the big hole was filled in and if the county hadn’t done it, he was going to do it himself.
The aging dog stayed for only a slow lap around the park. However, as my dog and I were also about to leave, in rambled a four-month old Samoyed ready to romp. My Sprocker caught a second wind and hit up the Samoyed like a WWE wrestler defending a title. Round two, plus she learned to tug.
One of the first things this dog’s person said? “Too bad they filled the hole. That was fun for the dogs.”
Washrooms in the Waterford arena are usually open for public use, and one use includes filling the plastic water jug to dump into the park’s metal canine trough. Parking is adjacent to the park.
Waterford, Ontario Waterfront Dog Walk
Waterford, Ontario is about 100 kilometres west of Toronto, and it’s one of those picturesque rural towns defined by an agricultural perimeter that’s slowly being chipped into by suburban development. Stately Victorian homes still line residential streets and near the Shadow Lake Trail, the two-block ‘downtown’ is anchored by a retirement home, several antique shops, a florist and Waterford Girl specializing in handcrafted soaps and bath products.
Evidence of the town’s grist mill and manufacturing heritage remain along the water in the form of steel equipment doing double duty as public art along the rail trail.
Leash up your pup and walk the Shadow Lake Trail along Alice Street, starting at the old train station re-purposed into Quilt Junction – a quilting shop and guild. Then venture along past nesting ducks, a floating pier extending into the wide pond and many cottage-like homes complete with small docks backing on to the water.
If you happen to be in town Wednesdays during the summer, from 4 to 7pm, visit Waterford’s small outdoor farmer’s market on the corner of Alice Street and St. James South.
Features of Waterford, Ontario include the Waterford North Conservation Area 226 Concession 8 Townsend. Run by the Long Point Conservation Authority, it’s popular among campers and anglers. Three large ponds host Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike and panfish. The 100 unserved campsites are dog-friendly, provided pets are on leash and supervised. The 166-metre long high-level bridge offers panoramic views of the Waterford Ponds.
Deer Park 1 Concession 8 Townsend, Waterford, is a free public park where visitors can see the descendants of Eight English fallow deer brought to the public water works site in 1942 as a way to clear undergrowth and control weeds.
In 2008, the Waterford District Community Foundation assumed responsibility of the park and herd management. Today it’s a popular picnic location, along with the Waterford Lions Play Park across the road.
Waterford Pumpkin Festival, 76 Main Street South, Waterford, is an annual event the second weekend in October complete with parade, fairgrounds, costume contests and the highlight: 30- to 40-feet tall pumpkin pyramids. Leashed pets can attend all outdoor events, but not indoor events such as the craft show or community centre.