St. Thomas, Ontario is one of those town-like small cities you pass on your way to somewhere else. If you’ve driven from Highway 403 to Port Stanley along Lake Erie, you’ve driven through St. Thomas, and likely under the most stop-worthy dog-friendly St. Thomas feature:
- The Elevated Park along an overhead former railway track.
- Runner up dog-friendly St. Thomas landmark is the Lions Club wooded off-leash dog park.
First, the Elevated Park is a beautiful place to walk the dog – 6 kilometres walk from the start to back again. However, is the rest of St. Thomas dog-friendly? Sort of. It depends on why you’re in town.
Like many towns across Southern Ontario (check out our train experiences in Smiths Falls), St. Thomas was established during the heyday of rail travel across the county, and claims status as Canada’s railway capital. The Elgin County Railway Museum is a short walk from main street downtown.
St. Thomas Murals
St. Thomas is also currently promoting its city murals, and opening day of the mural festival early July 2022, attracted families downtown. Dogs on leash were welcome, including my pup with her new figure eight harness – more on that soon.
However, if you wanted to eat with your pup in St. Thomas, Ontario, you’re out of luck. No restaurant patios I found permitted dogs. I didn’t find anywhere downtown I could have dinner with the dog.
Five new billboard-style murals along the side of a downtown building (beside the railway track, of course) celebrate various aspects of the city, including Jumbo the elephant. Yes, Jumbo. The elephant of P.T. Barnum fame, who captured hearts but was captured from the wild himself. Considering what we know about elephants now, we can be certain Jumbo’s captive life travelling via rail from circus to circus performance was nothing to celebrate.
Jumbo’s life came to a traumatic end thanks to a railway accident in St. Thomas, Ontario. And for some reason, it’s commemorated with murals around town and a giant status to Jumbo beside a red caboose. Find this statue, and you’ll easily find parking for the Elevated Walkway and the leash-free park down the road.
Dog-friendly St. Thomas Elevated Park
The Elevated Park walkway starts with an easy slope and before you know it, you’re on the elevated part, thirty metres over the Kettle Creek valley and a rural portion of St. Thomas dotted with horses. The 9-meter-wide walk is punctuated with public art pieces, and a fence extending to the ground makes falling off or sliding under impossible – however, a bird dog like mine could jump up over it. Her harness and leash remained on.
The entire Elevated Park trail is 3km one way and open 5 am to 11 pm daily, with security cameras operating. Built on the MCR Kettle Creek Bridge dating from 1928, the park is privately owned by a non-profit, developed entirely with community donations. It’s Canada’s first and currently only elevated public park. The much longer High Line public rail park in Manhattan is similar but without the concentration of public art.
St. Thomas Off Leash Dog Park
Less than a kilometre away from the Jumbo statue is the Lion’s Club off-leash park – double gated and fenced (though there is one side with a small fence) it’s a wooded area with gravel walkway, old growth trees, a steep slope leading to an open grassy area. There are a few picnic tables and a water faucet at the entrance. Trees, birds, critters, dirt … it’s a dog’s paradise. And in the heat, the shade is welcome relief.
This one in St. Thomas might be one of my favourite dog parks I’ve encountered on my travels yet. If you are travelling along Highway 403 from Toronto to Windsor, St. Thomas is a good midway stop to run the dog – you’ll drive about 10 to 15 minutes south of the main highway.
Figure Eight Dog Harness and Leash
Our walk around St. Thomas’ mural festival, downtown, and elevated former train track went easier, thanks to a new GenCon figure eight head halter and leash. My Springer/Cocker Spaniel pulls, and pulls and pulls on leash, which is a big problem because most places we go demand leashed dogs only (and she’d run off if she weren’t).
I’ve tried every no-pull harness on the market – the North American market. Thanks to advice from online Sprocker groups, I ordered this harness from Britain – where they know their bird dogs. So far, so good.
This GenCon harness fits behind her ears, crosses under her chin, and loops over her nose. It can be tightened without restricting her mouth (unlike gentle leaders). Also, it’s designed to cross, rather than modifying a rope leash that can rub on snouts.
My dog does roll and tries to pull it off when we stop, but if we keep moving, she seems to forget it’s there, and pulling is significantly reduced as we walk, making the experience better for me. Note: the leashes come in right-hand and left-hand versions, so consider which side your dog will walk on most often.
If you go to St. Thomas, Ontario…
Dog Parks – Lions Club Dog Park, 25 Talbot Street, St. Thomas, Ontario
Kettle Creek Dog Park (in the Kettle Creek Conservation Area), 44070 Mapleton Line, St. Thomas, Ontario
Elevated Park – 1 Centre Street, St. Thomas, Ontario half a block from the Jumbo memorial, open 5 am to 11 pm with 24-hour security cameras.
I’m Sherri Telenko, a professional writer for 30 years and travel writer for the last 20. I’m a member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) and Dog Writers Association of America. I’ve lived with cats, dogs, horses and guinea pigs all my life, and I travel almost weekly with my canine companion, Victoria.