As many of you know, my wife Maureen and I have 2 black labs, James and Sophia. Great dogs! Loving, fun, energetic… well one of them is…she’s still young. And I know many of you have dogs as part of your family as well. Others may have cats, or lizards, turtles, snakes, whatever is your fancy.
What I find great about dogs is they live for the moment and they implore you to do the same. It’s not about what happened in the past or what’s going to happen tomorrow or further down the road. It’s all about right here, right now, and in most cases, all about you!
In general, dogs are social. They’re upfront with you. You know where you stand. They either like you or they don’t.
And dogs need to go for walks. At least twice a day.
If you’re walking your dog, chances are good that you will run in to the same people and the same dogs whom are also out. Even if your daily exchange is as simple as a smile and a quick hello, you are building a sense of community. The presence of this cheerfulness is apparent. Not only are dog owners’ experiences of their neighborhood made a little better by additional human contact, passersby notice it too. We become an even friendlier neighborhood to any new visitors.
The most valuable trait that a neighborhood can have is people. People are drawn to other people. We struggle as a community to build and cultivate vibrant neighborhoods. It’s one of the goals of the city of Peoria, but is also one of the existing attributes of our neighborhood. I’ve talked about it in previous newsletters, the end-goal of having and maintaining a walkable neighborhood filled with people and activity.
Walkable neighborhoods command higher property values than car-centric neighborhoods and are healthier on average. The act of welcoming dogs and their owners to a neighborhood can help activate the process of increasing walkability.
In an article written by Michael Roden titled Dogs Make Our Neighborhoods Better, he states, “There are measures that apartment buildings, business owners, neighborhood associations, and even individual homeowners can take to harness in the benefits of dog-friendliness. Something as simple as setting out a water bowl can signal to a dog-walker that they are welcome here. A repeat visit will increase foot traffic, which will increase eyes on the street, which is a boon to business or a benefit to home value.”
So, what’s the big deal about dogs?
The growing trend in pet friendly communities and businesses is fueled by the growing research into the health benefits of pets. “The research is pretty compelling,” says Patricia Olson, chief veterinary adviser for the American Humane Association. “Pets provide social capital. Social capital brings us pleasure and a feeling of wellness. And that’s animals. Even if I don’t have one, I may get social capital from having animals in a community.”
Many major cities across America are creating dog-friendly environments by allowing them in retail stores and restaurants and developing dog parks. Businesses are setting out water bowls and having treats at the ready for customers who bring their canine companion with them. Neighborhoods are setting up doggie waste stations along walking routes.
Now, please don’t take me to be a canine-snob. I am more than supportive of anyone taking their pet for a walk. I am certain you will be engaged by neighbors as you stroll down Moss Avenue with their pet boa constrictor or ferret. And though it’d be a topic of discussion with whomever you’d come across, walking your pet turtle around Bradley’s campus may not be considered walking, at least at that pace. However, doctors do say any form of walking is better than none.