Many of the people that live in my downtown neighborhood (Cooper Place, Cooper Lofts, Ice Lofts) own a dog. Some even have two. Now, I may be biased (that is my "best friend" Cody on the right), but I believe that cities that are dog-friendly are cities that are successful. Why are dogs so important to the vitality of an urban neighborhood? Why are so many cities developing ways to attract even more dog owners?
When you live anywhere – a suburban house or urban condo – you have the choice to sit inside or go out and interact with your neighborhood. And it doesn’t matter where you live – today’s electronic entertainment options (300 channels, internet, video games, etc.) make it pretty easy to just stay inside – especially when it is raining or cold. But if you have a dog and you live in an urban neighborhood, you have to go outside at least a couple times a day. This fact has many positive effects on a neighborhood.
For one, when you have a dog you feel safer walking around downtown and you will more likely explore different routes that you might not otherwise try. (When you have to walk the dog, it becomes quite boring doing the same old route every day). While exploring different routes, you may discover something that you didn’t know about before – a shop, a restaurant, a nice park, etc. And as you get to know your city more by exploring it, you will be more likely to use the things you find, even when you don’t have your dog in tow. (or in my case, dog has me in tow)
Dog walkers tend to be more vigilant about things happening in their neighborhood. If they see something going on that shouldn’t be, they are more likely to call the police. After all, they have to make this walk no matter what, so they sure aren’t going to ignore things that make the walk less enjoyable.
Finally, the more people you have walking down the street, the more lively and attractive that street becomes, which encourages more people to join in. When people see dog-walkers, they are made even more comfortable by the normality of seeing people walking dogs. When you see people walking dogs, it tells you that it is a safe community that people do live in.
What can Dayton do to promote dog owners to live in urban Dayton? Well, for one – it would be nice to have an urban dog park where dogs can run freely as their owners socialize with other dog people. It has the same effect that dog walking has, but helps even more to build a community. Anybody that has been to Schiller Park in the German Village neighborhood of Columbus can attest to that. This is hard to accomplish in downtown because of all of the traffic, but in some of the historic neighborhoods it is definitely doable. Some parks should have leash-law exemptions to promote the use of the parks by dogs and their owners.
What are some examples that you know of that Dayton could emulate? What are your ideas or comments on this?