Sunday, January 18, 2009


So, another Miss Hayley post, with another Miss Hayley video at the bottom. This is from our regular weekend visit to Cedarvale Park. We have been going to this big ravine park for several years now. We like it because there is a lot of space, a long ravine trail that leads into it, and a couple of smaller trails within the park itself that are pretty sheltered. And most importantly, there are dogs there, lots of dogs. We often refer to Cedarvale as the "dog park" while it was not, not legally ...until this past fall.

There are not an awful lot of official off leash parks in Toronto; there are, to the best of my knowledge, no off leash parks at all, but parks with off leash areas. In the last couple of years a lot has been made of the fact that there is something like a quarter million dogs in greater Toronto and not near enough off leash areas to service them all. It is a contentious issue here. This city is definitely divided along dog/no dog lines. I just don't me leash/off leash, I mean have a dog, don't have a dog. The more crowded our city gets, the more anti-dog sentiment we seem to have.

Which leads me to the whole off leash situation. I am essentially not a fan of off leash areas. I am a firm believer that your dog should be on leash on the street, on the public transit, in other public places. Miss Hayley is well behaved and well trained but I can't imagine walking her in the street off leash. First of all, it is dangerous. I've trained Hayley but I haven't trained every car, truck, bus, taxi .. or pedestrians. Secondly, I think it is inconsiderate. People walking along the street don't need to be pestered by a dog.

Parks are different. Not that I think people should be pestered, but parks are essentially recreational spaces. People aren't there chugging along on their errands, preoccupied with their business, they are there to relax, have fun, maybe do sport or exercise. Just like Miss Hayley and I. A park like Cedarvale, with its miles of trails and huge open spaces, should be able to be shared by all; truth is, in the summer, most of the two legged animals all crowd onto the sidewalks to exploit their wheels, leaving all that grass to the dogs.

Of course, the problem with sharing is, everyone needs to be on their best manners. And, my god, I don't know what goes through the minds of a lot of dog owners. They have no right to be out in public with their dog off leash, let alone on. You have the shit issue, which is really a big problem. If dog owners just pick up after their animals, a lot of the animosity against them would wane.

The other issue is dog behaviour. Some of the stuff I've seen makes my head ache. Dogs with their heads in coolers, dogs stealing other dogs' toys, dogs jumping ... a few weeks ago I was walking Hayley around our little neighbourhood park and for one entire circuit, about 15 minutes, I was assaulted by this kerry blue terrier. The whole way this thing was jumping up on me, while her owner remained stationary in the middle of the park, waving her hands in distress ... not a very successful dog training technique.

So I am not surprised that people want off leash areas, especially fenced in ones. People don't want dogs shitting on their grass and jumping on their pants, and I can't blame them. It doesn't have to be that way. If owners were responsible, picked up after their mutts, taught them manners, we could all happily co-exist.

So what's my issue with off leash areas, you ask? (You probably didn't ask but its my blog and in my blog you asked) I have a few concerns. One is, a fenced in area attracts irresponsible dog owners. Oh great, they say, there is a fence, my dog, my unruly, undisciplined dog, can run amok without my ever having to worry about etiquette or safety or proper socialization. The new off leash area in Cedarvale is huge. I don't think my video does it justice. Last weekend I saw a couple come in, let their dog off, then lean against the fence and and drink coffee and chat while their pet went gamboling off with a bunch of strange dogs .. great, that's the purpose of off leash areas. But it is also the danger. Dogs interacting always has the potential to go south But if you are there, observing, you can stop a problem before it starts. I know my dog and her border collie insanity; if that head goes down and starts to twist, some other dog is about to get gripped .. and as a rule I don't want that. So I call her off before it begins.

The other issue with a fenced in area is that it is great for a dog like Hayley, who loves to run and play with other dogs, a big contained area works great. But not all dogs like this kind of play and neither do their owners. They like to walk, and a place like Cedarvale, with all its trails, appeals to them. Of course, you can walk your dog on the leash but it is not the same. Off leash just gives you and your dog more freedom, Miss Hayley loves to wander a bit and sniff and explore. The video shows us on one of the lovely back trails, covered in snow, where the off leash Hayley is free to just move around and be a dog.

Still and all, it was a great day in the dog park. Lots of fresh snow and a relief from the absolutely frigid temps we have been experiencing lately. While we were there we met our friend hand his dog, who also happens to be a border collie ..and who happens to be called Hayley. Two border collie Hayleys, you know that is trouble.You will see in the video that lots of people came out on a Sunday to enjoy a nice winter day. Cross country skier, sledders, dogs ... and all sharing.

Now you all you go sing Kumbyah amongst yourselves. I'm getting a beer.

Miss Hayley at Cedarvale from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

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