There is a portion of the river, the seawall and the beach in West Vancouver that is designated an off-leash dog-and-husband park. We go there almost every day. The walk is less than a kilometer long and, when slowed down to a mosey, takes about an hour. We sometimes run over. I mosey slowly. But it is not all my fault. We also stop to talk dog with all the people we now know. Sally joined the West Van Portie (an abbreviation for Portuguese Water dogs) Walk-and-talk Group and we encounter a member or two on each visit to the park.
I even chime in now and again but just to inject little rude-but-funny-to-me comments that usually brings the discussion to a quick halt and we can then return to moseying. I like to think of myself as the necessary punctuation so often missing in dog conversations. Without me, they would talk forever.
But the park is not just for Porties. All manner, breed, creed, colour and type walk there and, of course, they bring their dogs, an equally motley bunch. The East Ambleside dog-walk is an international, universal, all-species meeting ground and, on weekends, it gets pretty crowded. The dog-park is popular during the week but triply so on weekends. I would estimate an average of 60-75 dogs and owners are there at any given time on the weekdays and up to 200 on weekends.
But here’s the point: despite everyone and their dog being different in every way and, unnervingly at times, all are also off leash and free to move and behave as they like, I have never witnessed a dog-fight. Yes, I have noticed a few humans having a minor set-to but the dogs get along like it’s a love-in. Fiddich doesn’t actually like dogs(or many humans, either) but even he can tolerate all and sundry for the hour or so it takes to sniff a few select butts. He looks forward to the walk even if it is bereft of any close friends.
There are signs everywhere, of course, telling everyone what they and their dog can and cannot do but few dogs read and even fewer owners it seems read English. Or care. This is Freedom Point for the dog crowd and they exercise their self-anointed rights to do what dogs and dog owners do. With the exception of a perverse but disciplined obsession with their dog’s poop production, there seems little to restrict any living thing down there. It is not wild and crazy, it is very civilized, but it is not policed, monitored, CCTV’d or overseen in any way. Dogs and owners are left to their own devices and they seem to be able to do that without any acts of terror of the human or canine variety. Imagine that?
The reason for all this peaceful anarchy is that the land belongs to the First Nations and they manage their people, dogs and property on a trust-based, who-really-cares basis and they live and let live. Yes, you read that right: the First Nations have pretty much conceded a stretch of beach, river and the land around it to dog walkers. We are not charged for the privilege. We are not watched. We walk our dogs and we go home cleaning up after ourselves. And no one feels compelled to make a buck or taser anyone.
You want a taste of living off the grid? Go to the East Ambleside off-leash dog park; that is as close as you are going to get to freedom in Vancouver. Maybe just for fun – take a lama or a pony on your walk instead of a dog – no one will care.