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.
Birds of a feather flock together. Water finds its own level. I would be very surprised if you had not found a group of fellow travellers…kindred spirits…water dog walkers.
I know what you mean and I understand. But I kinda hope NOT….these Porty-people are all very nice and all and I like ’em. They laugh at my jokes (most of the time) and that is how I judge people. But, really…? Some of these folks are dog-obsessed ’cause they have nothing else to fill their lives (which may be a bit unfair to them but I question our own meaningless hours spent fussing over and walking dogs so I can certainly question theirs!). I don’t hate trophy wives or really old people (as I am fast approaching that stage myself – ‘old’ NOT ‘trophy’) but I do NOT want to be a bird-of-a-feather with those who drive Blu-tec Mercedes to dog parks as their main purpose in life. I know I shouldn’t judge (because those who judge me say that) but it just seems a little (if NOT a lot) self-indulgent in a slightly crazy way to live for your dog! I left the civic rat race because I was living to work and THAT seemed unhealthy. I am not going to ‘live to dog-walk!’
Now living to write books and fend off groupies seems meaningful. Don’t you think?
Self help books abound on this concept that life ought to have meaning. I realize that dogs stir those emotions as do kittens and babies. You my friend are not among the truly besotted cynomaniacs who seek meaning through their dogs. Dogs have social intelligence and never judge their owners. “I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.” But are too polite to say it.
Interesting point about leaving people (and their dogs) to figure things out without strictly enforced rules. No major problems. When people CANT rely on a referee to jump in and “save them” they tend to be a tad more civil.
About 10 years ago I wnet golfing on New Years day at Northlands in North Vancouver. There were no staff working that day other than the cashier and the restaurant. There were no marshals bellowing at you to “hurry up”. The course was packed and we finished in just under 4 hours. A record at Northlands. The bar was open so we went in for a few bevvies. A coupla old guys next to us asked ” How was the round?” . My reply, ” Excellent! There were no marshals to put us off our game and we finished in under 4 hours!” .
They looked shocked and mildly annoyed and went back to their coffees. My golf partner nudged me and whispered, “They’re the marshals!”
Once again my hoof in mouth disease reared its ugly head. :).
Oh, I recieved my book! was riding the elevator with a full laundry basket and the book in its mail pouch and tore it open with my TEETH ! Scared the crap out of the asian passengers in the elevator. I looked like Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspect when he opened his “life history” envelope one handed.
Been reading for an hour, very funny and very good. We’ll have to meet for a coffee so I can get this rare “1st Edition” signed !
Just email my hotmail account if you want to meet in West Van or you can email me to stop stalking you 🙂
Either way i’ll take the hint.