When my family and I decided to move to Seattle, I was excited about the prospect of a dog friendly city after living as a pet professional in Michigan for over 20 years.
I saw the story about the black lab who takes the bus to the dog park when the mood strikes. I was in awe that no one on the bus was bothered that they were sharing a bus with a dog. I felt that I was on my way to Oz.
In the mitten state, “dog friendly” is a term that is just emerging. Dogs are not welcome in most professional settings, unless the dog is a service dog or therapy dog. Dogs are not welcome in shopping centers, restaurants, malls and most hotels. Despite the efforts of many members of the community in which I lived, a dog park wasn’t even available for dogs and their parents to visit.
Living on the shores of Lake Huron, I assumed dogs would be more than welcome to romp in the water, especially on public beaches. That is not the case; beaches are closed to dogs.
As a pet professional, I battled hard for dogs to have adventures with their parents and be welcomed on patios at local restaurants. My pet service would sponsor local “dog walks” so like minded dog lovers could come together and enjoy the company of their dogs and others. It was an uphill battle the entire time.
The drive to Seattle took us 5 days and I used that time to daydream about life in the city with my dogs. I had visions of walking my dogs along the sidewalks of downtown Seattle, with a Starbucks coffee in one hand, poop bags in the other.
After we arrived in Seattle we decided to take our first adventures without our dogs Mozi, a year old mutt rescued from a shelter, and Hazel, a 9 year old Malmaute rescued from a disturbing situation.
Google Maps became my new best friend and I discovered and visited so many dog parks just within miles of my new home. My head was spinning as I spoke to many pet parents who shared my enthusiasm about dog friendly living.
We went downtown to explore and saw so many dogs trotting happily alongside their parents, unaware that in other areas of the country, this is unusual. We saw dogs dining with their parents, dogs exploring Pike’s Market, dogs sitting patiently while their parents played instruments or sang songs loudly on the sidewalks for spare change, dogs accompanying their parents while shopping.
I thought I was prepared for a dog friendly life style, but once I started to take it all in, I was near tears, overwhelmed by the acceptance of this lifestyle and consumed with grief for all those dogs who will never experience this kind of kinship with their parents.
As we wandered the streets of downtown Seattle, I stopped and took a picture of every community dog water bowl that I saw; posting the pictures on my Facebook page sharing my enthusiasm for Seattle’s dog friendly lifestyle.
Some of my Facebook friends thought I had finally lost it, while some of them celebrated with me. Even though my daydreams from drive across the country were coming true, I actually discovered that dog friendly living in Seattle was more prevalent than I had expected.
But I was also overwhelmed – with so many opportunities to enjoy a happy dog and I couldn’t decide where to start. I decided to slow down, make a list of the places I wanted to visit and take it one step at a time.
Acclimating to a new city is hard enough, but I was trying to acclimate to a new lifestyle; a lifestyle I had dreamed about, yearned for and anticipated for a long time. It’s hard to find the words to describe the difference between how dogs are viewed and treated in Michigan and how dogs are accepted and loved in Seattle.
I think I have truly gone to Oz.
Holly Cook is an award winning pet sitter from Michigan who has recently relocated to Seattle with her husband, Tony, her 2 dogs Hazel and Mozi and her 2 cats, Chrissy and Polly. She is a certified K9 Obedience Instructor, published author of several articles and Mum to one son, Cyle. She owns and operates Special Pet Care Services, LLC, with offices in Michigan, Washington and Tennessee and is working on a new project in Seattle.
Holly will write about her experiences adjusting to dog friendly Seattle after moving here from Michigan.