“Popeye is going to be 3 years old on the 5th of March. I’ve had him since he was born, since I used to have his mother. I rescued her from Ontario. I was crossing the country and brought her to BC because my friend was a breeder and had to find a safe place for all his dogs because of the breed ban in Ontario. She was pregnant at the time. So I took her with me and I had to take care of the puppies.
“He’s my buddy, we’re always together and have crossed the country 2 times. He keeps the people away that I don’t want, you know? Drunk people, sketchy people… We have a really good connection I guess. My dog is always meeting people since he was a puppy and he is highly social.
“We make lots of friends. It’s a great way of connecting. I hope you can turn people’s minds about the idea of living on the streets with a dog… help change peoples perceptions…Also this breed. He is the friendliest dog ever. He’s great around children, people with mental disabilities… other dogs. He’s a sweetheart.”
I met with Julie Davidson, a professional dog walker (A Walk in the Park Pet Care) at the Baden Powell Trail in North Vancouver.
“This is Jasper, Boomer, Charley, Jasmine, and Kaimu.
“These Monday walks… I liken them to after Christmas break… it’s like they have lots to say… catching up with each other.
“On the North Shore there are 40 licensed companies, in North Vancouver…and probably another 30 in West Vancouver. Some of them do both locations. I do. They limited it in North Van to 40 companies, where you can have up to 4 people working in the company. We have to pay a business license, we have to pay something no one else pays which is a park use permit. It is very expensive compared to the other costs. We have to pay permit fees. We have to be insured. We are regulated…heavily, it was necessary a few years ago because people were walking scads and scads of dogs and they let them run all over. We are limited to six (dogs) now…at a time. We are not allowed to go on certain trails. We are not allowed to walk within a certain number of meters of each other. A lot of it IS very important.
“We have to wear something to identify us. The vests were kind of ridiculous. Some people thought we were construction workers. One guy thought I was a hunter!
“I try and educate them. I have people that come to me with dogs on choke chains and shock collars and I try and educate them that they can get better results using positive methods. I work closely with an other gal who is a trainer, a trainer that uses positive reinforcement and I direct them to her a lot of the time.
“These guys are so good.
“So, we need to be 50 meters on the trail before I can let them go. I like to be hands free as much as I can.”
Julie treats and releases all the dogs. Throughout the walk the dogs check back in with Julie regularly and none of them stray away. She was also able to call them back to her regularly.
“If runners or cyclists are coming by I say ‘heads up, heads up’ and then we go off to the side of the trail… and they are fabulous.
“Oh… I’m going to get all teary. This work fills my soul. I was the kid who saved the dried out worm on the sidewalk each summer. I really can’t imagine what my life would be like without this. I am totally consumed by taking care of these dogs. I love it.”
It’s Family Day (a provincial holiday here in Ontario) and we’re at Harbourfront. It’s a hard, frosty cold here, overnight it was minus 25. People are skating, out for Dim Sum Brunch at the Pearl or walking along the harbour. Despite the cold, it’s nice to be outdoors. We came across an 8 year old girl and her father walking their new puppy.
“Roxy is her name and she is my first dog. She’s 10 weeks old and a black lab retriever”
(father) “It’s all quite exciting for Soph…it’s the first thing she wants to do in the morning and the last thing she wants to do at night…”
“Her name is Pekoe, like orange pekoe tea. Her parent dog was a Border Collie, a working farm dog. It was an accidental pregnancy…some other dog stumbled along…”
“…One of the big ones why André got her was to make himself go out and about and do stuff on a really regular basis. So yes, we do a lot more outdoor activities. And she is an adventure seeker! She’s a badass puppy in that way! So we’re always trying to go on bigger, badder adventures so that she’s entertained. So for instance if you go for a run with her, she leaves you to go with the faster person. So then you think to yourself… I can go faster! So some of the hikes we pick to go on, we pick ones that would be challenging for the dog rather than challenging for ourselves.”