That time Chance looked for a place to rest his head…

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In the past few months we’ve had a lot of exciting things happen around here. Some were “out of our control” situations to be made the most of, while others were just flat out exciting. Among them was “the great house hunt of 2014/2015″…

In fairness, this was really not a house hunt. We long decided that we aren’t really house people, nor is Chance a “house dog”. We’ve lived in a condo for the past eight years, brought Chance home to a condo, and plan to remain in a condo for the foreseeable future. Chance has grown up on the fringe of suburbia, riding elevators and subways like nobody’s business, and generally cavorting around the downtown core whenever adventure takes him there. We currently live within a stone’s throw of a number of highways, several water courses, hiking trails, and lakefronts, and we’d like to think that geographically we have the best of both worlds. While we have friends who have tried to lure us to the suburbs with the promise of giant houses and equally giant back yards (all the better for doggies, m’dear!), the outer reaches of Etobicoke were always the furthest we were prepared to go.

But living in the city is tricky in its own right, particularly for condo dwellers, and more so for condo dwellers who own dogs. When the potential move first arose we thought “Great! Lots of fun! Time to check out a new neighborhood!” But then reality set in. Unlike private homes or apartments, condos are governed by their own boards, many of whom have put by-laws in place restricting pet ownership. In our fair city. as I’m sure is the case with many cities across North America, these restrictions are either out and out bans on dogs altogether (as is the case with our current building), or restrictions based on weight or size, arbitrarily enforced by one’s ability to carry their dog through common areas. In some conversations, even real estate agents found this policy so laughable that they discussed carting their own dogs through foyers in everything from wagons to baby carriages.  We ourselves tended to find these rules somewhat absurd (does a small dog pose inherently less of a danger or threat to property values than a well trained larger one?), but we aren’t the type to disobey rules. Since Chance is routinely on adventures around the city and cannot be hidden in our suite like a large, gassy cat, honesty needed to be our best policy, no matter where we landed.

As responsible dog owners we understand the frustration borne by property managers, condo boards, and fellow residents who may or may not be “dog people”. Some people are sensitive to pet dander. Others are fearful of dogs, even dogs as goofy and as loveable as bulldogs. Irresponsible owners make a mess of properties by allowing dogs to defecate on or over balconies or by refusing to pick up after their pets on walkways around the property.  This is a nuisance, not only to the community at large, but to other dogs and their owners as there are pet-specific diseases transmitted via these vectors. Because of these frustrations, we are wholly sympathetic to boards, property managers and condo residents. We know this is your home and we don’t want to make you uncomfortable in your own space.  You deserve to be safe and content whenever you come home.  That said, to dismiss the needs of dog lovers outright is to dismiss an ever-increasing swath of the population.

How are we to design livable, sustainable cities if dog-ownership is routinely foisted off on our suburbs?

There have been many polarizing debates over the rights of dogs and dog owners in Toronto.  Some of these debates have come over the lack of off-leash parks and over having to share park spaces with other recreational activities. Increasingly, however, there seems to be more and more discussion (and arguably, more legal debate) regarding dogs and their rights to condo space. As I’m not a lawyer, and Chance has yet to pass the bar, our legal opinion on this issue is moot. But consider, if you will, the perspective of an environmental geographer:  How are we to design livable, sustainable cities if dog-ownership is routinely foisted off on our suburbs?  Not all dog owners want to live in suburbia.  To dismiss condo dwellers as being irresponsible dog owners is unfair, at best, and discriminatory at worst.   Dogs, like children, are often considered to be suburban aspirations and to raise either in the city is argued as selfish or myopic.  But living in condos or apartments in the city does not a bad dog owner make. In fact, several progressive rescue organizations are increasingly willing to place their dogs in foster or rescue condos and apartments as they’ve found owners willing to actively socialize with their dogs.  In an increasingly unrealistic urban market, those of us wishing to remain in the city should not be penalized for it. Just as condo developers have begun to take note of the resurgence of mid-sized families in the city, so too should they take note of the alternative family structures which contain one or more household pets…

In the coming weeks we hope to describe a little bit of our adventures with real-estate around the city. We are happy to report that we’ve landed in a lovely, pet friendly building with no restrictions, proximity to the subway and the downtown core, and all of the condo amenities to which we’ve grown accustomed. All of this was facilitated by none other than Chance’s social media account, so if ever there was proof of Chance pulling his own weight around the house, this was it!


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