Urban living for dog lovers can be a challenge, especially when it comes to finding housing. "No dogs" is the rule at many otherwise promising properties, and those buildings that allow dogs often do so grudgingly, forcing pets to use service elevators or back entrances, and to avoid any common areas.
But there's a new trend in high-rise living: projects that not only allow dogs but also welcome them with animal-friendly features. In Washington, New York and Florida, high-rise condominiums are going up with dog parks and grooming rooms built in.
"The two hottest cultural trends in America: pets and real estate," said real-estate expert Bradley Inman, publisher of the Oakland, Calif.-based Inman News. "It is no surprise that they are being married in new and creative ways. Developers are quick to pick up on new trends to differentiate their products and find ways of feeding new niches."
Consultant John Rymer of Atlanta-based Rymer Strategies has observed the same trend. "We recently did a focus group in Tampa for a project and found that pet-friendly activities were at the top of potential home-buyers' list," he said. "The condo project has yet to break ground, but the developer has made it a priority to include pet-friendly amenities."
In Seattle, a rooftop dog park was added to plans for the Cristalla project after focus groups expressed an interest in a safe place for canine exercise. "I would absolutely classify Seattle as a dog-friendly city," said Steve Washburn, the self-described dog lover who's a principal with Cristalla LLC. "I was excited when we were able to develop such a place."
Some dog lovers were just as excited to hear about it. Tom Taylor and Heather Hayes of Seattle, who have bought into the under-construction Cristalla, felt downtown living was a better match with their lifestyle, except that they were unwilling to compromise when it came to their dogs Madison and Jackson.
"Our dogs are so important to us that we consider them in just about everything we do," said Hayes of the couple's two wirehaired fox terriers. "We never would have moved to a place that would not have welcomed our pets. When we heard about the Cristalla's rooftop dog park, it made moving downtown a real possibility in our minds. The fact that the developer considered the dogs was a big part of it for us."
While its multiple dog parks and restaurants that cater to dog lovers mark Seattle as one of the more dog-friendly cities, the trend toward putting dog-friendly amenities in housing is gaining ground elsewhere as well. In New York City, for example, Manhattan Skyline Management's project on the Upper East Side will also include a dog park, on the fifth floor above the retail levels.
And while the Seattle and New York buildings are both pointed at the luxury market, the DUO condominium project in Hallandale Beach, Fla., is aiming for a more middle-class group of dog lovers. The draw at DUO is a "groom room" equipped with bathing, blow-drying and grooming stations for keeping dogs tidy. The room will be available for residents to groom their own dogs, or they can make arrangements for a groomer to make a house call.
"It's not the first time we've developed a property that allows pets, but it's the first that incorporates pet amenities," said David Reich of Triad Housing, developer of DUO. "We have people who are moving from houses and don't want to give up their dogs. We hear, 'Finally, I found a place that welcomes me!'"
Back in Seattle, Heather Hayes is used to the surprised reaction from people who assume she and her husband will be dumping their dogs as part of their move to high-rise urban living.
"A lot of people ask what we will do with the dogs when we move," she said. "You would never move into a place where your kids aren't welcome or have room to play. Our dogs are part of our family. A place that isn't pet-friendly isn't even a consideration for Tom and me."
Pet songs are silly, but they sure are fun
Q: Thank you for your column on pet songs crooned by loving owners. Tonight during dinner I sang your song about your dog Andy to my husband, and we both teared up in recognition of this special tribute to your longtime canine companion.
Our dog Maybe certainly needed a song, and it did not take long for us to come up with one for the abandoned puppy who has become my husband's constant companion for seven years now. As soon as we started experimenting with the tune, Maybe became very excited, and we all had a dance around the kitchen, singing and barking. Thanks for a sweet idea and a fun evening. -- S.D., via e-mail
A: One of the most wonderful things about sharing our lives with animal companions is that around them we can indulge our silly side without worrying about anyone laughing at us.
I have always had "theme songs" for my pets. My darling Sheltie Andy, gone almost two years now, had the mottled gray and black coat common in breeds such as the Australian shepherd. His stunning markings attracted attention where ever we went, and it also inspired his "theme song," sung to the tune of "You Are My Sunshine":
"You are my Andy, my only Andy/You make me happy, because you're gray ..."
Like most of the animals in my home, he came to recognize "his" song and seemed to smile when I sang it. Now it makes me smile to remember it. Thank you for reminding me.
Q: I take issue with your view of dogs who display aggression. As a second-time Akita owner, I have known members of this breed to be highly intelligent and often assertive when protecting their owners.
On one occasion, my 2-year-old male Akita snapped at my former mother-in-law after she startled him. Given the fact that my mother-in-law was no stranger to him, I was alarmed by this behavior, immediately consulted with our veterinarian and subsequently worked with an animal behaviorist.
After weeks of advanced obedience training (consisting mostly of socialization techniques), the dog mellowed into a sweet family member and remained so for the rest of his life.
This is why I take issue with your staunch and unyielding view on aggressive dogs. With love, socialization and consistency, most dogs can be trained to be safe companions. Your article indicated little hope for aggressive dogs. I trust you don't share similar views on the child who, on occasion, "acts out." -- B.M., via e-mail
A: I trust you aren't serious in equating a child who throws an occasional tantrum in grocery store with a dog who has tried to bite or has succeeded in biting a human being.
Every time I share my "staunch and unyielding view" on aggressive dogs, I get letters from people who make excuses for their animals. Your reasoning is very common: The dog's breed is "naturally protective" and some degree of aggression toward people is normal for the breed.
What's essential for all dogs, regardless of breeding, is that we don't make excuses for aggression toward humans. You did the right thing by recognizing the problem and getting help immediately, which is exactly what I advise other people in your situation to do. In some cases, aggressive animals can indeed be rehabilitated.
I don't suggest, however, that all or even most dogs who are aggressive toward people can be cured. For those animals who cannot be made safe, I advocate euthanasia. No dog's life is worth putting a child through the hell of an attack and the reconstructive surgeries that often follow. And statistics show that in the most serious of attacks, a child is indeed the most common of victims.
(Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
ON THE WEB
Cat-friendly ideas for home design
Tops on my all-time list of favorite cat books are "The Cats' House" and "Cats Into Everything" by Bob Walker and Frances Mooney (Andrews McMeel). The books illustrate the creative and colorful way the artistic couple have converted a fairly ordinary Southern California tract house into a feline paradise, with overhead cat walks, floor-to-ceiling scratching pillars and kitty shortcuts sliced through walls.
Tours of the property are few and far between -- a recent fund-raising open house was the first in five years -- but the couple's books and Web site (www.thecatshouse.com) give a good look into the extraordinary environment of a handful of very lucky cats.
You really do have to see the pictures to believe the place. The bright colors alone are not for the timid. One of my favorite pictures has always been one of cat hair drifting down from above onto the breakfast table -- a good illustration of how much the cats are adored.
Whether you're thinking of making a couple of cat-friendly modifications to your living space or are just interested in seeing what the creative mind can do when inspired by cats, you should visit the house -- in print, on the Web or (if you're lucky) in person.
Target reaches out to help bull terriers
The Minneapolis-based Target retailing chain uses a white bull terrier in its advertising, modifying the dog's look with bright red circles drawn around one of the animal's eyes. The company mascot, dubbed Bullseye, gave the Bull Terrier Club of America the idea of asking Target for help. The BTCA applied for a charitable grant to assist in its work rescuing bull terriers in need of a new home -- and picked up a $20,000 check from the company.
The American Kennel Club noted in announcing the grant that many times a turn in the spotlight can be bad news for a breed, leading to a surge in popularity followed by a bump in the number of dogs needing homes after the novelty wears off.
The list of breeds affected by publicity is long and includes Dalmatians, following the Disney movies based on the book "101 Dalmatians," Chihuahuas, following a Taco Bell advertising campaign, and an even earlier burst in popularity thrust on bull terriers following the Spuds McKenzie Budweiser commercials.
It's good news to see a company helping those dogs whom publicity has put at increased risk, and I can't help but hope others will follow Target's example.
BY THE BOOK
The perfect gift for the literate dog lover
Some books teach you something you didn't know about yourself, while others remind you of something you knew but didn't like to admit. Still others boldly celebrate things that you knew but didn't think others would understand.
"Dog Is My Co-Pilot: Great Writers on the World's Oldest Friendship" (Crown, $25) manages to do all three and more. This makes it a wonderful gift for the well-read dog lover.
The book is a solid compilation of short pieces with dogs at the heart of each. Chosen by the editors of The Bark magazine, the pieces cover a wide range of writing styles and points of view, but each piece is thought-provoking and sometimes breathtaking in its execution. This is not surprising, given that The Bark's editors have managed to get the work of some of the most renowned authors between the covers, including Alice Walker, Erica Jong, Donald McCaig, Pam Houston, Mark Derr and many more.
"The Color of Joy," the piece by the late Caroline Knapp, had a great deal of resonance for me personally, as I have often been made to feel just a little bit crazy for the love I have for my dogs.
"Dog love, popular wisdom suggests, should be limited love," writes Knapp, in an excerpt from her best-selling book "Pack of Two." "Let on the depth of your true feelings about a dog -- how attached you are, how vital the relationship feels -- and risk being accused of any number of neuroses ..."
Not all the stories are about people besotted with their canine companions, of course. Some are even written by people who don't like dogs -- but with children who felt strongly otherwise. Other stories address what the relationship between humans and dogs means, and how it has changed, for better and for worse.
Work of this quality, not incidentally, is the hallmark of The Bark, a magazine that serves no one but dogs and those who love them, as opposed to most pet-themed magazines, which exist primarily for their advertisers. The magazine is $15 per year for five issues. Order on the Web (www.thebark.com), by phone (toll-free 1-877-227-5639), or by mail (2810 Eighth St., Berkeley, CA 94710).
Calming cats after veterinary visit
A trip to the veterinarian can send a cat into a full-blown snit that can last hours after the return home. The smells of a veterinary setting can even set off other feline family members, who may become aggressive toward the returnee.
Let your cat pick the speed at which he settles back into the household after a trip to the veterinarian. When you get home, put the carrier down in a quiet place, open the carrier door and leave him alone. Your cat may stay in the carrier for a while, may head for the nearest bed to hide under, or may step out and be just fine.
To help "de-vet" the scent of the returnee so other family cats will settle down, try running a towel over the cat who stayed behind and then swiping it over the returning cat.
(Pet Rx is provided by the Veterinary Information Network (VIN.com), an online service for veterinary professionals. More information can be found at www.veterinarypartner.com.)
Gina Spadafori is the award-winning author of "Dogs for Dummies," "Cats for Dummies" and "Birds for Dummies." She is also affiliated with the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international online service for veterinary professionals. Write to her in care of this newspaper, or send e-mail to email@example.com. You can also read her frequently updated Web log or view her column archives at www.spadafori.com.
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