Welcome to Collingswood: Dogs Are Mandatory

OK, not really. But it's really hard to live without them. Right, Fritzi Lopez and Bob?

Philadelphia didn’t make the list for best city to own a dog. Philly doesn’t have as many dog parks, or as many funny people as Portland, who won.

I’m sure however, that if Collingswood was a city and not a borough, we would have made the list. In Collingswood, same-sex and bi-racial couples are non-issues. We have every color, ethnicity, and economic level. But owning a dog seems almost mandatory for residency.

When friends from New York, Philly, or even Cherry Hill come to visit, they remark on 1) how many people are out walking; and 2) how many people are walking their dogs. Cass Duffey, director of Community Development, thinks canine residents are as much a part of the community as the humans. “In fact, at almost every event I photograph, I get four legged friends as part of the action,” she said.

I owned my beloved Blaze, part collie, part Chow, for the past 14 years, all spent in Collingswood. My boyfriend and his boxer, Xena, moved in with us six years ago and the dogs got along as well as we do. Xena died suddenly of a heart attack last November. In early March, we had to make the agonizing decision to put Blaze down, after, at age 18, he lost use of his hind legs, and most of his hearing and sight.

We were logical. We were strong. We cried until we couldn’t cry anymore. We felt we needed a psychic break and we would wait to get a dog until fall when trips were over and we were on more of a schedule. But, we live in Collingswood.

I found myself quite literally almost driving the car into telephone poles when a dog I admired caught my eye. The problem is, I live in Collingswood; there are a lot of dogs, and I was drawn to them all.

We know that Americans, in general, are obsessed with their pets. We spent $41 billion on pets; $310 million on Halloween costumes alone. Books abound on all dog-related topics and subtopics, including our obsession, and hundreds and hundreds of coffee table photo album books, my favorite being Underwater Dogs(which is exactly what you think it is: photos of dogs underwater). Of course books on every aspect of training are available, and all have what seem to me absurdly long titles, like:  Train Your Dog Positively: Understand Your Dog and Solve Common Behavior Problems Including Separation Anxiety. There’s as much conflicting advice in methodologies as there is for parents.

Dating sites for dog lovers make a lot of sense (more sense than the MANY dating sites for people who think they are vampires—yeah, there’s more than one).  The spokeperson for one such site  is a winner of a season of Survivor, wearing a cami and holding a big photo of her dog’s head, rendering her, at first glance, naked. Both dogs and sex sell.

I think you are much better off knowing if your prospective partner is a cat person, a dog person, or a why-would-anyone-have a pet person.

The passion with which people will defend their love or hate knows no bounds. I hate cats, though I own one for its function: We don’t get mice. I love dogs, but do think people sometimes overstep boundaries on where they take their dogs. Collingswood’s Farmers Market is a lovely way to start your weekend, and take your dog, especially when it’s walking weather, but folks should know if their dog is a yapper, growler, and for the most part, Colls residents seem to know when and where to bring their pooches.

The Farmers Market is so dog friendly that they’ve had a dog treat bakery for several years now, and a special guest vendor, “Hand and Paw Massage” will be showing up at least three times this season.

We couldn’t make it to fall. We didn’t even make it through the beginning of summer. This past weekend we went to visit a friend of a friend whose dog had had puppies: we came home with two: Fritzi Lopez and Bob. I’m still not quite sure what happened, but I plan on taking them to the Farmers Market on Saturday, so I can feel like a real Collingswood resident again.