Edmonton? You ask. Isn’t it in Canada? Isn’t it cold there for nine months of the year? Who wants to go there? The short answers to these questions are: yes, well… yes, and YOU want to go. Or you will, once you have finished reading this post. Once I am through with you, you will not only rush to cast your vote for the largest city north of the 53rd parallel in Go Pet Friendly’s Annual Tournament, you will also be rushing your dog to the car to make the drive up here.
Not too long ago, I would have shared your disbelief. Edmonton is in Alberta – despite spending 15 years of my life here, the prairie province is not my favourite place. I envisioned a lot of sky and a lot of brown grass and not much else. As you can see from the picture above, this vision was very wrong.
However, there was another, more serious reason to avoid the home of North America’s largest mall. Not too long ago, Edmonton’s by-laws contained a nasty little feature, anathema to all true dog-lovers: B.S.L.
Yeah… Not good. Though pit bull type dogs were never disallowed within city limits, before October 17, 2012 they were considered a “restricted breed” and had to be muzzled in public, along with a whole bunch of other ridiculous regulations. When these laws were in place, there was no way I would have considered moving here with Shiva. It was just too big of a risk.
But all this changed in the fall of 2012. After years of campaigning by a supportive and dog-loving community, Edmonton City Council voted to abolish all legislation specific to certain breeds or appearance of breeds. The animal control by-laws are now much more reasonable and fair and welcome dogs of all shapes, sizes, and heads. I consider this a huge point in the city’s favour. After all, it was the community that made this happen. The people and organizations who made it clear they did not support such discriminatory laws. If the movement hadn’t been so strong and so logical, the council would never have voted to chuck the laws out. This tells me Edmonton is a city with its priorities straight.
Edmonton may be known as the City of Champions but I think it should be known as the City that Loves its Pets.
Here is an even better example of dog love:
Shiva is a bit of a bratface. She can be a bit obnoxious on a leash, especially when encountering strangers who stare her down or other dogs who do the same. Despite this, despite her trying to leap on the backs of neighbourhood joggers, I have yet to face a negative reaction to her behaviour. The people here seem to understand that dogs are dogs and sometimes they do rude things. No one has yelled at me for Shiva urinating on a bush on public property – which happened several times in Halifax - and when Shiva loses her cool at the end of her leash, the other dog owners often apologize to me.
Now that is class.
Is that not enough to send you voting? It looks like I am going to have to get to the quick and the dirty.
1. Edmonton is home to many wonderful patios that welcome dogs with open arms. This local bakery several blocks up from our house is just one example. In warmer weather, just several days ago in fact, the brick path is covered in tables and chairs where dogs are invited to join their handlers in a freshly-baked lunch. The counter has a basket of dog cookies by the till and the staff members are so friendly, one of them even agreed to watch Shiva while my PH nipped inside for a coffee. She also didn’t hesitate to sneak our puppy a cinnamon twist while they waited. How is that for service?
2. Dog parks. Edmonton has 41 off leash spaces within city limits. 41! I mean, really, you’ll never run out of options, no matter where you are.
3. Edmonton’s Downtown Farmer’s Market moves outside from late spring to mid-fall and is completely pet friendly. One of my favourite things to do during the warmer months is browse for yummy local snacks while breed-spotting at the market.
4. Edmonton is within driving distance of six – six! – of Canada’s gorgeous National Parks, all of which are pet friendly. From Jasper to Elk Island to Waterton Lakes, there is no shortage of extravagant scenery or mountain trails to explore with your canine pal.
5. Sure, yeah, Edmonton gets snow. You know what it doesn’t get? Rain. Since we moved here in July, I think it has rained about five times. And I don’t mean five days, five times. This includes a light sprinkle overnight. Most dogs love rolling in the white stuff. Very few dogs love a drenching downpour.
6. Being further north than most other cities in North America, Edmonton benefits from extra hours of sunlight in the spring time. In mid-June, the sun rises before five am and starts to set long after ten o’clock at night. This is a whole lot of extra dog walking time.
7. Edmonton is home to some very nice hotels. Many of them are pet friendly. When we first moved here, we had yet to arrange a permanent place to live. Though our current home was found in short order, the hotel staff at a very comfortable chain downtown were more than accommodating. It was just what my PH needed after his long drive across the country. They smiled every time we walked in the door and never batted an eye when Shiva barked at fellow guests. I am so grateful they gave us a place to rest while we got our bearings. Shiva and The Cat enjoyed it too.
8. This one may seem vain, but can I just say, Whyte Avenue in Edmonton is a wicked ego boost. All I have to do is walk down this happening busy street with Shiva by my side for five minutes and my confidence glimmers. Edmontonian hipsters cannot resist a dog. Every single person we pass either smiles in her direction or stops to gush over how cute and well-behaved she is. They don’t even need to pet her, they are willing to love her from a distance.
9. Edmonton is also the city of festivals, many of which are dog friendly. My favourite so far is Ice on Whyte, an annual ice carving festival within walking distance of our home. This is one event worth braving the cold with your mutt.
10. Edmonton has all the feel and action of a big city without the expensive price tag. Alberta has no provincial sales tax and Edmonton’s hotel, food, and beverage rates are notably lower than other major Canadian cities. If you want a cool place to go that won’t cost a fortune, Alberta’s capital is a great choice.
11. I’ve said it before but I know I need to say it again: Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River Valley is the largest green space in North America, 22 times the size of Central Park in New York. All of this is dog friendly. I dare you to walk all 93 miles of trail space.
If you aren’t convinced yet that Edmonton is an amazing place to be a dog, then I guess there is nothing more I can say. This city has surprised me in its openness and its greenery. Even when covered in ice it is pretty dang gorgeous. I hope you’ll come visit one day. But more, I hope you’ll vote for my city in Go Pet Friendly’s Best City For Pet Traveler’s Tournament.
Shiva would lick you for it.