Gen Y Dogma: Adapting Your Big City Lifestyle To Make Room For Puppy

There are perks to living in a big city… but do they translate when you have a dog? Christina Peden thinks so – it’s all in the way you look at it. She, her boyfriend and her dog live in the urban jungle and they make it work. But there are changes you’re going to have to make to accommodate your pooch if you live in a big city. Christina goes through a few of them, as well as some things you should consider.

Adjusting to dog ownership can be quite the ‘culture shock’ when you live in a large city, at least that’s what Ryan and I found when we adopted Matilda. We live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, a city of almost 6 million people. When you`re a dog-less urban dweller, you definitely get used to living your life in a certain way, so besides the changes a dog will bring to your relationship as a couple, he or she will also change the relationship you have with your city. And that`s what this week`s column is all about. Behold, the many things you and your partner will start (and stop) doing once you introduce a dog to your big-city lifestyle:

  1. Spend a lot more time at the park

MatildaBeachI think most city dwellers enjoy getting as much time as possible around green space (like, you know, trees and grass) because we’re normally surrounded by so much concrete jungle! And while park hangouts have always been one of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday afternoon, now, the park thing is pretty much mandatory. Ryan and I are lucky to live within walking distance of a bunch of excellent parks and Lake Ontario, so it’s great for Matilda — she loves playing with other dogs or going for a dip in the lake. Even if you do happen to be the most diehard urbanite ever and avoid the great outdoors like the plague, you’re going to have to do the park thing. Like, daily.

  1. … And less time on a patio downing drinks (but it’s not a bad thing)

Hey, I love an ice cold cocktail or beer on the patio as much as anyone, but let’s face it — this is one summer activity that can be costly for your wallet and your waistline. It can be easy, on Friday night after work, to meet up with friends or co-workers for a drink and wile away the hours … and before you know it, it’s almost midnight and you’re turning into a pumpkin. When you have a dog, this doesn’t really happen anymore. You’ve got to get home to feed your pooch — and walk her and spend some quality time with her. And you look forward to it, too; it’s not like it’s a burden (and if you think it would be, I don’t recommend dog ownership). When you and your partner do hit up the patio, it’ll be for a much shorter time than before — you’ve got a fur-kid waiting for you at home!

  1. Learn which stores (and patios) are dog friendly

It’s not something you ever would have noticed before getting a dog, but once you’ve crossed that canine line, you’ll start to notice the ‘signs’ everywhere you go. Sometimes, there’s an actual sign that says ‘Dog Friendly’ on the store window. Other times, there’s a big communal water dish set outside for your canine companion (also another indication that they’re probably welcome inside, too). If we don’t see either of these things, we generally assume that there’s a ‘no dogs allowed’ policy, and one of us will wait outside with Matilda. While a lot of stores, especially smaller downtown boutiques, are dog friendly, most patios are not (at least in our city). Not because restaurant owners are puppy-hating scrooges, but because there are by-laws about animals not being on the premises where food is being served. That said, we do occasionally find a place that will allow Matilda if we’re setting at the edge of the patio and she stays right next to us. It definitely pays to ask.

  1. Start walking — everywhere

MatildaOnTTCChances are if you live in decent-sized city, you probably do a lot of schlepping around town on foot already, even if you have a passable public transit system (which we do in Toronto, though many days I feel this is debateable!). When you get a dog, get ready to do a whole lot more activities on foot! If we’re going somewhere that requires a 10-minute walk or more, we usually take Matilda. Since we don’t have a backyard, every little bit of exercise she gets is important. We already walk her twice a day, but if she can get out more than that? Even better. Matilda will travel on the streetcar for a short time, but any more than about 15 minutes and she starts to get antsy. So generally, we walk. And if we need to get the other side of the city with the dog, we use a car sharing service like ZipCar or Car2Go.

  1. You’ll take the stairs a lot more than you used to

When you live in an apartment, you generally don’t have a backyard. If you’re lucky, you have a balcony. Currently, we have neither. We live in a second floor walk-up (a.k.a. no elevator!), so that means multiple trips up and down the stairs per day so Matilda can answer nature`s call. And trust me — it’s not fun in the pouring rain or in the middle of a snow storm, but it’s gotta be done. (For anyone who’s wondering: if we leave Matilda at home for any longer than a couple hours, we’ll still put a pee pad down. We don’t want her to be crossing her legs in agony until we get home).

  1. Consider moving (to a place with a yard)

Because yeah, you do get sick of constantly going up and down the stairs, and you want an outdoor space (besides the dog park) where your canine companion can roam free and expend some energy. Our current apartment has everything we could possibly want… except outdoor space. And while our two-bedroom, two-storey place is great deal in a cool neighborhood, we’re definitely willing to give it up so Matilda can have a yard run around in. It might mean downsizing our indoor living space in exchange for a garden, but it’s worth it when there’s a dog involved. (Not to say you can’t have a happy dog with a balcony or patio; of course you can — but Matilda loves to run and we want to give her the space for that). So if you get a dog, be prepared for the fact that you may have to make some difficult decisions you might not have otherwise made.

christinamatildaChristina Peden is a lifelong animal lover and avid wordsmith. She lives in Toronto with her boyfriend Ryan where they are proud pet parents to puppy, Matilda and cat, Oscar. In her spare time, she can be found enjoying Toronto, Canada’s all-too-short patio season, taking advantage of the city’s numerous parks or curled up with a good book.


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