Monday, June 14, 2010

Reflections on Calgary

I am back at work after a fantastic 12-day vacation in Calgary. The highlight for sure was quality time spent with our daughter Yana, especially the trip to my most favorite of all places traveled: World Heritage site Waterton, AB. The weather was great, sunny and warm – a perfect “I wish I could bottle” day.
I did a LOT of shopping - for me, Yana and Mike and the girls.
My friend Doris, who owns Pet Life and Country Paws in Cochrane AB, has an awesome and affordable selection of perfectly sized, nutritious training treats and I stocked up on that.
I found fermented yak milk chews from Nepal at my friend Holly’s natural Tailblazer pet store, and this very funny Australian Shepherd license plate I bought at my friends Kim and Paula's “Hairy Barkers” store.
Both were at the CAPPDT tradeshow. I also bought a book there Steve White recommended, and I will blog about that after I read it.
I like Steve White. He is such an entertaining speaker; approachable and positive, and proves that even police dogs can be trained without pain and intimidation. I attended his communication and chaining sessions on one day, and his tracking workshop the next and really liked that one. His tracking, or trailing, method is completely different than Frans Baars, who was our instructor in Canmore AB a few years ago. I liked his method, too, and gave it a whole chapter in my book, but will explore Steve White’s some more this fall when my planned structured nose work workshop takes place in the HRM.

The CAPPDT conference was well attended, about 200 people and many young and beginner trainers. Some of the more seasoned association members are expressing their excitement about upcoming shock-collar seminars in their area; there appears to be a bit of a philosophical rift within the organization, so I was glad to see so many new trainers interested in a less balanced, and more positive approach to dog training. I’m curious to see the line-up of speakers for next year’s conference in TO, although I don’t plan to attend that one.

I was able to visit with a few canine friends as well, all seniors now. Ramona’s heeler cross Rudy, and Reri’s chow cross Rufus, were overjoyed to see me – and proved that dogs do have long-term memory. Laura’s amazing rescue Lab Bailey is still around at age 13 ½ and I met her new dog Keeper, a 2 ½ year-old German shepherd, who is so goofy and friendly and treated me like an old friend.
Ramona and I spent 5 hours walking her 6 dogs in Bowmont Park, which is a multiuse large area in Calgary’s northwest, along the Bow River. It used to be all off-leash, unofficially anyway, but now only a small, fenced-in space adjacent to the parking lot remains. Calgary officials boast that they have the most designated off-leash parks in Canada, but the fact is that leash freedom on the beautiful trails disappeared, including access to the Bow River where dogs liked to cool off and swim. Of the 139 off-leash parks, most are the typical squares of boring dusty land that are so common in North America.
Bill Bruce, the Director for Animal Services and Bylaws in Calgary, was a guest speaker at the conference. I didn’t see him and chose a marketing session instead, but did listen to an interview clip with him on CBC radio one. Apparently the reported dog bite incidents dramatically dropped in Calgary, and Bill Bruce contributes that to their “Responsible Dog Owner” program that took the place of the “Animal Control” program. In reality it means quick-issued dangerous dog labels and heavy fines, both of which entices owners to take managing their dogs seriously.
The bite levels dropped even though Calgary does not have a breed ban bylaw. I’d be interested to find out how that compares to, let say Toronto, who does have one.

So, I really, really enjoyed being back in Alberta, but am also happy to be here in Nova Scotia. Davie, Will and I are grateful to have Shubie, Point Pleasant and Long Lake parks, the many wonderful beaches, and woodlots in our neighborhood we can enjoy restraint free, just like Bowmont Park used to be.
Of course the prerequisite for off-leash fun is a reliable recall. Before I left I announced a couple of posts on that topic. The first will be up by week's end.


  1. Hi Silvia

    Nice to have you back and I'm glad you had a great vacation. Another wonderful dog walk that I don't think many people are aware of are the trails at the Uniacke House Museum in Mount Uniacke. The trails are beautiful and go through the woods and around the lakes. You need to keep your dog on leash around the museum and parking lot, but it seems to be no problem once you are off on the trails to let them off leash.

    I had my girls in PPP on the week-end and a couple from Victoria, BC commented on how wonderful it was that we had so many off-leash areas in HRM. They said there were not many off-leash places in Victoria. We really are very fortunate so I hope everyone brushes up on their off leash manners for the summer season as it would be very sad to lose any of these privileges.

  2. Thanks for the tip, Marjorie. We'll be there sometime.
    I found that Nova Scotians are much more tolerant of off leash dogs in areas that are not designated either way. In Calgary it used to be tolerated as well, but now every area not specifically marked as off-leash is considered on-leash and not just the city, but the public as well, is anal even with the best behaved leash free dogs.