I recently moved to Indianapolis, known as the "Motor Capital of the World," and annual host of the world's largest single-day sporting event, the Indianapolis 500, held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For many, the mere mention of Indianapolis conjures up cars-race cars, specifically.
However, I’ve begun to think of Indianapolis as the ‘Dog City.' Several magazines, such as Travel and Leisure, Forbes, and City Dog Magazine, to name a few, have ranked U.S. cities, with the largest dog population, and those that are the most "dog friendly." I don’t know if the lists are exhaustive, or if they include every big city in America, but there do seem to be a certain set of criteria by which to rate these cities.
Here in Indianapolis, I rarely pass a pedestrian (during dog-walking hours), who is sans a dog (or two or three). I have four dogs, so naturally, I appear to be (and am often assumed to be) a professional dog walker. I could be, and at one time considered the profession. But although I love dogs, and all animals, I’m not just sure I want to take on any dog. Much like caring for someone's child, this is a huge responsibility.
I wish I had written down every comment I’ve received in years past while walking my four dogs. Maybe a little unusual, my dogs kind of match. I have two Chihuahuas and two Whippets. While the Chi’s don’t look alike, my one Whippet and one Chihuahua could be twins. Coloring is the same, and disposition. The second Chi-a black/white female kind of matches my older Whippet, also black/white, much like a cow. In fact, one day a woman stopped me, climbed out of her minivan and laughing, asked if I adopted this Whippet and Chi on purpose!
Back to my point. I did a little research about dogs in general, and dog-friendly cities, and this is what I discovered:
Dogs began to appear in the U.S. anywhere between 9,000-35,000 years ago. Crossing from Siberia to Alaska, this is when domestication began. They started racing in 1919, after the opening of a Greyhound racetrack in Emeryville, CA. The dog population experienced relative stability from 1987-96 before seeing a yearly increase of 3-4 percent since that time.
In 2000, there were 68 million dogs in the U.S., and in 2010, the estimate grew to 75 million, with about 40 percent of American households owning a dog. While I'm not sure what the number of canine pets are in Indianapolis, or if they even keep track, it sure seems like a lot.
Twelve states have designated an official state dog breed; Maryland being the first to designate one as a state symbol (Chesapeake Bay Retriever), in 1964. The most friendly dog cities, no matter who is estimating, seem to be the same, and include San Francisco, Denver, San Diego, Minneapolis, Tucson, New York City, Albuquerque and Las Vegas; not necessarily in that order.
According to www.barkspot.com, Indianapolis is number 81 out of the top 100 cities that are dog-friendly. SmartAsset.com analyzed data on several measures of wag-worthy cities in the U.S., citing San Francisco as number one. The criteria often used to rate these dog-friendly cities includes dog accessiblity, dog-friendly shopping areas and restaurants, and quality of life.
Other cities that appear on various dog-friendliest cities lists include Austin, TX, Chicago, IL, Colorado Springs, CO, Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, and Boston (www.dogtime.com). At www.booking.com, ratings also include the friendliest dog cities throughout the world. Often on those lists are such places as Keswick, UK, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and Tel Aviv, Israel-where there is one dog for every 17 people.
Every year, Petsmart holds a contest for the most worthy dog park in the U.S. One of seven chosen this year, Raleigh, N.C.'s Millbrook Exchange Dog Park was in second place behind Indianapolis' Broad Ripple Dog Park for much of the contest. After rallying, they moved into first place, inching out Indy's park.
The contest is sponsored by Beneful, a dog food brand owned by Nestle Purina Petcare. Competing with the seven other dog parks, Raleigh's Millwork ended up the winner, receiving a makeover worth $30,000, in addition to $5,000 in a park equipment donation, and hands-on volunteer support from the Beneful Dream Dog Park team.
Other cities competing in the contest included Atlanta, Dallas, Kansas City, Milwaukee and Oklahoma City.
So, even though Indianapolis wasn’t the top vote-getter in PetSmart's contest, the organizers were struck by Indy residents’ enthusiasm and decided to give the city a $15,000 donation anyway, according to contest spokeswoman Nicholle Lyons.
Obviously, Indy's love for dogs shines through to onlookers, seeing them as a worthy contender.
We know it. We see it everyday, walking the streets of Indy. My four dogs and I!
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