Jessica at My Imperfect Dog reflected on how dog friendly her city was, and it made me start thinking about our town.
We live in Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia, Monticello, softly rolling mountains, artists, rich old people, and a plethora of bookstores. It’s kind of my dream town, and we are loath to ever leave (particularly now that we’ve put such serious roots down by buying our first home). But what’s it like to live here as a dog?
If I could ask the dogs, I would, but I’d give Charlottesville 5 out of 5 stars in a dog-friendly rating. It’s a progressive place to raise a dog.
What makes Charlottesville dog friendly?
- Lots of hiking and great trails throughout the city. Specifically, a river runs through most of the city, and there’s 33-mile-long trail that winds along the river and conveniently picks up near our home.
- Shenandoah National Park is about a 45-minute to hour-long drive away. Hiking dog heaven! And beautiful vistas. We don’t visit as often as we should.
- Many parks, including three off-leash dog parks. We don’t partake in dog parks ourselves, for a number of reasons, but there are decent offerings in town for those who do.
- The dog-friendly pedestrian mall downtown. There are always TONS of dogs on the Downtown Mall, and lots of al fresco dining options, so your pups can eat out with you (if you happen to have super-chill dogs, unlike us).
- Many pet stores. We have the big chains (PetSmart and PetCo), but we also have great local pet businesses, like a discount pet food store and an all-natural pet supplies boutique.
- A plethora of veterinarians. However, I have found that some of the most respected vets tend to be out of the city limits, so we take a hike to see our vet.
- Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA. This is a regionally respected SPCA for their work in providing a happy, humane, clean environment for animals. Thanks in part to generous donations from our local celebrity residents (e.g., Sissy Spacek), CASPCA was also able to become a no-kill shelter. I volunteered here for almost a year before we adopted Pyrrha, and it was a very pleasant experience. Once you’ve seen what a county animal shelter looks like, you really begin to appreciate how luxe the accommodations are at CASPCA. They take very good care of the animals, even though they are still often strapped for time and resources.
- A great dog trainer. I, of course, think that our trainer, Deven Gaston at Canine Campus, is the best! There are several other positive trainers in town. And there are some shock collar trainers. So. Options.
- Dog owners in the city, for the most part, respect leash laws. As the guardian of a reactive dog, I really appreciate this. This does not hold true out in the county, but I imagine that’s true anywhere that you’ll find an urban/country divide (country dogs rarely, if ever, wear leashes; city dogs need them).
I think the general dog culture here is also very interesting. Charlottesville has an interesting mix of middle-aged liberals, college students, and rich old people. This demographic combination results in a rescue-focused and generally progressive dog-raising population.
Most people I know have rescue dogs. Come to think of it, I believe all of my dog-owning friends in town have rescues. I’d venture that people who don’t get rescues and instead buy a purebred puppy may even be looked down on (which, of course, is also not great).
But because of the pockets of substantial wealth, I have also seen more rare dog breeds in Charlottesville than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. I’ve seen, just to name a few: leonbergers, a berger picard, a Bedlington terrier, borzoi, a Dandie Dinmont terrier, a black Russian terrier, Anatolian shepherds (there’s a breeder not far from town)… It’s kind of exciting for a big dog breed nerd like myself. (The woman who was walking the berger picard was just astounded that I knew her dog’s breed; she said I was the only person who’d ever guessed it correctly. I beamed.)
Venturing out in the surrounding country, you have a lot of hounds. So many hounds. Many of these hounds end up at the SPCA, usually having been separated from the pack during a hunting expedition. CASPCA is filled to the brim with hounds year round (usually large coonhound-, foxhound-type hounds). They run seasonal specials on hounds just to get them adopted. They are such sweet, gentle dogs, but they can be hard to place; they’re large, they’re not especially cute, they often have fear issues, and then there’s the baying. But I always have hope for the hounds.
That’s my best summation of Charlottesville for dog lovers and owners. All in all, I don’t have many complaints!
How dog friendly is your town? What is the canine culture like where you live?