How dog friendly is your town?

Jessica at My Imperfect Dog reflected on how dog friendly her city was, and it made me start thinking about our town.

Hiking at Shenandoah
Hiking near Shenandoah National Park with Silas.

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.

Out with the girls
The girls on the river trail near our home, which winds for 33 miles through the city.

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?

All cooped up

Looking for Hurricane Sandy.

Hope all of my fellow East Coasters are safe and dry today, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The devastation in the northeast corridor of the country is just unreal. We were fine here in Virginia, although I know that many in the state are still without power. Our city somewhat unnecessarily shut down yesterday, so Guion and I were both off of work and we had the day to stay inside to read, drink tea, and watch inordinate amounts of TV.

Staying inside all day wasn’t that relaxing for poor Pyrrha, however. She was pretty antsy. The wind and almost constant cold rain meant that her visits outside were fairly short. She doesn’t seem to mind the rain that much, however — patrolling for her cat nemesis is far too engaging to worry about some drizzle. The rest of the week here is supposed to clear up, however, so I hope to take her on some much-needed long walks.

If you were in the path of the storm, how did you and your pups fare? Hope you are all well!

Stay safe!

Choices! Help me make one.

OK, so I really don’t need to make a choice right now. Because I still have 10 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days until I can get a dog. But who’s counting?!

But today I’m caught in a tri-lemma between three beautiful breeds: the Australian shepherd, the German shepherd, and the rough collie. I want all of these dogs, of course, but I can’t determine which one is best for our lifestyle and our household. Should we try to get a purebred puppy? Should we go through a breed rescue agency? Should we just get a mutt and be done with it? I’m trying to keep feelings out of this, but that’s a silly thing to try to do when faced with puppies.

These are the unproductive thoughts that are running through my head:

A handsome Aussie in black and white. Source: Flickr user lee


  • Raising a beautiful puppy from the ground up.
  • There are many reputable Aussie breeders in Virginia that I’ve already been in touch with and am still planning on visiting this summer and fall.
  • More solid health guarantees, if we go with one of these reputable breeders.
  • Even some temperament guarantees, if we can meet the parents.


  • The world does not need more purebreds.
  • Expensive. We can afford one, but still: It’s a lot to pay for a companion/pet-quality dog.


  • You’re rescuing a dog who really needs a home!


  • There are rarely any purebred Aussies who need rescuing in this area. (Unless you count that handsome, small blue merle who came into CASPCA a week or so ago.)
  • You have less knowledge about the dog’s background and previous behavioral issues when adopting an adult.
  • This might be incorrect, but I feel like abandoned Aussies require a lot more rehab than other abandoned breeds. They’re usually surrendered for hyperactivity, sensitivity, or other behavioral problems, more so than other breeds (who are surrendered when owners die, move away, etc.).

General thoughts and concerns about getting an Aussie: Am I crazy to think that I could handle an Aussie? I know I grew up with one, but she didn’t have a very happy ending. My biggest fear right now is that our Aussie will be excessively barky and get us evicted from our new house. But I’ve always wanted an Aussie. This is my breed. These are my dogs. I would feel some betrayal to my life’s purpose if I didn’t get one. I know that’s totally ridiculous. Am I being too idealistic and not really thinking practically about whether I could handle this kind of dog? I need someone to tell me what to do.

A wise German shepherd. Source: Flickr, user idog~


  • Raising a beautiful puppy from the ground up.
  • If you can find a reputable GSD breeder, you may be able to carefully avoid a lot of the genetic health issues that plague the breed.
  • Perhaps some additional temperament guarantees.


  • The world does not need more purebreds.
  • A lot of the Virginian GSD breeders strike me as kind of scary and really serious.
  • Most of the reputable Virginia GSD breeders I’ve seen are breeding dogs from European lines for schutzhund competitions.
  • For the reasons above, GSDs I’ve seen in Virginia are extremely expensive (much more than reputably-bred companion-type Aussies).


  • You’re rescuing a dog who really needs a home!
  • There are two active GSD rescue groups in Virginia that seem to have a steady supply of beautiful, healthy-looking dogs (and if they’re not healthy, they tell you so).


  • You don’t know about the hidden health problems this dog may have. This is an especially big risk with a purebred GSD who came from who-knows-where.
  • Latent temperament or behavior problems are also more uncertain.
  • I’m inexperienced with this breed and I’m anxious about the task of rehabilitating an adult GSD.

General thoughts and concerns about getting a GSD: These dogs intimidate me, but I really want one. It’s probably not smart to go into a relationship with a dog when you’re predisposed to be intimidated by it. My life plan is to get a purebred Aussie puppy first, learn how to raise a dog in general, and then rescue an adult GSD. But is that a bad life plan? I don’t know. Should I just jump headfirst into it and adopt an adult GSD? I feel like a purebred GSD is out of our range right now. These dogs are the consummate canine athletes and brainiacs. They can do anything and I feel like they need to be taken very seriously to ensure a happy, well-adjusted life.

A tricolor rough collie. Source: Flickr, user helen246


  • Raising a beautiful puppy from the ground up.
  • Similar advantages of having a reputable breeder who has avoided passing on Collie Eye Anomaly and other serious genetic defects.
  • Better guarantees of a pup’s temperament if the parents are available.


  • The world does not need more purebreds.
  • There is only one collie breeder that I can find in Virginia and one in Maryland. They do not breed often and puppies are often very hard to come by.
  • Due to the increasing rarity of the breed, puppies will be quite expensive.


  • You’re rescuing a dog who really needs a home!
  • I was thrilled to find a great collie rescue agency in Virginia. They have a lovely selection of young and adult dogs who need homes.
  • Less expensive and more readily available than a purebred puppy.


  • Fear of hereditary disorders or serious health defects showing up later in life.
  • As with the other rescues, less certainty about the dog’s background and temperament.

General thoughts and concerns about getting a collie: Is it cruel to own a rough collie in the southeast? Will the dog die of heat stroke with all that hair? I think this is why I’d be inclined to get a female, if only for the lesser mane. (I did see a rough collie in Charlottesville once, though, and he looked happy.) I know even less about rough collies than I do about GSDs, having never interacted with one in person, but I’m taken with them in general appearance and temperament. They’re like the bubbly, more low-key herding dogs. The retrievers of the shepherds, if you will (and I will). I’m so generally naive about this breed that I’m not sure if it would be wise to have my first dog be a collie. But they sound very user-friendly and adaptable, much more than even an Aussie, perhaps.

OK! Help me make a decision. Go! I only have 10 months to make up my mind!

Breed Love: Anatolian shepherd

Howard's Turk, R.I.P.
The majestic Anatolian shepherd. Source: Flickr, user mahaldo

I think I started noticing these gorgeous dogs because I was always searching for information on Australian shepherds, and Anatolian shepherds usually come right before them in any alphabetical listing. I suppose that’s a silly reason for gaining interest in a breed, but after I started reading about them, I became quite enamored with these regal working dogs.

From what little I do know about them, Anatolian shepherds come from Turkey, where they work with farmers to guard and maintain the flocks. They are still a relatively rare breed in the United States; the American Kennel Club officially recognized them in 1996. I’ve been lucky enough to see a few Anatolians in person. A champion breeder, who won best of breed at Westminster a few years ago, happens to live nearby and I’ve seen a few of these giant, noble dogs walking around town. Today, many Anatolian shepherds are working dogs on large farms.

Anatolian shepherd in field. Source: Flickr, user: mudranch

Although I haven’t personally interacted with Anatolians, my understanding of their temperament is that they tend to be strong-willed and independent, as guard dogs tend to be. Like the Great Pyrenees, Anatolians should possess strong territorial instincts about their flocks–be it sheep or people. They tend to be calm dogs who are somewhat reserved around strangers.

Because of their size and temperament, I don’t think I’d consider getting an Anatolian shepherd until I lived on a true farm. I’m also particularly interested in doing obedience and agility with my future dog, which makes the Anatolian’s ability to make decisions on its own not especially desirable. But I definitely harbor a fondness for these beautiful dogs and hope to have the chance to interact with some soon.

Anatolian shepherd links:

Pup links!

Grace Kelly and an equally glamorous poodle. Source: B for Bonnie

Dog-related things that have interested me on the Web this week…

Can Virginia Be a No-Kill State? My local SPCA, where I volunteer, was featured in the Virginia Dog magazine for its inspiring work in establishing a no-kill shelter. (SPCA Community Blog)

Safe Harbor Prison Dogs. I think programs like this one are just incredible. Safe Harbor sends 100 dogs from high-kill shelters to the inmates at Lansing Correctional Facility, where the inmates train and care for the dogs. What a wonderful idea for rehabilitation for man and dog. These photo portraits of the pairs are very moving. (Dog Milk)

Find and a Dog Who Looks Just Like You! Doggelganger. I haven’t tried this yet, but this sounds hilarious. (Pawesome)

Look Alikes! In a similar vein, do you think these people look like their dogs? Or are they just skilled at imitating canine body language? (Pawsh Magazine)

DIY $5 Rope Dog Leash. Remember that really expensive rope leash I fell in love with? Ammo’s mama shows you how to make one for $5. Sweet! Will be trying this. (Ammo the Dachshund)

A Skill that Could Save Your Dog’s Life: Leave It. A dog trainer explains how to teach this important command. (Dog Training Secret)

Jonathan Adler Dog Collars and Leashes. Posh! (A.G. Out Loud)

Going Camping. My dad loved bringing Emma on our family camping trips, and I think Emma loved coming along, too. This post certainly made me antsy to go camping with my own future pooch. (Miles to Style)

Morning on the Hill. These are such deep, lovely photographs of a quiet morning with a Great Pyrenees. S/he looks so loving and gentle. (La Porte Rouge)

Also, I’m officially a member of the Pet Blog Directory!