I love dogs as much as the next person. Indeed, like so many of us, I grew up with them.
My family has dogs and I love visiting them too.
What I have noticed in visiting them in Gibsons and West Vancouver is that my sisters are careful to manage the dogs and the people who approach them. The dogs are leashed in public places (including parks and beaches unless in the roam-free zone) and under control.
Whistler—not so much.
I was struck recently, as I enjoyed a coffee on the Village Stroll near the playground at Olympic Plaza, by the proliferation of puppies, and by the casual way non-dog owners let their kids just walk up to any dog.
One dad allowed his toddler daughter to just walk up to a shepherd-cross dog and put her face and hands right into the leashed dog's face. The responsible owner was there right away and explained that while their dog was kid-friendly, many dogs are not.
Minutes later, a rambunctious collie of some description ran wild and free through the playground chasing everyone, tail wagging, while a teen ran laughing behind it waving the leash.
In its wake? Three knocked-over and now-bawling little kids. Thank goodness for the rubber-mat ground cover in this location. (Never a bylaw officer around when you need one.)
Finishing up my coffee, I headed for the drug store where I had to carefully approach the front door as a massive dog leashed to the bench was wandering up and down outside the automatic doors lunging for the entrance to reach its master every time the portal opened.
I was done with dogs for the day I thought.
But it was a beautiful day, so later that afternoon I set off for a walk along the Valley Trail, a quick loop of the Whistler Golf Club and down to Rainbow for a quick foot paddle before dinner.
Now, clearly, dogs were on my mind after my observations in the morning, so that likely made me super sensitive to the 12 doggie-poop bags abandoned along my Valley Trail route. For all I know, that is not even a lot—I'd love to know how many of these little treasures Pique readers see on their travels.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler is very dog friendly. Many of our hotels welcome people and their pooches as well, and let's not forget Whistler Animals Galore (WAG), our local shelter, which is supported and loved by the community.
We show our respect for dogs and their owners by welcoming them to visit and live, by providing parks and beaches for them, by providing doggie-poop bags and places to dispose of these, and we have clear rules about managing dogs to protect people, birds, bears and all our wildlife.
Conservation statistics show that two off-leash dogs have been killed by bears this year. In 2018, there were six reports of dogs chasing bears—the usual outcome is that the bears would turn and charge towards owners and/or attack dogs.
So why is it that some dog owners can't reciprocate and respect the resort?
Let's remind everyone of the rules: Dogs must be leashed except in off-leash parks, dogs must possess and wear a valid licence, you must pick up after your dog and dispose of the dog-poop bag appropriately (you can be fined $100 for failing to do this), dogs are not allowed on public beaches for health reasons, nor are they allowed in playgrounds and waterparks.
Also, remember that at the dog parks at Bayly Park and Alpha Lake, a pilot project is running—PUP. The Pick Up Protocol (PUP) program provides special compostable dog waste bags, which dog owners can use to pick up their pet's waste before disposing of it in a marked red PUP bin. The waste collected will be added to Whistler's composting stream, rather than being shipped as garbage to the landfill.
So just to clarify—dogs cannot run free on the Valley Trail—on my weekend ramble not one dog I saw on the trail was leashed. Nor can they run free at Rainbow Park—except in the dog-friendly area. Again I saw at least one dog running on the grass and on the people-beach at Rainbow.
I worry about the dogs running free on the Valley Trail considering that lately I have seen a bear almost every time I have been out.
I worry even more about them on trails such as Riverside—where no dog ever seems to be leashed!
Please canines, tell your human companions to follow the rules—they are there for everyone's safety.