Amy Roberts: This one’s for the dogs

Park Record columnist Amy Roberts.

Mountain towns and dogs go together like kibble and bits. Long before Park City was home to dozens of pet-welcoming hotels, leash-free dog parks, pooch-friendly restaurant patios, and an untold number of businesses that cater to man’s best friend — everything from acupuncture to spa-style services — we earned the nickname “Bark City.”

The moniker was one of the town’s many draws for me when I first decided to move here. Of course, that was long before pricy doggie daycares and couture boutiques were a factor.

Back then, people used to walk up and down Main Street and decide which bar to stop in based on whose dog was tied up outside. It was a nifty trick for those hoping to run into – or hoping to avoid — someone specific.

Park City pups used to be a lot more free range. Years ago, I had a lab mix who would wake up at 4am, sneak out his doggie door, and stroll over to a nearby bakery, where he would greet the baker and be rewarded with a pastry.

He’d return a couple of hours later, back the same way he came, and I, still asleep, was none the wiser. I had no idea this had been going on until one morning, he was too fat to squeeze back in his doggie door.

On a hunch, I pinned a note to his collar and the baker wrote back, informing me of their routine. I took her low-calorie dog treats so the custom could continue without the fattening side effects. It was a sweet tradition that couldn’t happen today.

Tom Clyde is right. Once upon a time, there really were ‘More Dogs on Main Street.’ Now it seems, they’re either in line for a blueberry facial or applying to college.

No doubt, things are more buttoned up than they used to be, but for the most part, dogs continue to be a huge part of the town’s identity, and we still find canines in curious places. I’m willing to bet three out of every four dogs in Park City I know exactly where the pet aisle is at TJ Maxx.

Given the emphasis so many Parkites place on the relationships we have with our dogs, it’s understandable if we’re a bit removed from the reality so many other mutts face. It’s hard to believe, but some dogs don’t have a home, much less their own dog nanny.

Shelters throughout the state are making “difficult” decisions due to capacity issues, with some reporting to be over 200% full. A mix of irresponsible owners who don’t spay or neuter their pets, combined with puppy and kitten birthing season, always means summer numbers are high. But this year, shelters are also contending with the return of pandemic pets.

More people are going back into the office and for some reason, never considered this a possibility before adopting an animal two years ago. Instead of figuring out a way to make it work (duh, a dog nanny), too many are disposing of their pets as if they’re an outdated fashion choice.

The casual callousness is appalling. And it reminds me once again why I prefer my dogs over most people.

I could devote the rest of this column to shaming those who surrender their animals. But instead, I’ll make a simple plea: Adopt, foster, volunteer, donate, spay + neuter.

If you can’t donate money, consider donating time. Walk some shelter dogs for the afternoon or play with the cats. If you can’t adopt a pet, consider fostering. This frees up life-saving space at the shelter and helps the animal acclimate to a new home. My current foster puppy is learning valuable life lessons like, “birds can fly, dogs cannot.”

Both Paws for Life in Heber and Nuzzles & Co in Summit County will welcome whatever you can contribute. Always spay or neuter or pets. And please, more than anything, remember a pet is a lifetime commitment, a sentient being, who feels fear, confusion, sadness and above all — love.

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