Spotlight

Spotlight

Fido-friendly: Washington's commitment to expanding pet amenities

Posted March 12, 2020 5:00 a.m. EDT

This article was written for our sponsor, Washington Tourism Development Authority.

There's something special about meeting a friendly dog while out on your regular business. Even if you can't stop for a few head pats, simply seeing a happy dog with a happy owner can change the tenor of even the worst days.

Today, more and more cities recognize the importance of building amenities that are just as pet-friendly as they are resident-friendly. Washington has always had the perfect location for scenic strolls with Fido, but recently, the town has made a deliberate shift toward accommodating pets.

While dogs haven't always been welcome in shops and restaurants, the bustling local businesses of Washington have embraced dog culture. Many stores allow dogs inside or even have "shop dogs" of their own, while many restaurants allow animals to accompany diners in their outdoor seating areas.

"I think a lot of the places that can, [they] encourage dogs to be there," said Liane Harsh, a local business owner. "Restaurants have outdoor spaces and a lot of the stores downtown have water bowls."

Harsh's store, Inner Banks Outfitters, rents out kayaks and repairs bikes, and is home to a shop dog. Harsh extends her love of dogs to her customers, letting them know that yes, dogs are allowed in her kayaks. Even if your canine isn't a fan of the water, they can still safely join in your aquatic activities.

"We have life jackets for dogs, too," Harsh said. "My dog paddle boards and kayaks. I think that everybody should bring their dogs, as long as the dogs are interested in being on the water. It's a great way for them to get healthy exercise."

Don't be surprised if, after enjoying the water, the dogs rush to greet the dock workers ashore — it's a well-known fact they carry treats of all sizes and are generous with their handouts.

Washington wasn't always as dog-friendly as it is today. Some dogs love to roam leash-free, but for the safety of everyone involved, that should only happen in designated areas. Back in 2008, however, there was nowhere in town for this to happen. That's when a group of canine-loving citizens spearheaded an initiative to address the issue.

Little Washington : Spotlight : Dog Park

The dog park in Washington, N.C., is a well-maintained amenity that's shaded, has water for the dogs, and bags for the owners to pick up after their four-legged friends. (Photo Courtesy of LaVon Drake)

To tackle the idea of a leash-free dog park, the five-strong committee looked to neighboring towns for inspiration.

"Greenville had one at the time," said Rebecca Clark, a committee member, and co-owner of Little Shoppes and South Market Antiques. "We identified a piece of property that the city couldn't build on. The city gave it to us and the committee raised money and built the park."

That's a simplification of the year-long process the group had to go through to get everything approved. Not only did they have to get residents in the planned area to buy-in, but they also needed the support of the city.

"Our Parks and Recreation Department was essential," Clark said. "You need to have somebody on your side. They worked with us every step of the way; that was awesome. If we didn't have that support going in, it would've been a wrong battle."

The Parks and Recreation Department was an important ally because the new dog park would fall under its purview once completed. Clark estimated they interacted at least once a day during the process.

Today, the dog park is a well-maintained amenity that's shaded, has water for the dogs, and bags for the owners to pick up after their four-legged friends. It's something that residents and their dogs together can enjoy.

And for those who are interested in getting a dog park in their city? Clark has some advice: be prepared.

"You've got to make it easy for [the city] -- turnkey ready. We knew the answer to every question they were going to ask," she said.

This article was written for our sponsor, Washington Tourism Development Authority.

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.