The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s.

– Mark Twain

On a recent Saturday morning, a woman sits at Findlay Market with her yellow lab and talks and smiles as a stream of people wander past – stopping to pet the dog, chatting and asking questions.

It's a dog's life in OTR (photo: 5chw4r7z)

Have you noticed the proliferation of dogs lately around downtown and OTR (Over-the-Rhine)? Dogs are everywhere. If there is an open plot of green space, there are people walking their dogs. It’s not a bad thing; the animals soften the city and add life, providing something welcoming and necessary in the Central Business District. People and dogs benefit neighborhoods, changing perceptions. People feel safer and more welcoming when other people are on the street, especially when accompanied by their dogs.

Just as dogs benefit the neighborhood, dog ownership helps the owner even more. Unsurprisingly, people with dogs are more active than non-owners. In fact, 60% of dog owners meet the federal criteria for regular moderate to vigorous exercise. And 50% of dog owners exercise 30-minutes a day compared to only 30% of people without dogs. Among older dog owners, not only are they exercising more but they show a greater improvement in overall fitness. Having a dog for motivation means there is less tendency to slack off; the dog wants to walk no matter how tired or unmotivated his owner might be.

Some people feel that a dog park is one of those things, like a downtown grocery store, that would make it an easy decision for people who are on the fence about moving downtown. While there are a number of dog parks out in the suburbs, there are currently none in the core. There are two potential dog parks in the planning stages.

There’s not much information for the proposed one-quarter acre dog park at Washington Park, besides the fact that they will include one [as part of the park’s overall renovation]. It will be interesting to see just how it pans out. Just the fact that it will be a dog-friendly park will tie it nicely into the fabric of OTR. Just think: a walk to Findlay Market for a coffee and a pastry, and a treat for Fido – followed by a short walk to Washington Park to relax and throw a stick or two.

Another proposed dog park – funded entirely with private money – seems less likely. A long, thin strip of grass between two sections of I-71 on Eggleston Avenue (owned by the Ohio Dept. of Tansportation) near Sawyer Point is out of the way and noisy. Not a relaxing place for a dog or his owner. Even with a $50,000 grant from Procter & Gamble, there has been no recent news regarding the park.

Up until now, it appeared that the urban core needed the presence of dogs more than dogs needed to be in the core. But as with everything else, through an influx of new people wanting more amenities downtown, this is slowly changing. Man’s best friend could actually be the city’s best friend as well.