Happy Dog Valley … until it’s not

…say it how it is series …

I live in the mountains.

We have over 300 acres of official off leash areas in town, some fenced some not, but it’s official.

We have just as many acres if not more of unofficial off leash areas, as in all city parks, neighborhoods, and green belts, because there isn’t any real enforcement, it is basically an entire town of off leash if you want.

We have over 90 miles of in-town trails that are multi-use, thanks to a local land trust. These trails get you off of the main roads and you can go from one side of town to the other, mountain to mountain, home to library, or whatever. They are also unofficially off leash trails, even though they say ‘on leash’.

We have thousands of miles of trails that go into the back country just minutes from town, with your choice of two possibly four mountain ranges depending on how far you want to drive, but still all super close. While your dog is supposed to be with you and under control, most of the trails, especially down low are used as dog park like activity, including chasing wild life, chasing bikers, running around sans owner, etc.

Our town makes every dog magazines TOP 10 list, almost every year-

Top town to live with a dog

Top town to be a dog

Top town to travel with a dog

Top town to hike with a dog

Top town for dog amenities

Top town for dog friendly hotels

Top town for off leash dog parks (that would be our whole town by the way)

Top town for dog friendly people

And every year I sit back and wonder where they get their information for our little town.

We are dog heavy here, a guesstimate 30,000+ dogs in our valley with around 50,000+ people in the city, and double that for county, and per capita we are second only to Portland Oregon, who’s population is well over 650,000+ people.

But what is the magic, why is our valley the happy dog valley? Is it something in the water that makes everything Shangri-la like? Do we just breed better dogs here? Is our town stacked with just the best dog owners on the planet? Or, is the pollen season really pixie dust season to make us that much more better than every place else? Or is this just a marketing thing?


Now I sit in a place, professionally and personally, where I would like to wear rose colored glasses, really I would, my life would be so super awesome I assure you, but it is more like rose colored glasses splashed in mud, lots and lots of mud.


Because I meet the people who have to move because the off leash dogs are such a problem.

Because I get to work with people who have to relocate because their dog has been bitten five too many times in town and it has now caused to much life stress for the whole family.

Because I work with the people whose dogs are biting other dogs on in- town trails.

Because I meet the people who don’t give a flying fuck that they passed six signs that say ON LEASH DOGS ONLY, because obviously it wasn’t meant for them.

Because I meet the child that pulled on a dogs ears while bouncing on its back and was bitten and now the parents want to re-home the dog.

Because I meet the dogs, sans owners, that run around my neighborhood park and bark at me as I walk by, or try to come after my dogs that are on leash.

Because I meet the owner who is too cool to use a leash in the hardware store, and allows the employees to clean up the urine from his dog on the end cap of the aisle.

Because I work with the dogs that have been allowed to chase cars, wildlife, bikes, and skateboarders, but now they would like to change that because they are moving to Portland Oregon where it isn’t allowed.

Because I work with people who think giving their dogs 400 acres to be free is great ownership, but they are having a hard time walking their dog on leash downtown.

Because I work with families who adopted the fun spotty colored dog at the shelter because he was cool looking, and who is clearly over their skill level, and they have only minutes or so a day to spend time with him, so what do I think about an underground electric fence for the rest of the 164 hours in the week.

Because I live in a town where we start selling fireworks on June 25th, and so a single day of Independence celebration turns into a season of exploding things at all hours, and it is horrifying to both the wild and domestic animals that live here.

Because I live in a town where they use pesticides and herbicides in all city parks, even though we now know this is dangerous for our dogs that are basically barefoot and naked with their noses right in the thick of it.

Because I witness human conflicts on trails because of poor dog management choices while hiking off leash with no trail skills to speak of.

Because I meet confused dogs every day that live in a world of poor human choices.

… and because, you can add another bazillion reasons …

Is my town a good place to live? Yes I believe so. I love where I live and live here by choice. But that should not be confused with ideal, or perfect, or no problems, or better than any place else, or the false notion of a happy valley.

The reality is, we are like every place else, just in a different place by gps standards, and we have our dog issues here like every place else, but they are masked because Mother Natures physical beauty is palpable here.

So, be realistic, be responsible, be accountable, when out and about with your dog, and please stop sniffing the pixie dust, that might be why everyone is sneezing as of late.


21 Comments Add yours

  1. Cat says:

    And the morning headlines tragically back up your post………

    Robin “Cat” Billau


    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Hi Cat, yes it is tragic all the way around … and now be prepared for the monster size backlash …

  2. donhanson7 says:

    Another great post Nancy!

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      thanks Don, Nancy

  3. Nikki says:

    Thank you for taking the time to get this out in a blog!

  4. Teri says:

    Thank you for this post. Our walks have become so limited due to inconsiderate owners who insist on ‘off leash’ or send there 8 year old out with a 100 lb. dog with a metal choke collar, or the owner who states “my dog is friendly, until he isn’t”. We now avoid all walks where our little girl’s tail is secured and tucked in ~ we seek out walking areas where her tail wags and flies high, those spaces are rare, but treasured.

  5. peacelovepointers says:

    Now where I live, there’s freaking nowhere to let a dog off leash. Not even on remote hiking trails is it allowed. I’m like, why did i spend all that time teaching my dog recall?

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      it is similar in our area now, while it use to be off leash without other dogs or people for hours or days, it is now every few minutes, and it isn’t always good

      1. peacelovepointers says:

        Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have a balance somewhere in between allowing dogs off leash everywhere and forbidding it everywhere?

  6. Nikki Brown says:

    This should be made into a poster and put up all over the place! But then it would require reading by the aforementioned humans, so… But I love what you have to say about it all. Thanks, Nancy!

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      The people who need this info are the ones who woul dnot be stopping to read it … perhaps if the posters were arty and fun, that might stop someone and allow them a tid bit of info!

  7. yorkievon says:

    Amen. I fear taking my small dogs for walks on any trail for fear of a loose dog. Wish people would follow the rules so all of us can enjoy


  8. Caroline E Bitz says:

    What an excellent article and informative interview you gave to fox news. I appreciate you educating dog owners and the public in general. Thank you.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Thank you, I hope it is useful to share to help others understand that management allows everyone to enjoy a space …

  9. tippysmom2 says:

    Just because dogs are allowed to be off lease doesn’t mean that they should be. Owners need to be responsible. I find it interesting that your town makes so many of the TOP 10 lists when there are, it sounds like, so many issues. Do the magazines not come and check it out for themselves or are they just going on the basis of dog friendly businesses and off leash policies without looking at the bigger picture?

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      I don’t know if they actually check areas out or if it is what they see people posting on line???

      1. tippysmom2 says:

        It would be interesting to know their criteria.

    2. peacelovepointers says:

      I definitely agree with your first sentence there! However, some people seem to think that “being responsible” = “keeping your dog on a leash at all times.” My dog has almost been bitten a couple of times when she was on a leash by other dogs who were also on leash but who’s owners weren’t strong enough/didn’t care enough to control them. Being responsible does not so much mean keeping your dog on a leash as it does training your dog. Alas, many consider training optional.

  10. Pam Perry says:

    Another great article – and for me and Jaz, most relevant at this juncture in our lives. Just posted it to my Facebook to encourage folks to lash train their pups – for everyone’s sake. No one says it better than you. Thanks again Nancy!

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