Yaletown going to the pampered pooches

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Lisa Smedman
Van. Courier

Marley Stevens walks a group of dogs through Emery Barnes park. Photograph by: Dan Toulgoet, Vancouver Courier

Nancy Jelenic opened Barking Babies, a doggie boutique on Homer Street, nine years ago. Photograph by: Dan Toulgoet , Vancouver Courier

On a blustery day in late March, Emery Barnes Park is bustling with activity. Inside a fenced, off-leash dog park, completed in 2010, Yaletown’s dog owners watch their four-legged charges run.

Larissa Seymour and her partner John Wells bring their three-year-old French bulldog-pug cross Maggie to the park, located on the northwest corner of Davie and Richards streets, from their nearby highrise condo. The couple both work at Il Giardino restaurant.

“Everywhere is pretty dog friendly,” said Seymour. “Most places, you can bring them into stores; lots of people give out treats in stores. Nobody seems to mind.”

“It seems like everyone in our building has a dog,” Wells adds.

It wasn’t always that way.

Dean Dawson, a tax adviser for Ernst & Young, returned to Vancouver with his partner last year after living in England for nine years. Dawson brings his 10-month-old puggle (a beagle-pug cross) Riley to the park from his townhouse. He noticed a big attitude change after coming back from England.

“The city’s changed a lot,” said Dawson. “Vancouver probably used to be the least pet friendly city in the world, and now everyone has pets. [A decade ago] you just couldn’t find an apartment that allowed pets and you never ever saw dogs or anything downtown. And now it seems like everybody is out walking them.”

Rick Gannon brings his eight-year-old American cocker spaniel, Riley, to the park. He and his wife own their own condo, and Riley can get outside to get air, but the park offers a chance to run.

“You’re either dog lovers or you’re not,” said Gannon. “Obviously, we are.”

Gannon, retired from his job as vice president of sales for Nabisco, moved to Yaletown from Toronto. He said he was attracted to the area by the restaurants and other amenities. “It’s all within walking distance. It’s all within a few blocks.”

Richard Biederman and his partner moved to the fringes of Yaletown from Las Vegas a couple of years ago, bringing their black lab Angie, now 10, with them. Both work in the film industry. “Angie loves the dog park; she’s very active and it lets her use up all that energy,” said Biederman. “We used to have a backyard, and now that we’re in an apartment, this is where she gets all her exercise.”

They first visited Vancouver as tourists and were drawn to Yaletown because of its architecture and “dog friendly” vibe.

Walking Angie has helped the couple meet other Vancouverites. “We’ve made some good friends,” Biederman said. “It’s social for us, as well as for her.”

Brent Lewis, a realtor with RE/MAX Crest Westside, moved to Yaletown in 2010. His dog is a four-year-old weimaraner named Lexee. He lives on Smithe Street and takes her for runs at the off-leash dog park at Coopers’ Park. “I’d swear everyone down by the water, 50 per cent of people own a dog.”

A lot of his clients erroneously think they can’t live downtown with a dog. “A lot of people are surprised that a lot of highrises down here [in Yaletown] are completely non-restrictive. They allow all rentals, all pets.”

Yaletown dog owners wanting to pamper their pooches find what they need at Barking Babies, a doggie boutique on Homer Street.

Nancy Jelenic founded the store nine years ago, after returning from three years in Japan. There, she discovered “amazing dog boutiques” while shopping for her Jack Russell terrier, Quintin. The Tokyo stores sold everything from dog necklaces to designer pullover hoodies for dogs. “I kind of became addicted to all that stuff, and when I came back to Vancouver, I couldn’t find anything here,” she said. “And I had people stopping me, asking, ‘Where’d you buy that?’ And I thought, you know, there might be a market.”

Barking Babies carries designer clothing for dogs-the latest lines include pastel colours for spring and houndstooth-pattern bow ties-as well as collars, toys, beds, treats, and oversize purses used by owners to discreetly carry their small dogs into shops and restaurants. Dog trainers and groomers also work out of the shop.

Quintin died in 2010, but there are three dogs to greet customers at the store: Jelenic’s Mr. Pickles, a chihuahua, and Georgie Girl, a Yorkie, as well as Scottie, who belongs to manager Caolaidhe Lundy. “It’s a lifestyle, a total lifestyle,” said Jelenic. “Our dogs are our babies.”

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