May 01--Watson and Genny don't exactly blend in when out and about in downtown Toledo.
The two basset hounds and their owner, M. Joel Voss, make for a somewhat unusual trio on their daily walks in the city. Passers-by on foot and in cars often comment on the low-to-the-ground canines, sometimes stopping to chat briefly with Mr. Voss.
"At least once a day, with no exaggeration, I make someone happy with my dogs," he said.
Mr. Voss lives in LaSalle Apartments at Adams and Huron streets and walks his bassets a minimum of 3 miles per day. He said downtown Toledo is welcoming to its canine residents.
"It's super dog friendly," he said. "Walking around downtown is much nicer than people would think."
And it seems more people are noticing and taking advantage. While there are only about 50 dog licenses registered in the downtown area, according to the Lucas County Auditor's Office, residents say they have seen a steady increase in the number of dogs over the last several years.
"I have seen a lot of owners walking their dogs," said Joel Tse, who owns a townhouse in the 900 block of Washington Street. "I see them a lot more now, actually, and lots of different sizes of dogs."
Mr. Tse's dog, a 7-month-old bouvier des Flandres named Cooper, has seemingly boundless energy and needs copious daily exercise. So Mr. Tse walks him for at least two hours per day, often using the trail around Owens Corning, where Cooper particularly enjoys chasing geese.
"He gets me out of the house," Mr. Tse said. "I think he's made me lose 5 pounds. And I've met a lot more people; they stop me to ask about the dog."
Mr. Tse said Toledo has a lot of green space, making owning and caring for a dog in the urban environment easier. In addition to the Owens Corning property, he noted the various parks along the waterways.
Mr. Voss also takes advantage of the green around the Lucas County Courthouse and will swing by Fifth Third Field when the Toledo Mud Hens are playing.
"I'll actually detour and go watch an inning," he said.
Mr. Voss has met people from all walks of life while taking Watson and Genny around the city. He said dogs tend to draw people in when they otherwise might not even make eye contact.
"You interact with everyone," Mr. Voss said.
Some downtown businesses are recognizing the role dogs can play in social arenas. Jen Meyers takes her 1-year-old "pit #8226," Jordyn, with her a few mornings a week to Biggby Coffee on Adams Street.
Jordyn is deaf. Ms. Meyers, who lives with her fiance in the former Easystreet Cafe building on Washington Street, has made a point to continue socializing the dog as much as possible. Living downtown has made that process a breeze.
"She loves it," Ms. Meyers said. "She goes out on her walks and sees a ton of people and other dogs. I take her everywhere with me."
Jordyn has also visited restaurants, like Ye Olde Durty Bird on South St. Claire Street, where staff will bring out water bowls for dogs.
"I think my dog will get her water before I will," Ms. Meyers said.
Julie Ketterman, general manager at Ye Olde Durty Bird, said the restaurant and bar has allowed well-behaved, leashed pet dogs on the patio since it opened in 2012. Managers are immediately notified of any canines, and are given the discretion to deny them when the restaurant is busy or when other circumstances make a dog's presence there a potential safety issue.
"There is definitely some control on the pet policy for our patio to ensure a good experience for everyone," Ms. Ketterman said. "But we're pet people. When it's possible to spoil the pet, we will."
Ms. Meyers said Jordyn has been at the Blarney Irish Pub a time or two with her fiance, and the couple has seen dogs at Ye Olde Cock n #8226 Tavern as well.
"It's really nice to have those businesses that allow you to have your dog," she said.
The increase in the number of dogs living downtown isn't without issues, however. Mr. Voss said crossing streets in the city, even with the right of way and without dogs, can be problematic.
"Drivers need to really watch out," he said. "I don't think they are focusing at all on people, and they certainly aren't looking low for dogs."
Irresponsible dog owners also cause problems. Though owners are legally required to clean up after their animals, some of them don't.
"As more people are moving downtown with their dogs, I'm sort of noticing a lot of people walking their dogs and leaving souvenirs around," Mr. Tse said. "That's not a good thing. It's just rude."
Management at LaSalle now provides waste stations in an attempt to combat the issue on its property, but Mr. Voss said it doesn't necessarily help with those people who never have any intention of picking up their dogs' waste.
"The people that pick up after their dogs anyway use them, but it's still a problem," he said.
For Ms. Meyers, there's very little green space around her building except that belonging to the Toledo Fire Department next door at Station 5. But the relationship between the department and its neighbors has so far been great.
"The firefighters are super nice," she said. "They let us use their little yard and they put [waste] bags out for us."
For those that want one, the ability of residents to have a dog only boosts quality of life, Mr. Tse said. A dog-friendly environment means more people are likely to live downtown, which helps keep the heart of the Glass City healthy and vibrant.
"Downtown is getting busy, and a lot of people are moving here," he said. "I think it's great."
Contact Alexandra Mester: email@example.com, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.
(c)2016 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)
Visit The Blade (Toledo, Ohio) at www.toledoblade.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
© Tribune Content Agency, source Regional News