Christchurch needs dog-friendly trails

WILL HARVIE
Last updated 05:00 28/07/2014
Blair Anderson
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ
DOG'S BEST FRIEND: Blair Anderson thinks Max deserves more from the rebuild.

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Blair Anderson, dog lover and trainer, selects Under the New Red Verandah cafe in Linwood because it is "tolerant of dogs".

With Max, his 5-year-old english springer and poodle cross tied up outside, Anderson sits down to a breakfast of coffee and scrambled eggs on toast to proclaim on his favourite topic: dogs and their owners.

"The good side of dogdom isn't being told and increasingly local authorities are restricting (dog) access to civic space," he says. He cites the former Cashel Mall and Re:Start Mall, where "No Dogs" signs were posted.

More appropriate signs would be "Good Dogs Welcome". It is a subtle distinction that is needed more than ever since the first earthquake, he says.

Anderson can talk long and fast about dogs and the health benefits they bring owners, but today he dictates sentences with precision.

"Post-earthquakes, the rejuvenated and restorative sense of community have been greatly advantaged by having dogs within families and communities," he says. That is being lost in the rebuild, which should be dog-friendlier.

"Urban densification requires us to incorporate good design practice into architecture and urban spaces to accommodate dog owners."

Among other things, he means dog trails. Dog parks are OK, but owners tend to watch their dogs exercise instead of exercising themselves. Dog trails get owners moving.

Since the quakes, Anderson has also lobbied for the Porritt Park hockey grounds to become a 24-hour doggie run.

Hockey did not want the space, the fences were standing and the lights working.

The idea went nowhere, perhaps because Anderson is known as that "crazy dog guy" around council. It is a reputation that hurts and heals. "I see it as a badge of honour," he says.

Anderson has stood for mayor at least four times, never winning more than 900 votes, but still he persists in lobbying for dogs and owners.

His latest insight is that Toronto, Canada, is considering making dog facilities - exercise areas, toilets and wash facilities - mandatory in new high-rise condominiums.

Anderson has scanned most documents coming out of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority and has yet to see serious mention of dogs.

That is misguided, in his view.

Christchurch has twice as many dogs per capita than Auckland and three times as many as Wellington, and there has been no significant drop in dog numbers since the quakes.

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It is cheaper to put dogs into the rebuild design phase than try to rectify problems later, he says.

"Nothing gets people off the couch more successfully than a dog," he says.

- The Press

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