BITS AND BITES OF TRAVELLING WITH DOGS IN SOUTHERN ONTARIO

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Tessi and I have explored southern Ontario often—especially the southwestern region. It is our home. Our surrounding landscape is flat and mostly covered in farmland; yet, pockets of Carolinian forests thrive. The terrain becomes hillier as we head north or east. Lake Erie rules our immediate south. The United States eventually takes over the west.
  • Southern Ontario has its share of towns and cities, too. Generally, the cities offer parks for their canine citizens. I used to make a point of finding one of these spots when travelling through an urban centre just to give Tessi relief from the car, and the leash. One of my favourite stops is John Gamble Park on the fringe of Guelph. It provides a generous expanse of four-legged freedom that is easy to reach from our main thruway, Highway 401.
  • I prefer the beauty of our countryside to any concrete jungle, so now that Tessi is older and well trained in recall, this is where you’ll likely find us. An abundance of trails at a variety of lengths pass through wooded sections, sometimes meet up with and follow streams or other bodies of water, and, at times, touch upon farmland. A few of the perambulations we’ve enjoyed have been on:
    • Sections of the 41 km (26 mi) Elgin Trail. (Sign states on the trail section we’ve hiked:
      Riley takes a drink along the Elgin Trail

      Riley takes a drink along the Elgin Trail

      “Keep dogs on leash, on or near farmland.” Yet, the trail guide states they are to be leashed, especially on or near farmland.)
    • The network of trails in the Fingal Wildlife Management Area. (Off-leash is okay.)
    • Assorted smaller routes, like the (1.4 km/less than a mile) Spicer Trail. (Typically, leashed only.)
  • Watch for signs along Lake Erie’s shorelines, as policies vary. Waterfront parks either ban our pets, or require they be restrained. Often people take their dogs for their romps and swims somewhere on the numerous kilometres of remote shoreline we are blessed to live near.

Policies along Lake Huron are stricter. Usually our furry pals are prohibited from the lake’s       pristine beaches.

  • Tethered dogs can accompany us in most national and provincial parks, with restrictions. Read up on the one you’re interested in for specifics. One of my pet-friendly favourites is Point Pelee, which is only about an hour drive from our home. Pooches are even permitted inside the Visitor Centre—the only park where I’ve come across this privilege.

*Be aware that adherence to the leash laws is sometimes enforced. We’ve encountered officials on the trails looking for and fining disobedient walkers.

  • We have little to be concerned about from wildlife:
    • We fear none of the big guys—bears, wolves, moose or cougars—supposedly. Every so often there are rumours of bear or cougar sightings. As we travel north, I need to keep a vigilant eye.
    • Coyotes are common all over. I’m more apprehensive of their unpredictability; however, I’ve never glimpsed their presence. They tend to be shy.
    • As for small creatures, skunks exist; we come across the lingering smell of their essence every so often. And I need to keep my hunter girl from the temptation of several species, such as raccoons and muskrats, that wouldn’t think twice about defending themselves with their sharp claws.
    • The only type of potentially dangerous snake is the endangered Massassauga rattlesnake, which inhabits areas around Georgian Bay and a couple of small pockets in our region.
  • The 725 km (450 mi) Niagara Escarpment is a natural wonder that we visit every so often, usually by hiking a section of the accompanying Bruce Trail or one of its side trails. On its journey through Hamilton, the escarpment boasts over 100 waterfalls. We’ve also explored sections of it in the Bruce Peninsula, and where it picks up again on Manitoulin Island.
  • The Niagara Escarpment features one of the most famous waterfalls in the world—Niagara Falls. I haven’t found much in the way of dog-friendly activities, but we’ve enjoyed wanders on the walkway observing the falls, and assorted trails along the Niagara Parkway.
  • Tessi and I have inhaled the intoxicating aromas from the floral explosions at the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) in Burlington. They span a vast portion of the city. Tessi was able to tag along with me on the convenient shuttle bus, which runs only on certain days, to visit the assorted gardens. The specific RBG dog policies.
  • Toronto is exceptionally canine-friendly. To avoid tackling its busy roads and highways in the effort to explore the city, I’ve parked my car at Yorkdale Mall, which is close to Highway 401, and taken Tessi on the subway (and once on one of the streetcars). The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) allows restrained dogs during non-rush hours. We’ve checked out:
    • Woofstock—an annual festival, where the Lawrence Market Neighbourhood seethes with canine activity.
    • PawsWay—offers exhibits and events; and the adjoining Williams Fresh Café welcomes our doggy pals.
    • High Park—this 162 ha (400 ac) urban oasis allows leashed walks through a pleasant park setting, and unfettered play in a designated zone.
    • Scarborough Bluffs—unique white bluffs overlook a lakeside park.
  • Policies differ for public transportation. Via Rail’s guidelines are complicated; intercity buses
    Sailor Missy on the Chi Cheemaun

    Sailor Missy on the Chi-Cheemaun

    are not an option at all; and Go Transit specifies crated pets only. The Owen Sound Transportation Company operates the Pelee Island ferries and Manitoulin Island’s Chi-Cheemaun. Each ship has a designated deck on which pooches can hang out during crossings.
For Further Reading

© C. Smyth, 2016

   
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