If you, like me, got a dog for Christmas then you probably have some regrets. Don't get me wrong, I don't regret getting the dog, but I regret not doing enough research into where I am able to take him in Cape Town, where I reside. Also, I regret the fact that my favourite city has got more intolerant of our four legged friends than what I would like.
Now before I am subject to howls of protest, let me explain. My husband and I went to great lengths to get the right breed of dog for our lifestyle. We are nature lovers – which is partly why we moved back to Mzansi. We love the beach, going for hikes and long walks. We also want to start a family soon and we have a rather wild and temperamental one year old cat called Nala. Our research pointed us to spaniels as one of the best breeds to tolerate kids and cats and we settled on a golden spaniel pup,which we named Finley.
As Finley is still a puppy and hasn't had all his inoculations yet, taking him out has proved a challenge. Leaving him at home is difficult as he is still prone to howling and whining if we leave him alone for too long. When I consulted the pet shop assistant, vet and dog trainer, they all said the same thing “You can take him out but make sure he is not exposed to any stray dogs. So stick to high falutin places and you should be fine.”
I had to rule out places such as Muizenberg beach as there are a lot of stray dogs there. I picked Llandadno because it is secluded and a 'high falutin' area. Also, it's minimalist parking areas and narrow roads ensures that not many people can frequent this beach all at once.
This proved a disaster though. After calming an excited puppy down, picking him up to avoid him 'socialising' with a rather huge husky in the car park and trundling down to the beach with several bags (which contain puppy food, poop scoop, puppy treats, puppy toys and water among other items) I was confronted with a rather stern and unforgiving cop who told me that I couldn't bring him down here. Apparently I could only take him there before 9am and after 6pm. It was 11am. After giving Finley some water I was on my way.
I remember my trainer saying that Clifton 4th beach was a possibility, so I went there. When I got to the beach I walked down the furtherest flight of stairs and I didn't see any signs saying that no dogs were allowed. Nobody was against Finley being there though. In fact, he was a bit of a celebrity and I couldn't walk ten paces without some child or adult wanting to touch him. Finding a spot, I could hear a dog barking in the distance and I thought that I'd finally found a place I could take him to. Nobody chucked me off the beach but on the way out I took a different route to the car park and was confronted with a 'no dog' sign. Guess I was wrong again.
Going to the wine lands also proved difficult. We went to Mooiberg to go and pick some strawberries. I phoned ahead to enquire if I could take my pup and the receptionist said it was fine. But when we got there it was hardly a place for a dog. I went ahead to pick some strawberries while my husband kept Finley on a short leash on the outskirts of the strawberry field. If we'd let him walk in between the strawberries, well, let's just say there'd be none left to pick.
Doing research about where to take dogs can backfire as the net is littered with inaccurate information. A simple Google of 'dog friendly beaches Cape Town' provides over 180,000 results, but after reading some of them I don't think the information is accurate or if it was, it's surely out of date now. Some, for instance, say that people can take their dogs to beach X but fail to say when. Perhaps the City of Cape Town should create a page on its website that lists a variety of places that dog lovers and their four legged friends can go.
I guess the City of Cape Town is doing much to keep the tourists happy and is ensuring that going to the beach is a pleasant experience, not one littered with poop and barking, unruly dogs. The problem is that while there are signs telling us where our pooches can't go, there are none telling us where we CAN go. When I put 'dog' in the search field on the City's website it produces a number of articles about the dog unit and it's pet finder initiative, which brings lost pets and owners back together again. That's all good, but what about us owners who want to be responsible and take pets to where we are able to go?
Before Finley, it's been years since I had a dog. The last dog I had was a collie dog called Jessie (RIP) and that was more than 15 years ago. Back then I took her to Llandadno and there was no problem. It's so frustrating going out with a pet only to find that the destination doesn't allow it or is in fact not 'pet friendly' after all. It makes me question whether this City has become more pet intolerant.
But we won't give up. My husband and I will continue to research places where we can take our pooch, but this City and the web is not making it any easier. Of course, we also welcome suggestions on where we can take the dog without being kicked out.