To the Dogs

Downtown Frederick Welcomes Canines and their Companions

By Mary Thayer Haugen | Photography by Turner Photography Studio | Posted on 09.19.16 – Diversions

Oh, how Americans love their dogs. Approximately 40 percent of households in the United States have at least one pooch, and half of those families consider their dog to be a member of the family, according to the National Canine Research Council.

So perhaps it’s not all that surprising that a vibrant city like Frederick would embrace its furry companions with vigor. Take a stroll along Market Street in Downtown Frederick and the evidence is everywhere. In addition to the animals themselves in all shapes and sizes, there are water bowls outside many businesses and there’s even a doggy water fountain along Carroll Creek Linear Park, where you can also find bags available to help curb your pet. Some privileged canines can even dine with their owners on the patio of participating restaurants.

“We not only put out a bowl along the creek, we also give each dog that comes in its own bowl,” says Kelly Routzahn, waitress at La Paz Mexican Restaurant. “And maybe even a treat. We generally have several dogs a day on the patio.”

Carol Caffero lives on the Golden Mile and enjoys venturing Downtown with her pet. They visit the dog park, take walks and enjoy dog-friendly activities like the Alive@Five happy hour. On this lovely summer evening she is having a “doggie date” with friend Leah Johnson of Point of Rocks on the patio of La Paz. Johnson doesn’t even own a dog, but she likes taking her parent’s pooches out for some socialization. “Leah and I met at the dog park,” Caffero says. “I just got a job offer so we decided to come here to celebrate because we could bring them,” she says while smiling down at their four-legged friends—as promised, each with their own water bowl.

“I wouldn’t go out if I couldn’t bring my dog,” she adds.

For others, bringing their dogs is an option that makes sense. “We were coming to play Pokemon,” says Bailey Stull of Keymar, “and figured we might as well walk them at the same time.” She adds, “I come to Frederick a lot so I knew it was dog-friendly.”

Exactly when the dog craze started isn’t entirely clear. One big step that certainly made it more convenient for dog owners was the initiative of Maria Higgins, a former Downtown merchant. “She spearheaded the project to get litter bag dispensers downtown,” explains Brittany Diehl, promotions and social media manager for the Downtown Frederick Partnership. “She raised funds and worked with us to get businesses involved.”

There are now numerous dispensers, which also serve as a reminder to owners of their responsibility to clean up after their “family members.”

“We’ve welcomed dogs for 16 years,” says Tom England, owner of Dancing Bear Toys and Gifts on East Patrick Street. “These days, I think the vast majority of stores welcome dogs, and most of us have treats. In fact, any animal could make a meal out of walking Downtown.”

England says he’s not worried about dogs doing any damage. It’s a toy store, not a shop stocked with fine glassware, he reasons. And apart from that, he likes the way the kids light up when a dog walks into the store. “They just love it,” he says.

Given the number of dogs who routinely make an appearance Downtown, there are bound to be a few celebrities. One well-known citizen is a Corgi named “Henry” that “works” Downtown and plays in the courthouse square most days. And then there’s “Charlie” a neighborhood dog who makes his rounds and never misses a stop at the South Street Sandwich Shop, which features a water bowl and self-dispensing treat holder out front. “Charlie makes a beeline for us because we always give him meat,” says Kyle Smith, shop employee. “He knows us.”

Doggy Details

As much as many people love their pooches, there are some ground rules to abide by when taking Fido out and about. In the City of Frederick, all dogs must be on a leash, and under the control of their human companion.

“The first step in the prevention of a problem is a physical leash, but owners also need to be in tune with their animal,” says Linda Shea, Division Director of Frederick County Animal Control. “Be observant. A dog may start out okay, but if it is getting hot, stressed or agitated, you might need to consider removing them from the situation.” Shea points out that not all dogs are suited for crowds or small, “enthusiastic” children.

And while dogs are welcome at most outdoor events Downtown, there are three notable exceptions—the annual 4th of July festivities, the In the Street festival and the permanent seating area of the Baker Park bandshell during the Summer Concert Series.

If you live in the city and long for your “best friend” to have an opportunity to run free of its leash, the dog park on Bentz Street is your answer. Dogs can be registered at the William R. Talley Recreation Center, just up the street from the park at 121 N. Bentz St. You will need to fill out an application and bring documents to show that your animal is up-to-date on vaccines, has been spayed or neutered, and is licensed.

There is a $15 charge for residents and a $30 charge for non-residents. The registration is good for the life of the dog.