Tuesday, May 20, 2014

REPOST: Pet friendly communities: Winter Park

I wrote this piece for Weichert, Realtors Hallmark Properties. It appeared on their website Monday. Weichert is sponsoring the post, but all the ideas in it are my own.


If you were to spend a typical Saturday in Downtown Winter Park, chances are you’re going to encounter a plethora of dog owners with their fellow companions. At the city’s famous farmer’s market, you’ll probably see at least a dozen dogs there alone.

The Winter Park Farmers Market is every Saturday.
In addition to seeing several dogs in Winter Park, I’ve seen people walk with birds on their shoulders (or in strollers), cats on harnesses, and I even saw one man with a rabbit at the recent Doggie Art Festival (how this rabbit survived is truly a testament to both the dogs and their owners).

Why is Winter Park so pet-friendly?

Judy Charuhas is a co-founder of Winter Park Lost Pets.com and has lived in the city since 1983.
“Many residents, business owners and city employees have pets,” Charuhas said. “There can be a certain unspoken camaraderie among pet owners. For example, I’ve noticed that residents walking their dogs generally have a smile for other dog walkers. It’s often said that owners and their pets have a strong bond. I’ve also seen pets build bonds among neighbors as well.”

Brian Wettstein is part owner of The Doggie Door on Park Avenue, a pet-friendly boutique.
“Savvy new businesses like the Alfond Inn did its homework about Park Avenue and they welcome pets there,” Wettstein said, mentioning the newest hotel in Winter Park. “Even new publications like the Passport on Park Avenue acknowledge the importance of pets to our community.”

Lulu takes in the Doggie Art Festival.

The next time you’re in the Winter Park area, check out these pet-friendly favorites:

Fleet Peeples Park: This 13-acre park sits on Lake Baldwin. Pets can run and swim to their hearts’ content, and if you are worried about your little guy playing with the big dogs there’s now a small dog area. There’s also a dog washing station, bathroom, and on-leash nature trail.

Fleet Peeples Park.

Pookie’s Bow Wow Bakery: Since 2002, Pookie’s has served the Central Florida community by offering all-natural and organic foods, treats, and supplements for pets. If you can’t get to the store on Fairbanks Avenue, Pookie’s has a home delivery service. The owners of Pookie’s also host rescues to help find homes for pets. Each year, Pookie’s hosts an annual fundraiser and pet adoption event called RescueFest at nearby Lake Lily Park in Maitland.

Woof Gang Bakery: Woof Gang Bakery may be a chain, but unlike other locations, the Winter Park store is a big, beautiful boutique for chic dogs. They sell homemade treats, the centerpiece of the Woof Gang brand. They also have grooming and doggy daycare in the store. The store is located on Orange Avenue, not too far from Fairbanks.

Hip Dog Canine Hydrotherapy: Could your dog use some time in the pool? Maybe it needs to lose weight, arthritis, or another condition that means they can’t walk as much. Or maybe your dog just wants to go for a swim. Hip Dog gives owners a place to take their dogs so they can get their swim on. The hydrotherapy center has been around since 2001, off Palmetto Avenue near the Orange-Seminole county line. Hip Dog is by appointment only.

Park Avenue in Winter Park.
 Downtown Winter Park Business District: Park Avenue and Hannibal Square are very pet friendly areas. Water bowls can be found in front of most stores as you and your dog stroll down Park Avenue. Dogs are welcome on patios and in front of most sidewalk cafes. Pets are also allowed in many stores, and some even have store pets. There are few places on Park Avenue where pets aren’t allowed though, and Central Park is one of them. But even that is changing. Last year the city council voted to allow two pet events in the park a year. Wettstein’s Doggie Door sponsors those two events – the Doggie Art Festival and the Pet Costume Contest that finishes with a pet trick or treat on Park Avenue.
Other pet-friendly events around Park Avenue include the Running of the Chihuahuas, which just happened on May 4.

If you haven’t taken your pet to Winter Park, you’re missing out on all the fun!

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