Back in February I posed the question via Facebook, ‘Which suburb has more designer dogs- Port Melbourne or Fitzroy?’ The two responders, one who happens to live in Port Melbourne and one who does not, both suggested Port Melbourne. As somebody who knows very little about dogs, I have no idea if the sharp looking dogs I see around are actually designer dogs or not, I just know they look well cared for.
Whether or not your pet dog is good looking, I think Port Melbourne has much to offer a dog. The Bay Street footpaths are wide, offering plenty of free space to stretch out while tethered to a veranda pole, and any place is a relatively short walk to the foreshore or a park. Port Melbourne even has a much written about (at least in the local papers) luxury dog hotel, albeit in the industrial estate. There used to be a dog cafe, but most places with outside seating seem dog friendly even if they do not serve dog meals as such.
Really, I have no idea what dogs look for in a suburb, or how dog owners plan their outings with their pets. What I do know is that many people have told me that if you have a dog (or at least a well groomed one) then people will stop and talk with you. Whether it is something about dogs, something about how people react to dogs, or just an example of how friendly Port Melbourne people are I really cannot comment.
People say they meet other dog owners at Garden City Reserve. Lagoon Reserve even had one user advocate for another table in the park so dog walkers can socialise in comfort. I wonder if anything similar happens at the off leash beaches? I hoped to spend time at dog obedience classes, but the commercial provider I approached refused. The not for profit group in the area was more helpful.
When it comes to my project, it would be interesting to know if the conversations brought about through the presence of dogs ripple out into other areas of life. Do the interactions people have because of dogs make people feel better about the area? Do people stay in contact with the people they meet? How is a conversation started over a dog any different to other encounters? This means not just knowing how many dogs there are or who owns dogs, but understanding how the ‘symbiotic relations’ between humans and dogs where ‘both species can be seen to have agency’ (Madden 2010: 182) play out in the social realm of Port Melbourne.
- Madden, R. (2010). Being ethnographic : a guide to the theory and practice of ethnography. London, SAGE.