Its a dogs life
- Michaela Bancud
- Portland Tribune - Features
Downtown-dwelling pets face a weighty set of social pressures
Not so fast, buddy.
Before you move into that swish new condo in the Pearl District, you'd better be well-groomed, know how to behave in the elevator and pass your neighbors in the hall without getting too excited. All this, and keep a trim figure, too.
Such are the social pressures faced by dogs in the Pearl's plushest condo buildings. Some particularly well-pawed addresses even have weight limits for the four-legged set.
For example, the maximum pet weight at the Gregory, a large deco-style building that sits between Northwest 10th and 11th avenues, is 50 pounds, according to homeowner association rules.
The nearby Tanner Place and Riverstone Condominiums push the pound-per-hound limit to 65 pounds. At both places there's a caveat: Any dog that weighs more than 25 pounds must possess a Canine Good Citizen Award, issued by the American Kennel Club.
Taken at its word, a dog weight limit raises some practical questions: Are dogs weighed at move-in? What if a dog looks a bit hefty but is only covered in loose, deceptively shaggy fur? What if a dog starts out small but overeats in winter months? More chilling, could owners be next?
But exceptions are made.
Jeanne Stringer lives in the Gregory. She and her husband knew there was no point trying to sneak Boss, their 135-pound Bernese mountain dog, past anyone. Stringer 'fessed up to the condo board about the gentle giant before making an offer on a loft. And the board waved her right through. The 50-pound rule exists, the board assured her, in case of a problem pet.
When neighbors later commented on Boss' size, Stringer explained that he really weighs only 35 pounds plus 100 pounds of surplus fur. Boss won them over in no time.
Things are not always this easy.
One thing the bigger dog can do to curry favor with the board of directors is to attend charm school. The Canine Good Citizen Award could make the difference between the junkyard and the penthouse. If the award is tastefully framed, so much the better.
The neighborly thing
Some dogs, such as a Weimaraner named Loki, live in less structured environments.
Lynnette Fusilier and Joe Aakre share their 790-square-foot condo in the Marshall-Wells Lofts in the Pearl District with Loki. Adopted from a Weimaraner rescue organization in Washington, 1-year-old Loki weighs 60 pounds, 5 pounds shy of weight limits in nearby buildings.
The Marshall-Wells building is pro-dog, residents say, and there are no weight restrictions. But because Loki and his owners aspire to be good neighbors, he is enrolled in basic obedience classes. After graduation, he'll go for the coveted Canine Good Citizen Award.
The award is the culmination of a 10-step program that stresses responsible pet ownership for people and basic good manners for dogs, so that both can be 'welcome and respected' members of their communities.
Classes to prepare for the test cost $100 and are taught by certified trainers. Dogs learn things such as how to accept a friendly stranger, how to sit politely for petting and how to walk through a crowd.
Portland instructor Ann Griffith says the toughest part of the test for most dogs is walking by other dogs without getting distracted.
There are some dogs, of course, that are beyond impressing people. Take Pete, a senior terrier-Labrador-border collie mix who lives a few floors above Loki. Now 13, Pete chased rabbits and cows in the French and English countrysides in his younger days. There is little, owners Cliff and Victoria Lenton say, that Pete hadn't seen before. Except an elevator.
'The first time was a bit tricky,' Victoria Lenton says. Now Pete rides the lift up and down all day to go window shopping or visit Noah's Arf, a doggie day-care center in Northwest Portland started by a former Nike exec.
Big isn't necessarily bad
Dog trainer Dan Miller teaches obedience classes tailored for apartment dogs. His own well-behaved pet, Josie, a large mixed breed, is the reason rules against big dogs were changed in his building in Southeast Portland.
His classes prepare dogs for the trials and tribulations of group living, Miller says. 'The bigger the dog is, the better, is often the rule,' Miller says. 'Great Danes, believe it or not, make great apartment dogs.'
In fact, emphasis on size may be misplaced.
'In the past, it's been some of the smaller dogs that have been the problem,' says Alex Hughes, who markets condominiums at the Gregory and is involved with sales of condos at the Edge and the Elizabeth, two buildings under construction in the Pearl.
'We've found that if a dog is not nice, it doesn't matter what size it is,' he says. 'Maybe over time, if everybody had 150-pound Great Danes going across the lobby floor, that could start to show some wear and tear. But on average, there hasn't been a problem with the big dogs.'
Mary Burch, the Canine Good Citizen Program's national director, concurs.
'Good behavior is good behavior no matter what size the dog is,' she says. 'The problem big dogs face is the perception people have that they are more dangerous.'
In general, people are more tolerant of less-than-perfect canine behavior when the dog is smaller, she says.
Because of this, the Edge has decided not to set a weight restriction on dogs in the draft of its homeowner rules. Residents can have up to four pets, except for fish. The sky's the limit on fish.