True Green Cities/Splashing for Sustainability

Finley, the Barbet, and Kolby, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, welcome guests to Canine Splash.

I don’t know much about breeding pedigree dogs or cats.  I don’t even know much about pedigree dogs and cats period.  We grew up with “lunch box cats” as my Dad fondly called them – or rescues as everyone else calls them.  Today my partner John and I have three cats who barely tolerate us – Flech was found by the side of the road, Ramsay was found in the recycling bin by cleaning staff in my NYC apartment building 15 years ago and Puck was the kitten of a rescue-release feral cat from the Meadowlands.  But my sister and mom moved to pedigree pets when they first got Chloe, a Himalayan cat followed almost immediately by Pandora, a black Persian.  And today both my sister’s household and her new business reflect some of the most unique pedigree animals in the world.

Kolby, an extraordinarily beautiful Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is the first dog in our family.  It took all of us quite some time to learn how to manage and live with a dog.  After a couple years my sister determined he needed a pal, and after much research decided on one of the rarest breeds in the world – the French Water Dog or Barbet.  When Finley entered her Buffalo household, none of us could imagine how much he would change our world.

Why a Barbet?

Joanne was looking for a dog that was non-shedding and would complement the Wheaten’s often high maintenance demeanor and health.  Her online searching led her to the Barbet, a dog that is so rare there are still less than 100 in America and only a handful of breeders on the continent.  A really terrific article about the breed can be read in today’s Wall Street Journal. The photos in the article and many of the quotes are from Stacy Able, a Barbet breeder, photographer and website designer (yes, my website designer!) who lives in Columbus, Indiana.

A recent busy morning at Canine Splash.

What the article doesn’t say is that the Barbet is incredibly dedicated to its family – both people and other animals, will swim with almost an obsessive compulsive approach (ie, 2 hours straight if he isn’t pulled from the water) and can have fun with almost any toy or any person.  Joanne found that Finley needed to swim.  He started swimming regularly at the only indoor dog pool in the area and then took Dock Dogs diving lessons which led to Dock Dogs diving competition. When the indoor pool suddenly closed, Joanne found herself in a dilemma – buy a new house with an in ground pool or better yet, why not just create a new business with indoor pools so that all her friends could swim their dogs?  A chance introduction to Jill Bernstein, owner of a fellow swimming dog, Petra, the Curly Coated Retriever, led to the creation of “Canine Splash,” the only recreational dog swimming center in Western New York and one of the few in the world.

Canine Splash

I’ve written about Canine Splash before.  The same time I was going back into private practice, Joanne and Jill were bringing their dream to fruition in an old warehouse on the edge of Olmsted’s historic Riverside neighborhood of Buffalo. I was able to help them a tiny bit by advising on the choice of materials and systems – figuring out the best way to “green” their new business which was as much a way to protect the health of the dogs (many of whom are like Kolby and have allergies) as it was to save the environment.  And often when I’m in town I help out at Splash, getting wetter and more exhausted than I thought possible!  Canine Splash has been in business for almost eight months now and continues to bring different breeds together and show some owners who would never have thought their dogs would or could swim, what a healthy and fun sport swimming is for everyone.

Finley, the Barbet, and Sasha, the cat-dog (or sometimes a Smoke Calico Persian), hanging out in the kitchen.

Finley, of course, knows that Canine Splash was created just for him but loves showing newcomers what it’s all about.  A rare dog from an even rarer breed.  A hunting dog as much as a swimming dog – Finley surprisingly instantly became best friends with Joanne’s newest addition to her family – Sasha, the Smoke Calico Persian, a remarkable cat we call the cat-dog, because she truly thinks she is a dog.  Joanne and I picked her up in Raleigh and drove her back to Buffalo via my place in DC.  I think if we brought Sasha to Canine Splash, she’d be swimming alongside Finley before the end of her first visit.

Not long before our Mom passed away last year, she added Noelle to our family, a Himalayan who joined us soon after Chloe moved on.  Noelle has been splitting her time between Joanne’s house and our friend Beth’s house until I can give her a permanent place with me.  So our extended pet family in North Carolina and Buffalo now consists of 3 “lunch box” kitties, a Wheaten, a Barbet, a Himalayan and a Smoke Calico Persian – and one warehouse containing the greenest pools on this side of the Atlantic filled with countless dogs and their owners who are splashing for sustainability.

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