The city of Bend, Ore. — a place where dogs both work and play, ski and swim — claims the DogTown USA title for 2012.
Bend beckons dog owners with an abundance of pooch-included sports, activities, and events. “Winter recreation is a big deal here, and owners cross-country ski, skijor, snowshoe, and hike with their canine friends,” says Doug La Placa, CEO for Visit Bend, the city’s convention and visitors bureau. “New this year, our dog advocacy group, DogPAC, acquired a Sno-Cat — renamed “sno-dog” — to enhance trail grooming at Wanoga Sno-Park, resulting in a wonderful network of dog-friendly winter trails.” Area residents and winter visitors can watch the stages of the AttaBoy 300 Sled Dog Race or take dog-sled rides at the Oregon Trail of Dreams.
In the summertime, Bend locals stand up paddleboard on the Deschutes River, often with their dogs riding on the front of the board. “Every day there’s a new adventure in Bend with my dogs,” says Laura Grayson, a Bend resident and board member for DogPAC. “Having access to amazing trails with my dogs tops my long list of reasons to love living here.” Families can hike along the Deschutes River and play fetch off-leash with their dogs in the water. In fact, Bend boasts seven off-leash areas, along with miles of dog-friendly mountain biking trails in the national forest. Resident Bob Wenger, a tireless advocate for dogs in Bend, worked to create and improve off-leash dog areas. “Bob’s pride and joy was the Pine Nursery Off-Leash Dog Park, and it was there Bob died of a heart attack in January, with his dog Ryder by his side,” says Kreg Lindberg, president of DogPAC. “The park is renamed the Bob Wenger Off-Leash Area in his memory.”
Summer fun in Bend also includes the Fourth of July Pet Parade and DogPAC’s Deschutes Dog Days event, featuring the recently launched Ruff Run 5K, crazy river retrieves, timed fetch, and the entertaining “hot dog on a spoon” race. And because canine fitness matters, the Humane Society of Central Oregon hosts a Healthy Hounds weight loss challenge, with a 3K walk.
Along with sports and play, owners and their dogs have the luxury of dining together at dozens of Bend restaurants that allow dogs in patio areas. The Bend Ale Trail is a network of 10 local breweries that blend into Bend’s dog-friendly culture. “One of the newest breweries, GoodLife, opened last summer with a massive outdoor beer garden, where visitors are encouraged to bring dogs,” La Placa says.
Tourists in Bend find many hotels enthusiastically welcome dog guests. The Oxford Hotel, for example, greets each canine with a personal bed proportional to his size, travel bowls, organic dog treats, and a map of walking trails and parks — for those in their party who can read, of course.
The business community in Bend caters to four-legged friends as well. “Bend is awash in businesses that produce dog-friendly products, allow dogs in the workplace, or welcome dogs with shoppers,” La Placa says. “In Douglas Fine Jewelry, shoppers will be greeted by a friendly bully breed who’s happy to lick their hands, and Sunnyside Sports and Eyes on Wall Street, a vision center, both have shop dogs on-site.” Down the road, the Polka-Doodle Dog Bakery serves up healthy, fresh dog treats from original recipes designed over the course of 15 years.
While some Bend dogs watch over local shops, others help out with nature-oriented jobs. Mt. Bachelor Avalanche Rescue Dogs are skilled at locating victims under masses created by snow slides. They train on the mountain every day with their handlers to ensure the safety of both skiers and snowboarders. The dogs in the area’s High Desert Search Dogs group focus on wilderness and urban tracking and trailing. Their motto: Lending a nose to help others.
Both dogs already in homes and dogs in search of homes, find caring hands in Bend. The city estimates that about 75 percent of its dogs are licensed, and some 80 percent are voluntarily spayed or neutered. Of the approximately 2,000 dogs who came through the Humane Society of Central Oregon shelter last year — it covers a large region, including Bend — about 1,700 were re-homed, adopted, or returned to owners. Dogs are only euthanized for health or severe behavior cases, and fewer owners surrendered their dogs last year than the year before.
“What I love about Bend is the diversity of things to do: My dog and I can visit a traditional dog park, play fetch in the Deschutes River, or hike in the Three Sisters Wilderness, and then top any day off together at Cascade Lakes brewpub,” Lindberg says. “It doesn’t get much better than that!”