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What’s with the animal-themed parks in Toronto?

Toronto’s parks are transforming to appeal to animal lovers — and it turns out there are a ton in this city. First, the Berczy Park Revitalization features man’s best friend and now, the same architect said he may create a cat-themed park near Front St. West.

Berczy Park/Plaza is centered around a giant tiered fountain surrounded by 27 dog sculptures. These puppies shoot jets of water out of their mouths into the fountain towards the giant golden bone sitting at the top of the structure. There is plenty of seating space and enough greenery for families, and their canine friends, to roam.

The trees were planted using Silva Cell technology, a suspended pavement system that supports large trees while providing storm water management at the same time. This allows Toronto to support the growth of plant life in an urban setting.

The fountain within Berczy Park has received a lot of attention in the media. While some people love the quirky concept, others feel it isn’t sophisticated enough for this city. Either way, people have crowded around the fountain day and night (it lights up when the sun goes down) to enjoy the public space. It creates a fun and whimsy atmosphere that can’t be found anywhere else in Toronto.

That is until architect Claude Cormier gets his hands on the mega development at Front and Spadina.

It is rumoured that Cormier has a plan for a cat-themed promenade. There are few details available. The only information publicly available is that Cormier will work with the other developers and architects to create a new green space as part of the mixed-use project…and that feline sculptures may be involved.

Not everyone will be thrilled with this concept, but honestly, anything that creates a space for people to enjoy each others company in the outdoors is a win for Toronto.

 

What do you think? Would a cat-themed park be welcome on Front and Spadina?

The smell of home

By Diane Baker Mason

They say the closest memory-related sense is scent. It is not a sight or sound that triggers nostalgia, but a smell: the odor of mom’s baking bread, or of the hayloft in your cousin’s barn, or of the pine-tree-shaped air freshener that hung from the rearview in your Grandpa’s Chevy. Not the taste of the bread, not the feel of the hay, not the roar of the engine. It’s the smell of these things that takes you home.
Home is on my mind lately, since I am considering moving. One of my boys has moved out, and the other is soon to do so. I have fallen in love with the Beaches in east Toronto, and although I can’t realistically afford to move there, reality has never stopped me in the past, so move I intend to do. Therefore, I have had to take a hard, mean, look at my own condo apartment, which has deteriorated over the last three years to disaster area status. I tend to be away on weekends; my sons were not. Nor were their friends. And I had long ago given up on trying to cajole/nag/train them into doing even basic tidying (which I don’t like to do either). So my condo not only looked awful — it smelled awful, too.
I hired a trio of disaster-area cleanup experts and together with my remaining son, we stripped the condo of debris, and applied paint-stripper-quality cleaning fluids to all surfaces. Even the guinea pig got a “Total Home Makeover,” with a bleach-and-scouring pad treatment of his cage bottom, and cedar shavings. Instant memories of my pet hamsters, from when I was twelve years old: suddenly, with the smell of the cedar, I could feel those tiny soft bodies wriggling in my much-smaller hands.
Despite the cleaning, my apartment still doesn’t feel like home. Maybe it’s because I never saw it as home, but as a place I bought in a panic, to give myself and my then-barely-teenage sons a place to live. I don’t love it the way I loved my other houses or even the bachelorette flat I rented when I left my marriage eight years ago. And despite its professional cleansing (and my remaining son’s sudden, almost-religious conversion to Tidy Clean Person, something for which I’m hugely grateful), I still don’t get that “welcome home” feeling when I walk in the door.
Part of the problem is that the cleaning hasn’t kept the smells at bay. If smells could make a sound, my apartment would be a cacophony. First of all, there is our rancid dog. Licorice is a Lab mutt, and she loves the water (unless it comes in bath format). In the mornings, she prances through the Humber River; in the afternoons, she fords the streams winding through High Park; on weekends she is either swimming in Lake Ontario or sitting (yes, sitting) for hours at a time in the shallows at Bass Lake, hypnotized by the minnows. The problem with all this water is that it leaves bacteria on her underfur, which dies, which decays, which causes my dog to stink like a week’s worth of rotting garbage. I’ve had people get off the elevator to avoid sharing it with her. Baths and deodorant powders help for only a day or so. The only cure is winter, when all that water freezes over.
So there’s the smell of dog. There’s the smell of our musty old furniture. There’s the smell of my son’s cooking (he loves curries and fried corned beef). There are my son’s friends and their beer and cigarillos. There’s the guinea pig’s cage (a mountain of cedar shavings won’t cover the fact that it’s still a guinea pig cage). The place just doesn’t smell like me.
Hopefully there will be an animal-loving, beer-swilling, curry-eating tribe of Visigoths interested in buying a three-bedroom two-bath condo in a park-like setting, to whom it will smell just like the place they grew up. As for me and my bacteria-soaked dog, we’ve got our sights on someplace new. And she’ll either have to learn not to smell like dead fish, or I’ll have to learn to associate that smell with home. I guess anything’s possible.

*** First published in the Nov. 2005 print edition of Women’s Post

Dogs: Man’s best wingman

Dogs have long been considered man’s best friend.  However, there’s more to being a best friend than cuddling with you throughout the finale of The Real Housewives Of Vancouver and sniffing your crotch, even if those are two very important best friend qualities.

Can man’s best friend also be man’s best wingman?

We filled our pockets with treats, poop bags, and a couple of balls to hit the city with an adorable dog named Baxter as we put this to the test.  Our extremely scientific experiment has revealed these to be among the best places in Toronto to take your dog if you’re looking to have someone tell you to lie down and roll over.

Riverdale Park West:  Just south-west of Riverdale Farm is the Carlton Street lower playing fields. This baseball diamond beside the DVP serves as a gathering place for the haut monde of Cabbagetown and their pedigree pooches.  The crowd there is mature, a mixture of gay and straight, and all are friendly.  A couple of the conversations we had there were a little on the pretentious side, but if you plan on meeting the man of your dreams and moving from your 450 sq ft apartment into his million dollar Cabbagetown brownstone, you’re going to have to learn the language of the affluent, dah-ling.

Allen Gardens dog park:  This is a great place to have your furry wingman work his magic.  Serving as a social hub for the surrounding dog owner community, the guys there are very laid back and quite chatty.  You may not be able to find your next millionaire ex-husband like you might at Riverdale Park West, but we’re confident you’ll get a fun ‘pitcher-of-beer-and-pound-of wings’ type of date.  The biggest downside to this dog park is that it looks like a giant cat litter box.

Trinity Bellwoods Park:  Since this has the reputation of being a gathering place for Queen West hipsters, we dressed Baxter up in a plaid coat and took him for a walk to see if he’d attract us some sensitive and creative hotties.  Success.  Unlike some of the other locations we conducted this experiment, we weren’t just approached by other dog owners.  Several attractive boys stopped us to pet Baxter and comment on how cute he is, striking up some fun and flirty chats.  If you’re looking for a guy who probably knows where the best loft parties are every weekend, this is the place to be.  And we totally recommend dressing up your wingman in hipster-style plaid… Ironically, of course.

Cherry Beach dog park:  While an amazing place to have your pooch run free, Baxter had more luck there than we did.  We had a few conversations with the multitude of dog walkers that use this place but didn’t manage to get our flirt on.  It’s likely that you’ll have a bit more luck in the summer months when this place is packed, but for now you and your furry friend will be heading home alone to a tub of Häagen-Dazs, a single spoon, and an Adele CD.

Church Street:  We walked the gaybourhood strip at various times of the day and found that this is your best bet for utilizing your furry wingman to his full potential.  On our walks through the Village, we were stopped many times by hot guys of all types and more often than not we got the impression it was so the guys could talk to us, not just the adorable Baxter.  Oh, and strictly in the name of science, we walked Baxter there just after the bars closed on a Saturday night…

Good boy, Baxter. Good boy.