Dog Friendly KW helps people enrich the lives of their dogs, as well as increase the ways they access the community with their dogs. The group was started in June 2020 on Instagram by Mackenzie Drinkwater and Justine Starling and now has almost 9,000 followers.
Dog Friendly KW started as a platform to inform folks of dog-friendly stores and restaurants in the area. As well as maintaining this local guide, they are almost finished making one for Guelph.
The local guide’s current edition is eighty-three pages long, including tips on trips to take with dogs, links to ten episodes of their podcast and an even longer list of local places dog owners and dogs are welcome together.
In addition, the group runs both reoccurring and special events in KW.
Sniffscape, a special event, ran earlier this year. Customers led dogs through seven themed rooms. Each gave dogs the opportunity to engage in mental and physical activities, such as playing in a ball pit or exploring a teddy bear many times their size.
Team member Kersty Kearney shared the story of a grateful participant who made a snuffle mat for her dog from scrap materials of her own after the dog experienced one for the first time at Sniffscape.
“It was a practical outcome from the work that we’re doing. It was really exciting for us. It was helping people grow,” she said.
Locals have shown appreciation for the group’s efforts in creating a stronger dog-owner community in the region. While Sniffscape was running, Starling was approached at a restaurant by a woman who had a great experience at Sniffscape.
‘I was so happy she told me because we were in the final few weeks when we were getting really tired, and we’d all been putting in so many hours, and it was just that nice little boost that I needed, to hear that our work has an impact,” she said.
Barks and Brews, a weekly meet-up at a Kitchener brewery patio, is one of their recurring events. At the first of these for summer 2023, attendee Helen Oxley said the event was good for socialization.
“[It’s] a great opportunity to support a local business and have our dog Bella meet other dogs to socialize, which is important as we have a puppy. Great community event,” Oxley said.
Another return attendee, Christine Nielsen, knows these events have helped her and her dog, Miso, meet other local dog owners.
“Miso and I feel more at home in Kitchener. After moving to Kitchener in 2021, I didn’t know very many people in the area. But, attending these socials has helped me meet locals. Bringing our dogs along means we already have something in common, so it is easy to find things to talk about and bond over,” Nielsen said.
Dog Friendly KW also advocates accessibility for dog owners. Among other efforts, the group is campaigning for permission for dogs to ride on the LRT.