I suppose there must have been a time when the phrase “It’s a dog’s life” made immediate sense. Today, however, as a signifier of a life of difficulty, this phrase doesn’t convey as much suffering. Americans treat their dogs like… well, like themselves. We spend $23 billion on pet foods every year, much of that cash on gourmet varieties, including vegan and gluten-free (and just FYI, don’t do that, dogs are carnivores: They like and need meat, and if they could talk, they would tell you they could care less about gluten.) We spend $15 billion a year on medical care for our pooches. They accompany us to the grocery store, cafes, airports (JFK Airport in New York is set to open a terminal devoted to pets), even to work. Dog parks are proliferating in cities across the U.S. Doggie Couture is real.
And in case you are thinking, “decadent old America and its misplaced values,” it’s not just Americans. In Japan, when their canine pals are too old to frolic anymore, there are dog retirement homes. The truth is that dogs are royalty in much of the world.
Sure, there are dog parks and good vets and liberal leash laws in lots of cities. San Francisco, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, and Minneapolis have impressive numbers of all three, and they are great dog cities. But here is a list of some of the cities in the world that go a step beyond, making them among the very best places to live if you are literally living a dog’s life.
1. Los Angeles
The federal government may absurdly classify marijuana as a class-one dangerous drug, but in L.A. pot is medicine for the masses—and across species. There are over 700,000 users of medical pot in the Golden State, and now, in Los Angeles, dogs in need of pain relief can partake too. VETCBD, a company founded by veterinarian Tim Shu, has a simple mission statement, to bring, “premium quality, non-psychoactive cannabis to dogs and cats.” Shu told CNBC, “We use it for pain, arthritis, anxiety, nausea and seizures, and they don’t get high from it.”
One dog owner, Gary Stoltenberg, told New York Magazine, “It has literally changed the dog. He would go bananas when the postal lady would come to the gate, and now he just like wags his tail at her.”
Bowser has lived a good life, but he’s slowing down, maybe the end is not far off, and it’s time to think about retirement. In Tokyo, for just $1500 a month, you can secure a place for your dog to live out his sunset days in luxurious comfort. Doggy retirement homes like Aeonpet will feed Bowser, walk him, massage him, give him ample naptime, and afford him access to a gym, a swimming pool and 24-hour vet care. And you can watch him yourself on the puppycam.
3. New York City
Maybe your dog doesn’t want to be associated with the canine hoi polloi. French bulldogs—New York’s most popular breed—can be a bit snooty, and don’t always want to be seen around the likes of a terrier, a Jack Russell, or heaven forbid, a mutt. In New York’s Greenwich Village, you can apply to become a member of West Village D.O.G., a dog run exclusive to members only. It has a long waiting list, and is capped at 300 members, but if you get in and pay the annual $75 member fee, Fifi can rub hindquarters (or maybe sniff them) with celebrities’ dogs, while enjoying the toys, poop bags and other member supplies.
New York City is famed for its annual Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village, but it can’t hold a candle to Austin’s annual Pet Parade. Can there be anything more fun than a celebration that features dogs in drag? We think not. The parade is followed by a big party where both human and beast hang out, eat, socialize, sniff around, and listen to live music.
You probably won’t find little Laika reading the Moscow Times on his subway commute, but you can find him riding regularly on the subway. In Moscow it is a common sight to see stray dogs riding the rails all by their lonesome, getting on and off stops, looking for treats, and seemingly well aware of where they are going. It seems they know the best stops to get handouts, and of course the warmth of the trains offer welcome escape from the Moscow winter.
6. Huntington Beach
There are dog parks, and then there is Huntington Dog Beach, where your pooch can roam free sans leash over a mile and a half of sand and surf. The annual canine surfing contest brings four-legged surfers from as far away as Australia and Brazil. Surfing dogs. Cowabunga!
7. San Diego
If your dog has a bit of the foodie in her, you might want to book a flight for both of you to San Diego. There you can chase down a Fido to Go truck, where your friend can sample the Fi Yo, a specially formulated doggie frozen yogurt. Or maybe the French Toast Rawhide? They’ll also cater your dog’s party, with dog games like Bobbing for Hot Dogs, Paw Print Art and Pupcake Decoration. Fido to Go has plans to expand nationwide.
Boston’s Liberty Hotel makes Happy Hour just a little bit happier with Yappier Hour. There’s cocktails for you, and more important, doggie treats and “pup-tails” will be served to your pet (one pup-tail consists of chicken broth, water and a sprinkling of parsley). He definitely does not have to be 21, no ID required, and as advertised, “Canines come dressed to impress!” Consider it a dog park with booze.
In Manchester, England, some companies now give paw-ternity leave. New owners of pups are given a week off to bond with their new family, and maybe set a few boundaries.
Lovers of The Lord of the Rings flicks are familiar with the beautiful views to be found in New Zealand. No surprise then that Auckland hosts the Meola Reef Dog Park, a fenced-in, leash-free park overlooking the Waitemata Harbour. The park is so popular that during peak hours it is often difficult to even get in. During the winter, wear your Wellies, because it’s muddy. But is there a dog alive who doesn’t love mud?
Places Dogs Shouldn’t Go
Of course, not all cities are dog heavens. In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, dogs are considered impure and it is illegal to own them as pets (the ever-prudish Saudis fear that men were using their cute dogs to attract women…which of course they were, dogs being a time-honored chick magnet). In Denver, an otherwise sane and dog-friendly city, pit bulls and pit bull mixes are banned, and as many as 4,000 healthy pitties have been euthanized.
Then there is Yulin, China, otherwise known as Doggy Hell. The annual Litchi and Dog Meat Festival was held there this past June. 10,000 dogs were killed for the festival, bludgeoned to death after being held in tiny cages (supposedly the increased dog adrenaline, caused by stress, makes the meat taste better. (Dog activists did manage to rescue about 1000 dogs.) Humane Society International is working hard to get the festival banned—find out how you can help.