Four-footed walks to community, health

DETROIT—Don’t be misled by the Canine to Five’s name. “We’re not just about dogs, we’re about the owners too,” says owner Liz Blondy. “We want to give them opportunities to interact with each other and the dogs.”

That’s why Blondy and her staff have organized walks and social events at bars and restaurants in Detroit’s downtown for humans and their four-footed companions.

About four years ago, they partnered with the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, the non-profit organization that advocates for and maintains the Riverwalk. They lead weekly walks in the summer and monthly in the winter, usually the second Sunday of each month, and are part of the annual Riverdays festival.

“Community activities have been really important to us from day one,” Blondy says. With the dog walks, people who don’t know each other have an excuse to meet.

How can anyone not say hello when their dogs are straining on leashes to sniff each other?

Mode Shift talked with Blondy about her business and how promoting community dog walking is collared to her business success.

Mode Shift: How and why did the organized dog walks start?

Blondy: One of my favorite things in Detroit is the Riverwalk. So it’s great. I can combine my business, walking my dogs and the Riverwalk all in one.

MS: Your “Drinking with Dogs” event takes place at local bars and restaurants that offer outdoor seating during the warmer months. What are those events like?

LB: There’s never anyone sitting alone at our event. They’re there for the same reason: they have dogs in common.

MS: What venues have you gone to?

LB: The Whitney, The Well, Traffic Jam & Snug, Foran’s Grand Trunk, Fountain Bistro, the Majestic and the Roberts Riverwalk Hotel (the former Omni site near Stroh’s River Place.)

MS: How is it beneficial for the bars and restaurants?

LB: People go back. They say, ‘remember the time…’ or ‘let’s go back to that place for brunch because we can bring our dog with us and we can sit outside. It’s not only good for my business but for the businesses that participate. And that’s one of the most important things you can do as a small business owner: talk up the small businesses around you. Nobody wants to be an island. Not only do you come to Detroit to walk your dog, but you remember how much fun you had.

MS: You’re a Detroiter but are your customers?

LB: A lot of our customers do not live in the city of Detroit. For me, every activity that we do is about giving people a positive experience in the city.

MS: And with a dog, people are walking, moving and experience the city differently than when they come to work or visit “inside” places?

LB: Yes. That’s one of the bet things about having a dog. It gets you out of the house, gets you exercising even when you don’t feel like it. You have to take your dog outside. And for women especially, having your dog with you as you walk around gives you an added sense of security.

 Dog walks in 2012 will start Sunday, May 6, and will continue every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at Rivard Plaza on the Detroit Riverwalk. 
Drinking with Dogs will start May 15 at Fountain Bistro in downtown Detroit's Campus Martius from 6-10pm. The event will be held the third Tuesday of every month with the next two locations set for the Whitney and new vegetarian hotspot Seva in Midtown at the same times. 

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