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Joe Guzzardi: Despite Farmers Market ban, Lodi is dog-friendly

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Joe Guzzardi

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Lodi is in the midst of a doggie dust up. Based on what I’ve read in the News-Sentinel in recent weeks, the question is just how dog-friendly — if at all — is Lodi?

The Lodi Chamber of Commerce, straying far afield from its area of expertise, opined that dogs should be banned from the Thursday night Downtown Lodi Farmers Market. The guest opinion cited the civil code that prohibits dogs from being within 20 feet of food. Consequently, dogs are no longer allowed at the market.

Some News-Sentinel letter writers and online commentators object to the new policy; a few correctly observed that perhaps some of the ill-behaved human visitors at the market deserve banishment before the beloved family dog is kept out.

As to the question of whether Lodi is dog-friendly or not, I decided to check in with three of my tail-wagging friends and housemates who would know — Fido, Sparkle and Hoppy. All were born and raised in Lodi, as were their four close pals who have gone on to doggy heaven — Spot, Lily, Howie, LuLu and Russie.

Their opinion is unanimous: Lodi is a great place for dogs. To be sure, the city has restrictions that owners need to be aware of and to obey. Some parks are off limits. But my gang began every morning down at Vinewood Park, which offers lots of space for dogs to run and plenty of benches and trees for owners to enjoy. In the 20 years that I took my dogs to Vinewood, I can’t recall an incident, although others told me that from time to time they occurred.

Vinewood was only a tune-up for my dogs. From April through September, during my summer vacation from teaching, most days included a long swim in the Woodbridge Irrigation Canal. We rarely missed a summer day at the canal. The routine began with the dogs jumping out of my Jeep, diving into the water and then intermittently racing through the corn fields.

The funniest sight to behold was Hoppy, a three-legged dog, chasing jack rabbits. I can’t be sure, but it looked like the rabbits kept just far enough ahead of Hoppy to keep him interested but far enough away so that he had no chance to catch them.

While swimming was the day’s highlight, one grand finale remained. After the dogs had dried out in the backyard’s late afternoon sun and mooched treats from the evening barbecue, they again loaded up into the Jeep for a final ride. Some warm nights, we’d head out to east Lodi to buy corn; other times we’d go up Ham Lane toward Lodi Lake and stop for ice cream.

Since I was born, I’ve lived with no fewer than two dogs and often with as many as five. What I’ve learned is that when the subject is dogs, people are divided into two well-defined camps — pro and con. Between those two mindsets, to borrow from Rudyard Kipling, “... never the twain shall meet.” Those who fall into the pro category can’t imagine their lives without man’s best friend. As for the cons, I’ve always viewed them with skepticism.

As far as the Farmers Market goes, I can’t see any reason why well-behaved, leashed dogs shouldn’t be allowed. But since they aren’t, I’d like to start a petition to ban strollers. They take up more space than dogs and are tougher to maneuver around.

Joe Guzzardi lives in Pittsburgh, Pa. Although he has a much larger yard that he did in Lodi, he knows from experience that dogs only like to run when they’re away from home. Contact him at guzzjoe@yahoo.com.

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