Some numbers: More than 25 percent of the city of Denver’s 573,000 residents are dog owners. Use that equation for the Denver metro area (population 2.6 million) and you’re looking at some 700,000 dogs, according to Animal Control. More than 14,000 dogs passed through Denver Dumb Friends League in 2005. (Plus 9,000 more through Animal Care & Control and the Denver Humane Society). We have no fewer than 192 groomers, 72 boarding/daycare facilities, and 100 retail stores. To say nothing of the 800-plus links you’ll get by hopping online and typing the keyword “dog” into Denver craigslist alone. That, friends, is a whole lot of woofin’.
Why the dog obsession? For starters, we’re an exercise-crazed outdoors town, with easy access to nearly 1,000,000 acres of Denver-area open space. That means all dogs all the time. Dogs hunt with us in Grand County, fly-fish with us beneath the Collegiates, and sleep by the car after a Flatirons hike. But it’s more than that. Denverites are Westerners; our dogs don’t just keep us company and force us to stay active—they’re part of the landscape, and always have been. The Plains Indians are believed to have used wolflike dogs to haul their belongings from as far away as the Bering Strait. In the 1800s, cattlemen used dogs to protect and herd livestock. Pooches have slept curled at the feet of rugged individualists since the West was a mysterious place on the left-hand side of a map. Sure, that’s a far cry from the guy commuting in his Jeep to sell software at a Broomfield office park, but a wide-open landscape would be incomplete without canine companionship—that four-legged bridge between civilization and wild.