Twin Cities’ group walks welcome you and your dogs

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that walking, like gum and locally brewed craft beer, is best when it comes in packs. And even though the weather’s still far from tropical (or temperate, for that matter), two diverse groups of Twin Cities dog parents are taking that axiom to heart and pounding the pavement in plenty of good company.

GASSY Walks

Left: Greys gettin’ along on a GASSY walk.

One of the more established walking groups in the area is run by the Greyhound Pets of America-MN (GPA-MN), and goes by the colorful acronym “GASSY”—that’s Greyhound Ambassadors Strolling Sundays Yarely, for the uninitiated. Come again? GPA-MN president Lisa Quast explains that “yarely” is an Old English word that means quickly or with haste—”appropriately reflective of the greyhound style, of course!”

The original GASSY walk has been taking place around Lake Harriet for a number of years now. A group of greyhound owners meets at the Rose Gardens at 2 pm every Sunday, and for those east of the river, there’s now a GASSY walk in St. Paul at Como Lake Park. That group meets at Black Bear Crossings Cafe, also at 2 pm every Sunday.

Though the GASSY walks were created as an opportunity to socialize greyhounds with each other, they also promote adoption, Lisa says. “Some people have never seen a greyhound before and seeing 10 or 20 hounds together is a ‘wow’ experience. We’ve had people tell us they decide to adopt a hound after seeing our group on the GASSY walks. It’s great publicity to help us find homes for retired hounds.”

Right: A wintertime GASSY walk at Lake Harriet.

And it’s also amusing to see pack dynamics at play. “Some hounds prefer to lead and will try as hard as they can to be at the front of the pack,” Lisa says. “Gracie [Lisa’s 11 year-old greyhound] really enjoys being a leader. Other hounds really appreciate the closeness of being in a pack and will move into small groups and walk side-by-side with each other, just enjoying each other’s company and closeness. Hobbes [her 9-year-old pooch] loves that part.”

Patronizing the Twin Cities’ growing number of dog-friendly restaurants and cafes is another perk of group walking. During the warmer months, the Como Park GASSY walk hangs out at Black Bear Crossings with their pups, and for the past couple of years, the GASSY group has hosted “Dining With Your Dog” events at dog-friendly patios like Psycho Suzi’s and Sea Salt Eatery.

And from what Lisa says, it looks like those greys will keep traveling in a pack for the time being: “It’s a great way to spend time with other dog lovers and enjoy doing what our dogs love most—going for a walk!”

Twin Cities Pack Walk

Left: A Twin Cities Pack Walk in action (Photo by Paige Reyes)

A newer group walk on the scene is the Twin Cities Pack Walk, started by dog mom extraordinaire Laura Anderson in December 2011. “I was inspired by pack walks that were popping up all over the country,” Laura says, “and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to create a local group that would embrace all breeds, all temperament levels and all handlers.”

Twin Cities Pack Walk is based on a set of ground rules to ensure that everyone has a positive pedestrian experience:

1. Respect Thy Bubble “As an owner of a shy dog,” Laura says, “I was looking for an environment where dogs of varying tolerance levels would be able to train successfully. I determined that it was important that there be no dog-to-dog interaction. By taking the pressure of on-leash greetings out of the equation, we were able to ensure the success of every dog in the pack.”

2. Work It “We also wanted to emphasize that this would be a working walk and that handlers would be expected to engage fully with their dogs for the duration of the walk.”

3. CST “We emphasized ideals of community, support and trail stewardship to promote a positive group dynamic,” she adds.

With these ideals in mind, TC Pack Walk embarked on its maiden voyage less than a month ago, and has since tripled in size to a current walkership of about 20 members. The walks take place weekly on alternating Saturday and Sunday mornings, and generally end with a cup of coffee and dog talk at a nearby dog-friendly coffee shop (last week’s stop was Mel-O-Glaze in South Minneapolis—yum!)

Right: Proper footwear is important, be you of two legs or four. (Photo by Paige Reyes)

As if it couldn’t get any cooler, TC Pack Walk is now planning to include volunteers and foster dogs from A Rotta Love Plus and Save-A-Bull Rescue on future walks. “Our group has a strong representation of pit bull-type dogs sprinkled with a huge variety of other breeds,” Laura says. “Last week, Molly, an adopt-a-bull from Minnesota Pit Bull Rescue joined our pack walk. There is a huge diversity of temperament, training and experience among our dogs, which creates a fantastic communal dynamic between the dog handlers every week.”

Laura says the most inspiring thing about walking in a pack is “watching the dogs blossom over the course of the hour, and even more so as the weeks go on. Just last week, we had an A Rotta Love Plus alumni dog, Tank, join us. At the beginning of the walk, he had to keep a distance of about 15 feet to focus and work with his handler. By the end of the walk, he was smack in the middle of the pack and holding his own with the rest of the dogs. It is amazing what a little training and structured socialization can do for a dog!”

And it’s amazing what a little camaraderie and exercise can do for people and pooches from all walks of life.

For more information on GASSY walks, visit the GPA-MN website here.

For more information on the Twin Cities Pack Walk, visit their Facebook page here.