Urban dogs

Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Davey, a 14-year-old Yorkshire terrier, and owner Mary Aaron sit in a common area at Island Market Square.  -
Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Davey, a 14-year-old Yorkshire terrier, and owner Mary Aaron sit in a common area at Island Market Square.
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A tail of some new residents in Town Center

By J. Jacob Edel
Mercer Island Reporter

Along with the massive apartment complexes popping up in the Town Center these days, there’s a new breed of Islanders moving to town. Every morning, afternoon and evening there are now dogs out for their walk — heading for a cup of coffee at Starbucks and Tully’s, to All the Best Pet Care for a free treat or to Mercerdale Park for exercise.

Today, there are roughly 70 new resident dogs within a four-block section of the Town Center. Three of the new apartment complexes in the Town Center, so far, allow dogs in their buildings.

The two largest new luxury mixed-use apartment complexes, Island Square and The Mercer, have brought in the majority of the new canines. A manager at Island Square said about 20 to 30 percent of the 235 units in Island Square have dogs. There are also about 20 units out of the 150 in The Mercer with a dog. The Avellino Apartments adjacent to the North end QFC also has two resident dogs. Each building has its own separate pet policy that varies on what types of breed and sizes are permitted. Not one, however, has designated space for the dogs outside.

For some of the new dogs moving into the Town Center, Island life is good. Davey, an old Yorkshire terrier without a sign of age in his coat or personality, is living in Island Square. Mary Aaron, her husband and Davey moved in last December. Little Davey is nearly 14 years old, originally from Mason, Ohio.

Aaron said she mostly takes Davey on longer walks to Sculpture Park or on some short walks around the building. She also said they chose to move to the Island eight months ago because Island Square allows dogs and is conveniently close to the big-city services of Seattle and Bellevue.

“We had to find a place where he could come,” Aaron said, “and we like the conveniences of Mercer Island. That’s our favorite part right now.

“So far, so good,” she said of their tenure on the Island.

The Aarons began taking care of Davey five years ago after a client in their nursing home got too sick to take care of the dog.

“My husband was running a nursing home, and Davey belonged to one of his clients,” Aaron said. “When she got too sick to watch after Davey, she asked us to take care of him and made us promise we’d keep him. So after she died that’s what we did.”

Now that they’re living on the Island, Aaron said Davey has gotten to know the employees at the salon and many of the other dogs in the building.

“He’s a very popular little dog,” Aaron said.

One of the other dogs in the building is Zoe, a relaxed 8-year-old basset hound originally from a farm in Charleston, S.C.

“It’s funny because Zoe is from a pig farm but doesn’t like physical activity that much,” said her owner Olivia Thompson. “She enjoys people-watching. The only walk she likes to take is to All the Best (Pet Care) because they give treats to dogs. She only goes if she knows she is getting a treat.”

Thompson said that she likes to spoil Zoe, as do other Islanders they run into in the Town Center.

“I do take her to Luther Burbank, but she doesn’t like to walk,” Thompson said. “She likes to people-watch and get petted. So I take her to Tully’s and sit out front in the morning, and she gets petted by all the people going in and out.”

Thompson said she moved to Island Square with Zoe when it first opened, about a year and a half ago. Before that, she was working with the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. She got Zoe eight years ago as a gift from a past boyfriend she had while studying in Charleston. Today, Thompson is working on her doctorate in nutritional sciences at the University of Washington. Her studies also have her working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Thompson said she was looking for an apartment that was nice but also pet-friendly. She found Island Square and was ready to sign the lease because it was close to the Hutch and not much farther from UW. She said she likes the Island and the friendships developed with other pet owners in the building.

“I know most of the other pet owners,” Thompson said. “It’s definitely a great way to meet people. Most of my friends in the building also have and love pets.”

While a few Island residents are concerned about who cleans up the mess left behind by irresponsible dog owners, there doesn’t seem to be a problem among city maintenance crews or the business community.

Terry Moreman, the director of the Chamber of Commerce, said she had not heard of any complaints from members. A manager from the North end QFC also said he had not heard complaints from customers or employees. He said they hire a service company to clean the outer edges of the parking lot. Keith Kerner, a director in Parks maintenance, said he had not heard of any complaints, concerns or extra work needed from city crews.

While the new apartments allow dogs, it appears the word of the pet-friendly Town Center isn’t out. A Web search of pet-friendly apartments doesn’t list those downtown. The Web sites of the apartment complexes also don’t explicitly advertise as being pet-friendly. Finding an apartment that allows dogs may be hard to do at times, but the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) has some helpful tips.

  • Be honest with the landlord. The landlord will find out if you have a secret pet or if you have three cats instead of just one.

  • Develop a resume for your animal. Be creative. Include breed, weight, height, age, spayed or neutered, personal hygiene, behavior traits, training background, veterinarian’s name and phone and personal references.

  • If you have rented with your animal before, produce letters from your previous landlords indicating that both you and your pet acted responsibly.

  • Ask the landlord if you may introduce him or her to your animal. A well-behaved animal may be able to convince the landlord when all talk fails.

  • Offer to negotiate an addendum to the rental agreement or lease, indicating exactly what your landlord will expect of you and your animal, and agree in writing to pay a specified additional security deposit to cover the cost of any animal-related damages.

  • Offer to accept a short-term rental period, during which the landlord can see if you and your animal will be acceptable long-term tenants. If the landlord agrees to rent to you and your animal, be sure to get all the specifics down in writing.

  • If you decide to adopt a pet while renting, discuss it with your landlord first. If your landlord says “no” to a dog, he or she may say “yes” to a cat or other small animal.

  • If a landlord will accept your animal, the most important responsibility you have is to set an example to your landlord.

  • If your animal causes any damage, tell your landlord immediately. Pay for the damage and make all arrangements to repair it as soon as possible.

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