Life With the Little Doggies

What if you could spend your days with little doggies?  Karin Cornwall really can answer this best, as the owner/operator of Little Paws’ Big AdventuresSafe Walks For Small Dogs!

Recently, I noticed that Karin organized a special gathering at Joaquin Miller Park’s dog run.  I thought there must be something really interesting, not to mention fun, about this small-dog life.

So I asked Karin – yes, that human on the left – to share a typical day with her charges.  It almost sounds like a bunch of kids learning the ropes at Redwood Regional Park, and here’s the run-down:

Well it was so warm that I hosed down the long haired dogs before our walk.  And boy am I glad I did, because by the end of it you would have never known they were soaked just an hour before.  Blue and Bonner looked like they had just gotten out of a blow dryer.

We walked on the West Ridge Trail at Redwood Park.  At the moment it is closed, as the folks at the park are working on removing dead trees and and dead branches so that they won’t fall on us while we’re hiking.  Normally it’s our go-to-trail on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  West Ridge Trail is always shady, has some interesting topography and lots of places for the energetic dogs in our groups to run amok.

Blue drank water for the first time ever from a bowl on a walk. In the past she has drunk from a creek, but never from a water bottle, my hand, or a bowl.

PJ did better with staying with the group and was off leash for the first leg of the walk yesterday. After our second water break, I leashed him back up for the way home, because he wasn’t responding from just two feet away.

Bonner is doing terrific off leash!  He’s staying with the group.  Attempting to get Parker to play with him, although I think he’d do better to egg on Blue.

Parker is playing fetch and not letting anyone else near “his” pine cone.  All the same, Bonner gets a kick out of chasing Parker while he chases his pine cone.

Karin says she still has a few open spots on her walks each weekday, and would love to fill up with friendly, well-mannered small dogs.  She serves neighborhoods bordering Highway 13 in Oakland.  Visit the LBPA website or call (510) 529-5565 for more info.

Thanks Karin, and I look forward to reporting on different dog-friendly hikes in the area.  Everyone needs a little inspiration about where to take their beloved pooches or meet (and temporarily adopt) a few while walking along the trails.

Guided Intros To The Parks

Montclarions are split between the walkers and non-walkers.  If you are a non-walker but curious about seeing the trails, then here’s your chance to join a guided introduction.

Stress-free walks are scheduled this weekend and next.  You are even encouraged to bring your kids along, if they are in grade school or older.  Hopefully, the temps will be comfortable while wandering in the trees or on the ridge tops.

First Intro:  Volcanoes, Quarries and Labyrinths – Takes place at Sibley Volcanic Preserve (map) this Sunday, August 3rd, from 1:30 – 4:00pm – Free.

Explore the remnants of an extinct volcano, exposed in places by years of quarrying and decorated by artists building labyrinths.  Keep your eyes skyward for golden eagles. Moderate hike.  For 8+ yrs.  This is a drop in program; no registration is required.  For info, call: (510) 521-6887.

Second Intro:  Up-Down & All-Around Walk – Takes place at Redwood Regional Park (map) next Saturday, August 9th, from 2:30 – 4:30pm – Free.

We’ll hike from the top of the Ridge to the creek and back as we enjoy the redwoods and their varied past. Plan for up and down hill on this somewhat shady walk.  For 6+ yrs.  This is a drop in program; no registration is required.  For info, call: (510) 521-6887.

Third Intro:  Redwoods To the Cosmos – Takes place at Redwood Regional Park and Chabot Observatory (map) next Sunday, August 10th, from 9:00 – 11:00am (Cosmos) or from 1:30 – 2:30pm (Tykes) – Fees.

Earth and sky unite in an outing that is out of this world. High in the hills of Oakland, hike the redwood laced trails to hidden, historic sites. Experience the ecosystem by walking through the beautiful, shady paths of Redwood Regional Park. Then explore the cosmos at Chabot with hands-on interactive exhibits and displays and be amazed how your child’s universe can expand in one excursion!  ‘Redwoods to the Cosmos Hike’  is 8+ yrs, while ‘Little Tyke Family Hike’ is 5+ yrs.  Fees: $5 plus General Admission to Chabot.  For info and registration call: (510) 336-7373.

Who Painted The Dogs?

Stefen did!  He’s a terrific Berkeley muralist who creates art on a grand scale.

For the Thornhill Pet Hospital (map), Stefen painted “Kirkwood Lake” on the side of the hospital.  There you see this pristine, Tahoe-inspired mountain lake – and feel like hanging out with the lucky dog who’s relaxing nearby.

Several pets then greet you at the hospital door, except for the retriever who’s jumping up and surely can’t wait for someone to let him inside.

Whenever I’m hitting the 7-Eleven next door, these murals make me smile and escape from Oakland.  If you aren’t from this part of town, take a quick drive and admire Stefen’s building art too.

That Pharmacy On The Fault

Montclair Pharmacy’s been around since 1936, and at this La Salle location (map) since 1957.  I’m not a native villager, but am loyal to this pharmacy for my drugstore needs.  It just seems like the right place to go, with staff who have been around the block.

A few years ago, these guys came to my rescue when I was dealing with sciatica.  As I hopped down the aisles writhing in pain, they made the prescription and home-delivery process easy.

Their matter-of-fact approach was important, because I couldn’t drive and was in dire need.  The delivery person arrived quickly and, as a fellow sciatica sufferer, brought a little more empathy too.

I’m sure the other pharmacy options in town are fine.  Yet given the chance, I’ll always favor the independent Montclair Pharmacy in this era of chains-are-everything.  It feels better to visit pharmacist Bill Sullivan, who’s been here since the store opened 51 years ago.

The first time I set foot in this place, I wasn’t needy at all.  I simply wanted to kill a little time, and stopped by to inspect the travel books on hand.

Instead, I engaged in friendly banter with the shopkeeper about the Hayward Fault.  While he’s likely shared the geological markers over and over, he took the time to point out the 1989-era crack running through the store and across La Salle.  All part of the charm, I think.

Neighbors Unite Through MONS

Where is your MONS?  To prepare for calamities of all types, Montclarions have been organizing into hyper-local groups called “Montclair Organized Neighborhoods” or MONS for short.  These are groups of roughly 30 households that get organized to look out for each other.

According to Doug Mosher, there are already 50 groups and new groups are joining up.  He has even mapped many of their detailed locations.  Since this is a Google map, you can find out whether you’re specifically included in a group or organize one yourself.

If there’s mud, quakes, fires, crimes, plagues or pestilence, your neighborhood group would be the best place to turn.  By organizing beforehand, you also have a built-in excuse to meet nearby neighbors – something we all did in earlier eras but need a push these days.

Each neighborhood organizes for slightly different reasons, and generally aims to “beef up their ability to prepare and respond to natural disasters and emergencies, deter crime, clean up and beautify the neighborhood, and socialize.”  For more MONS info, check out these guides and links.

MONS are also part of Oakland’s CORE or “Citizens of Oakland Respond to Emergencies” groups.  After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the Oakland Fire Department knew it would be impossible to respond directly to everyone’s needs – and created this organization to teach Oaklanders what to do.

While admittedly a “manana person,” I found the MONS and CORE materials to be very practical.  For example, they advise you to share rosters/names of neighbors, including utility shut-off locations.  They also encourage you to share tools and resources.

These experts have thought about everything, including my favorite emergency preparedness lists for dogs and cats too!

That Undesired Traffic Light

Yesterday, Oakland City Council members green-lighted a Public Works department request to study La Salle / Mountain traffic.  Public Works can now apply for $100k in grants, which helps them assess the installation of a traffic light – one that’s undesired by locals.
Apparently the Public Works momentum won’t be derailed.  They noticed a few accidents and decided a traffic light was a priority to improve public safety.  Back in March, they held a hearing which covered the Montclair intersection.  Although support wasn’t clear, they moved forward through a City Council subcommittee yesterday.
Based on my chats around town, there seem to be many Montclarions opposed to the light and virtually none who think it’s a good idea.  Some villagers even showed up to protest Public Works’ efforts yesterday, including Derek Liecty, Jim Dexter and Claudia Falconer.
City Council members also agreed the traffic light isn’t necessary and yet authorized grant applications anyway.  According to Claudia Falconer, “Of the three Council members present, two stated outright that it seemed wasteful to place a signal in a neighborhood where most people didn’t want it, and the third suggested other intersections that might need it more.”
In the Montclarion (paid access), Michael Gourhan had framed the Montclair problem differently:  “So how do you reduce the number of people relying on Montclair as a stop on the way home?”  He suggested reductions by placing key services on Thornhill or outside downtown.
Meanwhile, there are efforts underway to beautify the Village and make it more walkable.  The Montclair Village Association (MVA) has arranged for a landscape architect to draft and develop changes now.  After getting inputs from citizens, MVA doesn’t recommend any radical changes but does support more amenities in the next year.
Thus, installing a traffic light should not be considered on an independent or isolated track.  Everyone’s intentions are good, but forging ahead doesn’t make good sense.

Coffee Chess: Starbucks Stays

Around Montclair, people were buzzing about the Starbucks closings list distributed by the Seattle behemoth.  Everyone I spoke with seemed curious about the Montclair store, which will remain opened after all – right across the street from Peet’s.

The stakes are not terribly high, so why are the emotions?  Local pride, as reported by the East Bay Business Times.  They identified seven East Bay locations slated to close, and gloated about one store that’s closing near the original Peet’s location in Berkeley.

Maybe we want Starbucks to slink away, but that’s not happening soon.  Much like how fast food outlets congregate together, our mix of coffee chains and indie shops means there’s plenty of demand.  Starbucks drafts along with these other shops, and also provides decent jobs and benefits for its employees.

When aliens land in our Village, they’ll likely be scratching their heads about all the coffee places here.  They will learn these shops aren’t only about dispensing coffee – they are about checking in with neighbors too.  Depending on the time of day, they are filled with commuters, moms and kids, local workers and retirees.

Montclair has six options, so where should you go?  That depends on what criteria matters to you:  location, seating, coffee, food or attitude.  Here are some of the choice Yelp reviews below.

  • Peet’s:  Hometown chain and coffee central – Yelp – 2066 Antioch Ct  (Map)

“The montclair village would totally suck if it weren’t for peets.  my husband and i never talk about it but i believe it’s proximity to peets (like 50 yards) is one of the main reasons we bought our house.  (oh… and er… the schools).”

“I love the way there are always giant friendly doggies outside, just waiting for you to pet.”  “The regulars seem to know each other.  I suppose it’s like a 21st century Cheers — where everybody knows your name.”

  • Starbucks:  Megachain, decent cold drinks –  Yelp – 2059 Mountain Blvd  (Map)

“The Montclair one is smaller and the employees are pretty annoying, but I tend to enjoy sitting on their bench”  “For real, the best thing about this starbucks is the window seating and the bench out front.  From there, you can look across the street to see people drinking yummy Peets coffee!”

  • Nelly’s Java:  Mainly coffee plus Wifi –  Yelp – 1952 Mountain Blvd (Map)

“There was a woman (presumably one of the staff) who wiped down the cream/sugar station before leaving for the day and offering her farewells to her coworkers.  When I asked, my suspicions were confirmed…THAT was Nelly.  Having the owner take a few seconds to do a simple task – and not pass that task on to a subordinate – really shows a lot of class!!”

  • Thornhill Coffee House:  Coffee, food and companions –  Yelp – 5772 Thornhill Dr  (Map)

“I love small, locally owned coffee houses, and so was obviously a sucker for Thornhill Coffee House from the very start.  I’m a bit of an idiot some days, and on this particular day, I walked to Thornhill Coffee House without my wallet.  the shop owner handed me the coffee and sandwich, and told me to go ahead and take it, and that I could pay her next time.  This never happens in Oakland!”

  • Noah’s Bagels:  Food first and impersonal – Yelp – 2060 Mountain Blvd  (Map)

“This might be the worst Noah’s anywhere. My bagel is never fully toasted, they often don’t follow the directions on the order form, and the employees don’t really know their products that well.  They’re usually good about fixing mistakes.”

  • Montclair Malt Shop:  Former Royal Ground barista – Yelp -2066 Mountain Blvd  (Map)

“Most cities would love to have a malt shop like this.”  “This is a mom and pop shop … not a chain.   It is very expensive to run a business in Oakland. No wonder prices are not bargain basement.  And Montclair Village is special. It is a jewel in the bay area. There are few places like it.”

2009 Updates: A new coffee shop has opened in the Royal Ground space, after big renovations were made.  We added them to the Montclair Coffee Chess list below.

  • Metro Cafe & Bar:  Individually dripped, lunch spot – Yelp – 2058 Mountain Blvd  (Map)

“I had a cup of drip coffee, I think it was Mocha Java, and it was definitely the best cup of coffee I ever had.  I am not a coffee snob.” “Metro serves beer on tap and excellent ice tea.  The lunch menu is a little pricey for a cafe, but the food is better than you’d expect….I like this new addition to Montclair.  It’s almost, sorta, nearly hip.”