Independence Day. Whenever this national holiday comes around now, I always think of our San Francisco Presidio. Why? Because it was once a military base that protected our nation and because we had the good fortune to live in one of the officers quarters for several months with our big dog. Cleo is so big and of a mix breed that we could not find a landlord who would rent to us - except for the Presidio.
The Presidio has one of our national cemeteries. It is a place that once I began to really explore its natural and historic treasures by foot, a patriotic and proud feeling came over me. Even Cleo got into the spirit and did her part welcoming tourists from all over. A few took pictures of her from their tour bus at the Golden Gate Bridge or one of the trolley tours parked at Fort Point.
The Presidio is no longer a working fort but is now a national park, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and has a leasing agency, the John Stewart Company that leases out the residential housing as well as the commercial buildings. Whether a 8-bedroom historic brick house or a relatively new apartment, if it is available you can rent it. By living within this enormous park, we discovered so many wonderful places to take Cleo that were safe for both dogs and people.
Besides the miles of trails that are available, a fun and wide open area for dogs is Crissy Field. Here dogs have lots of space to run without being too close to each other. This particular area is separate from the picnic areas, which is good. We kept Cleo on a leash walking past the grills since she would do tricks for a stranger if it meant getting a bite of their hot dog. Sometimes people will fly kites on the meadow or practice their kite surfing technique without being attached to their board. The winds in the afternoon can be very strong.
As of Spring 2010, this area allows dogs off leash as long as they are under voice control. There are signs posted indicating where dogs must be leashed. Seasonally there are areas along the water that are off limits to dogs because of nesting birds. This is a beautiful area for dogs and people to enjoy but also within an urban setting. The balance between off leash dogs, wildlife and families is delicate. One way to stay informed is through the Crissy Field Dog Group.
Cleo likes to chase the low flying birds across Crissy Field, but with the many field mice living there as well it is important to pay attention to the many holes that can be difficult to see. A dog or person can sprain their ankle if not careful. She may enjoy her independence here but we keep Cleo always within range of our voice if we have her off leash.
San Francisco is a dog and pet friendly city. Forget to take a bag to pick up your dog's poop? Along the perimeter of Crissy Field are wooden posts that have a large white poop bag dispenser filled with bags. The maintenance crew keeps the dispensers stocked and you will find a garbage can is usually close by. Be respectful because like all big cities, if we want our dogs to have nice places like the San Francisco Presidio to enjoy their canine independence off leash, dog owners need to be responsible.