Living Well Together is part of what place making is about, and I have seen firsthand the ways in which pets can be part of our efforts to revitalise local communities. Dogs are destined to play a role in the revitalisation of the main street of Wodonga. Sixteen months ago I was employed by the City of Wodonga as their Place Maker, and my major challenge was to take a very tired, dysfunctional High St and turn it into the vibrant civic heart of the city. In case you are wondering what a Place Maker does, it is very much like being a home maker. Homemaking turns a house into a home, while place making turns a space (such as a street) into a place. The art of place making, like the art of homemaking, involves creating an environment that nurtures both inhabitants and visitors. This is not primarily about the design of the space, because, just as the best interior design in the world does not necessarily result in a house becoming a home, the best architecture and design does not make a space a place. It’s more about making people feel welcome and valued, or throwing a great party. In trying to turn High Street into one of the great public spaces in Australia, the fi rst thing I did was organise a weekly Friday night event during the summer called ‘Lounging on High’. We put some old retro lounge chairs in the street, hired a jazz band and invited people to bring food and drink and ‘lounge on High’. Because many people lounge at home with their pets, we put out dog drinking bowls to encourage people to bring their dogs. When we eventually rebuild High Street it will include dog drinking bowls and hitching rails. In place making, dogs play a much greater role than just ‘conversation starter’ or ‘social lubricant’. One of the secrets of place making is to get people to slow down. If people take twice as long to get from A to B, the street will look twice as full, without attracting a single extra customer. A street full of people is more appealing than a street half empty. So when people stop to pat a dog or chat to the owner, they are actually helping to bring the street to life. As a place maker, my job is to deliver a memorable experience. Dogs can help create that memorable experience for many people, especially for children. In Living Well Together you will fi nd lots of case studies of how cities, towns and neighbourhoods are using pets to improve the well being of communities and build social capital. It is a timely reminder that we often think that creating great places, great streets and great parks requires big, expensive plans, when in fact, it is the simple things that help us live well together.
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