LINCOLN PARK — Lincoln Park is going to the dogs.
In an analysis of more than 38,000 city dog licenses on file, DNAinfo Chicago found the neighborhood to have one of the largest registered dog populations in the city. With 2,048 tagged canines, Lincoln Park was just two pups shy of tying No. 1-ranking Lakeview.
And though 38,000 active licenses represent just a fraction of the city's actual dog population thanks to widespread non-compliance, the data shows that Lincoln Park is a big draw for city dog owners — especially for those of Labrador Retrievers, the most popular breed in Lincoln Park and citywide.
Recently walking his dog 9-year-old black Lab, Jake, near Stockton Drive by the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, college student Richard Kline stopped to chat while Jake sat obediently by.
Kline and his mother Cherie Berzon moved to Chicago in mid-2012 from suburban Highland Park where "we had a yard, but we didn’t really have as much space" as there is for dogs in Lincoln Park.
"And there weren't as many dogs, so that’s one thing he really loves about it here," said Kline.
"Lincoln Park is like no other," Berzon added. "I'm shocked at how many people have dogs here. It's unbelievable."
Lincoln Park has been on the forefront for dogs in Chicago.
"Most of the dog parks that were existence were out in California. We weren’t reinventing the wheel, we were reinventing it here in Chicago," said Stacey Hawk, who was one of the leaders of the effort to turn Noethling Playlot Park into Wiggly, which was rated one of "America's Best Dog Parks of 2005" by Dog Fancy readers.
There was no guidebook for Hawk and the Wrightwood Neighbors Association to follow, but their years-long efforts established the step-by-step process now officially spelled out by the Chicago Park District. Other neighborhood groups also came to Hawk and her later-formed Dog Advisory Work Group for advice about the process.
"Because I had already walked through this, we knew we could share resources and help other people get dog parks," she said. "We have a lot of passionate, active people that work on dog-related issues in Lincoln Park."
Hawk now works as a dog trainer, as does real estate agent Roger Lautt, who fell into the pet industry after realizing people were often turning to him to find pet-friendly apartments and condos.
His business, called Chicago Dog Pads, finds pet-friendly real estate on the North Side but has also expanded into a resource for much more than a place for dog owners and their canines seeking housing: he refers trainers and veterinarians and has created an interactive map of dog-friendly cafes and restaurants.
"The dog industry has gotten really important and very profitable for many people, much more so than it was maybe 10 or 15 years ago" said Lautt, who now lives in Logan Square but lived for 15 years in Lincoln Park.
"It's a really affluent community, so there are a lot of dog walkers, a lot of dog sitters, a lot of dog trainers. There's a bit more money spent on the dogs in Lincoln Park than the more outlying areas," Lautt said.
At Barker & Meowksy, 1003 W. Armitage Ave., one can drop $60 on an "Interactive Enrichment Puzzle," get a dog fitted for winter boots or drop him or her off for a massage.
The upscale pet boutique and grooming service opened on Armitage in 1998, where owner Alice Lerman loved to shop but couldn't find anything that catered to the four-legged set.
"Dogs and cats give us so much in our lives, and we want them to be happy and comfortable, and integrate them into our world as much as we can," Lerman said.
Many shops along Armitage allow owners to shop with their pets in tow, such as the stationery store Paper Source, athletic-apparel shop Title 9 and home store Tabula Tua.
Barker & Meowsky is featured in guide books and on travel websites, making Lincoln Park a travel destination for dog owners from around the country and abroad.
The dog-friendliness of Lincoln Park is something Cherie Berzon's friends in Highland Park weren't expecting — they asked her what she was going to do with Jake when she moved.
"I said, 'He's coming! What do you mean, what am I going to do with him?'" she said, and echoed a feeling expressed by several of Lincoln Park's dog-industry professionals: "He's like my kid."