Dogs Are Better Than People And We All Know It But Do They Really Belong Everywhere?
Is it me, or are dogs everywhere these days?
Yesterday I was at the 12 Oaks Publix and a fellow had his Boston Terrier riding in the buggy next to the La Croix. Then while I was shopping for sundresses at TJMaxx, the snout of a some sort of floppy-haired terrier peeked under the wall of the dressing room. And last week, a mom at our daughter’s UGA orientation attended the financial aid lecture while pushing an ancient chihuahua around in a stroller like a baby.
Obviously, I squealed and cooed and patted their adorable heads, because ohmahgerd, dogs are so freakin’ cute! But in another, less mommy-mushed part of my mind, I thought, well, this crosses a line, doesn’t it?
Look, I get it. During the pandemic we relied on our puppers for companionship and entertainment, and realized that their company was superior to that of other human beings. Naturally, after all this attention, our fur babies threw monstrous hissy fits and ate all the toilet paper when we had to leave the house again, so now we have to take them on errands and to the office or they will eat through their crates lined with fancy fleece bedding and destroy everything we own.
The pandemic did not change my work habits of hanging around the house all day playing pattycake with my computer, so I still spend more waking hours with my doggos than pretty much anyone else. Sometimes I have to walk down to buy Altoids and boiled peanuts from the corner gas station by myself just to show them they’re not the boss of me, and also to prove I can still interact with humans without growling.
Honestly, our Geech and Donut—both One Love rescues with charming personality disorders—aren’t fit to be in public, anyway. I’m not saying they’re bad dogs, but the one time Mark and I brought them to the Savannah Bananas Bark in the Park event there years ago Geech whined in sync with the brass band the whole game and Donut stole a tampon out of someone’s purse.
It just seems like there’s been a cultural shift: Before COVID, people brought their well-behaved woofers to specifically-sanctioned events and places; nowadays, it’s common to see packs of paws panting together under the table during brunch.
Sure, many of these dogs out in the world may be working, which you can tell by their adorable little vests. Service animals are an incredible blessing for folks with disabilities and PTSD and are certified to perform ADA-specific tasks to warn and protect their owners. I have a dear friend who suffered a horrific trauma many years ago, and the astoundingly intelligent Princess Hades has made it possible for her owner to enjoy being out in the world, tucking herself under tables and pretending to be invisible as any good bodyguard should.
Now, service dogs are different than Emotional Support Animals, which still provide aid and comfort in their own adorable unskilled way, but do not have the same rights and public access as their uniformed counterparts. (After what we’ve been through these last few years, aren’t all dogs emotional support animals, though?)
The thing is, anybody with opposable thumbs can purchase one of those cute official vests from Amazon. It’s also illegal for a business owner to ask someone for evidence that their dog is a certified service animal. So shocker, some humans take advantage.
I was in a fast-casual restaurant recently and observed one of those Sheepadoodle muppets everyone has now snorking around for dropped french fries and winding around people’s ankles while they were trying to eat. Its leash, embroidered with SERVICE DOG in block letters, was about 12 feet long and being held limply by its owner, who was watching her adorable beast with a bemused smile.
I leaned over amiably. “So, what other services does your dog provide besides vacuuming?”
She sputtered something about anxiety relief, and I couldn’t help but laugh as she tangled herself up trying to reign in her pup, who was on his back wriggling around trying to get me to scratch his stomach, which of course I did. To her credit, he did not seem anxious at all.
I realize that suggesting dogs do not belong inside of restaurants is extremely controversial and more likely to get me canceled than anything I could say about Buddy Carter (he probably kicks puppies, though.) I conducted a very unscientific poll about dogs in restaurants this week, and a lot of people shrugged and said “well, that’s what they do in Europe,” which I thought was a total copout since Europeans also have universal healthcare, free college education, and a lot of cool castles but watching a pug eat off a bread plate is what we’re choosing to emulate?
Most people said they don’t mind well-behaved mutts pretty much everywhere but the fanciest places, though several changed their bark when they were reminded that random dogs in restaurants are a health code violation. Bringing your pet into a restaurant or café puts our already taxed service industry people in the awkward position of asking you to leave, and it’s also just mean because they’re not allowed to pet your dog while they’re working because that would be gross. There are, however, at least 150 food spots in and around Savannah with outdoor seating where dogs are legally welcome as long as they’re leashed, but they're still not supposed to sit at the table.
Now, dogs in bars, totally different animal, perfectly legal. However, this does not mean you deserve to bring your dog to the bar. Bars really only need one hairy mascot at a time, maybe two at most, and there’s a hierarchy. As Mark Lebos puts it, “it’s cool if you’re some loveable eccentric who’s been putting Bob Seger’s ‘Turn the Page’ on the jukebox every Thursday afternoon at Pinkie’s with his fat old retriever, but some dick who just moved here from Bushwick with his whippets? Not so much.” Dogs hate bars, anyway.
Look, I’m the first person to fall all over your shmoochkie and probably give it part of my sandwich, but I’m also nonplussed with this new level of pooch ubiquity. Part of the issue is that not everyone adores dogs or wants the surprise of encountering them in places that have always been strictly for humans. Many people are legitimately afraid of dogs, and your sweet baby isn’t going to be the one that heals that trauma. I once heard a Holocaust survivor describe the reason for her lifelong terror of German Shepherds; I try now to be sensitive to the fact that my silly, harmless mongrels can be perceived as frightening others.
I suppose it’s really about etiquette. Dogs in public spaces can be loads of fun, as long as their owners consider others and figure out when it’s more appropriate to leave them at home. But we all know our social compact is fraying like an over-masticated chew toy, and people feel entitled to behaviors that would never have been accepted a few years ago.
So really, it’s not about the dogs.
Maybe I’m just a bitch, but isn't it always humans that are the problem?
Come barkatcha girl ~ JLL
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