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We might still have some distance to travel

In March this year Nova Scotia announced with some fanfare that dogs are now allowed on outdoor patio sections of restaurants.

The operative phrase here is “where ya been?” This is how the three other Atlantic provinces already operate-—and most of the rest of the civilized world. In fact, some countries allow canines inside, leaving it to the restaurant operator’s discretion.

But there is some widespread minor paranoia here about dogs generally. Because we live in the sticks, we avoid busy parks and walking trails like the plague—but for most urban and suburban dwellers, there’s no choice.

For owners of highly-trained canine family members, it’s always frustrating to get: “my daughter is afraid of dogs and I don’t want them in this park!”

Sorry, but this a public park and your problem is not my dogs, it’s your daughter’s irrational fear of them. Why don’t you do her a favour and fix that?

Then there’s the mandatory dog leash rule. Only a tiny mutt with tiny legs can be close to properly exercised walking alongside a human. We must acknowledge that off leash opportunities where a large dog can stretch out have been greatly improved in recent years, but there’s definitely still some distance to go.

Then there’s the mindless “please pick up after your pet” routine where, by official ordinance, you are obliged to place perfectly biodegradable material inside a non-biodegradable plastic container for disposal at a time when the planet is already awash in plastic. This rule also requires otherwise sensible people to walk around carrying dog feces. A simple stick or bunch of twigs very effectively, and ecologically responsible, brushes the material off a park path and out of sight and harm’s way. (Municipal streets are obviously another matter.)

Back to restaurants (where, by law, service dogs are exceptions and permitted everywhere).

Two questions first of all:

Why would people want a pet dog to accompany them to a restaurant in the first place?

Well: leaving a dog in a hot car is never a good idea; nor is leaving a dog in bitter winter temperatures. Plus, for most folks, their dogs are considered family members.

What’s the objection to dogs in eating establishments? It’s generally hygiene—except, as long as dogs are kept well away from the kitchen, medical experts seem to universally agree there’s no risk, simply a mistaken perception by some.

A quick look around the western world reveals that the most common norm is external patio situations only. A few nations, mainly in eastern Europe, are downright dog unfriendly, but more, mainly in western Europe, are completely dog friendly—France (where the waiter will probably also bring your dog a free bowl of water without being asked), Austria, Germany, Finland, Estonia and especially Belgium are totally dog friendly, inside or outside, at the discretion of the restauranteur. In general, though, you are unlikely to find pooches anywhere near fine dining establishments. That’s just common sense. 

The Brits (perhaps the most dog-loving race on the planet) are, of course, on the lenient end of the scale. Dogs are welcome at the discretion of the operator, and hence mostly end up inside only in pubs. Most family restaurants restrict dogs to patios, and dogs are virtually never taken anywhere near white tablecloths.

British pubs are institutions and form part of the backbone of small communities in particular—same clientele almost on a daily basis so first-name familiarity is all round. Dogs often accompany owners to the pub every day and simply become part of that community. They are known by name by the other patrons and often enjoy a beer and some chips alongside their owners. Since the dogs are well socialized and having fun, their behaviour tends to be impeccable.

Similarly, along the Yorkshire moors and in the Scottish Highlands, Border Collies (who accompany their shepherd bosses pretty much everywhere, every day), are also common patrons in pubs and also known to enjoy beer.

Maybe we here need to lighten up just a tad.  

 

 

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