Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Dogs–the new cigarette?

When I was a kid, the family dog was in the backyard and cigarettes were found everywhere. Today, dogs are everywhere and smokers are banned to their backyard.

I’m not complaining. Just wondering how dogs have reached such a thumbs-up public approval.

Check out this New Yorker article in which the journalist trots a turkey, a snake, a pig, and an alpaca in public places. 

Now, before we get started. I need to state right up front. I like dogs. Our family dog taught me to walk (I grabbed on to him and he patiently led me along), and we were buds until he died at age of fourteen. I still miss him. Not that it’s a big deal, but I nearly died trying to protect our neighbor’s Cock-a-poo who had been attacked by dogs gone wild.  I have considered becoming a trainer for guide dogs once I finally retire from teaching. And just today I reunited two boys with their list Labrador. So–I do like dogs.

I just prefer dogs in the proper setting. Restaurants, hotels, the library, grocery stores, the farmer’s market, my local Home Depot, and the post office are not places I expect or desire to interact with dogs. I have no issue with true service dogs. They are trained and serve a needed purpose. The wolfhound blocking the sidewalk at the local farmer’s market (where it is posted “No Dogs in Park)–purpose?

Some communities are crazy for dogs. Oregon’s Hood River is such a place. San Francisco is another city gone to the dogs, and many of its citizens are wondering if they have gone too far in embracing doggy appreciation (3-1 said yes in a poll). It’s become so prevalent to see dogs when I go out to eat that I’m tempted to ask if there is non-dog section when going to a restaurant. True service dogs stay at their owner’s feet, they do not share their table, nor their lap. No fuss is made over them because they are on duty. They are well-behaved. They aren’t that noticeable.

Regular dogs and their owners–that’s a different matter.

Even though it’s posted at our local community park, where the local farmer’s market is held, that no dogs are allowed, that does not deter either the locals or the tourists from bringing their canine with them as they shop for garlic cloves and search for the perfect scone. I see the sign “Service Animals Only” posted on the door of most businesses, yet that request does not apparently apply to the lady with the Pekinese stuffed in her purse as she rolls out her grocery cart.

The value of a posted ordinance, rule, or request is only as good as it is enforced. The farmer’s market association says it’s the job of the city to enforce the ordinance. The police department says they will stop by the park if they don’t have other pressing duties. The store manager says they risk a lawsuit if they ask the person if their dog is a service animal. Clerks have developed a “we don’t ask” policy at the library and post office. The people I encounter in public places who do not have their dog on a leash, although it’s posted to do so, say “Oh, no worries. She’s friendly.” Maybe so, but I still don’t want that friendly nose snuffing my leg. There’s a set of teeth ever so close to that friendly nose that may decide otherwise. It’s happened. 

I’m wondering if society has replaced the cigarette, a selfish, noxious habit that can harm those in its presence with another risky habit. Whoa, C. Muse. Equating cigarettes to dogs is a bit harsh. Maybe so. There remains a deep-seated amazement that people seriously think I want to share my space with their four-legged habit. I am not the only one who is wondering about this new dog-permissive attitude.

David Lazarus of the LA Times decided to test the new doggy permissiveness. Even though there are health codes, he acknowledged, he took his dog Teddy with him one day, wondering why no one stopped him when he decided on taking his dog everywhere he went. Perplexed at being ignored by those around him he summed it up: “I have only one answer to that. It’s L.A., dude.”

I will expand on that answer: It’s America. Americans don’t like being told what to do. Americans like to celebrate their freedom. Americans like their dogs.

Has anyone else noticed the new dog permissiveness? Are dogs as prevalent as cigarettes once were in public places? Dog gone it, I just don’t understand why society wants to have such dog day afternoons. 



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8 thoughts on “Dogs–the new cigarette?

  1. I get that not everyone likes dogs or wants to be around them but they definitely aren’t cigarettes. Cigarettes are poison. Dogs are actually really good for people in a myriad of ways. I don’t want to live in a world without dogs. But sadly, not all dog owners are created equal and the really sh*tty ones wreck it for everyone.

    • I hoped people wouldn’t take my comparison if dogs being poisonous. The comparison is that people are oblivious how their habit affects everyone else. I probably will end up offending people for the wrong reason. I do like dogs. I certainly don’t like cigarettes.

  2. Dogs are all over the place here in Australia, too, although it doesn’t sound like they are quite as all over the place as in the US (but, I don’t get out much, so maybe there’s more around than I think). I like dogs too, but I also don’t believe you need to take your dog everywhere.
    We have a huge hardware chain here in Australia called Bunnings (I guess it’s kind of our equivalent to your Home Depot) that introduced a “Dogs Welcome” policy to it’s stores at some point in the last couple of years. Within a month of it happening, a little girl had been bitten by a dog in-store (I think they’ve since got rid of the “Dogs Welcome” policy). Now, I’m not saying that all dogs are dangerous, but some dogs are less well behaved than others and some owners don’t particularly care that much. Also, if you put a furry beast in the vicinity of a small child, the child will likely want to touch it; unless of course they had the old “never touch an animal you don’t know” rule instilled in them from an early age.

    I don’t know. If I were a dog, I couldn’t think of anything worse than being dragged around a hardware store full of things I’m not allowed to pee on.

  3. Dogs in restaurants, now that is something I am not a fan of, although were I to have a dog of my own I would be biased about it, just not in restaurants. The problem with dogs is that you never quite know what it going to happen, most are fairly benign unless spooked but then again you hearing stories and it can make one nervous.

  4. Interesting post. I got a dog ~3 months ago and I’ve been thinking about dog etiquette a lot. I spend a lot of time at one of the local dog parks and I’ve realized that most people don’t care very much about rules/general etiquette. From letting their dogs run off-leash outside the fence (illegal) to letting them act aggressive or hump other dogs (rude and asking for trouble), owners allow all kinds of poor behavior. If humans were better about controlling dog behavior, I think the public prevalence of dogs would be less irritating.

    I do see the appeal of taking your dog out with you. If my husband and I go downtown for a Saturday morning and walk quite a bit, I later won’t want to run the 2-3 miles it takes to wear my dog out. If I can take him with us, it’s the best of both worlds. But I do keep him on a leash, don’t take him inside restaurants (I’ll eat on a patio), and try to make him be respectful of other people’s space.

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