A few days ago I received a text from someone inviting me for a “holiday coffee.” I hadn’t seen this person since the summer, and it came at just the right time because I was ready for my traditional eggnog latte, despite it being ridiculously overpriced. I texted her back and said I’d love to hook up, but under one condition: she not bring her dogs! She texted back saying she couldn’t leave the dogs (in the car). While living in Paris, I accepted the dog culture. It was Paris. And, as they say, when in . . . Even though I’d never lived anywhere where dogs roamed freely in markets, and having to avoid dog waste on sidewalks just about all over the city prior to residing in Paris, I made the adjustment without challenge.
Back in the day (the 80s, 90s) in L.A., no landlord would rent to a dog-owner, and dogs in restaurants? Very, very unlikely. I grew up with large dogs running around in extended backyards. This is where they could be free! Big dogs aren’t a fashion statement, which is why it’s rare, if it happens at all, one doesn’t come across, say a Doberman pinscher walking around in markets, malls, etc. And especially in a restaurant! It’s a craze–the popular-zation of Chihuahuas in L.A. In this town every single thing has a fleeting nature to it. Nothing remains constant in L.A. but the weather! Cute, designer dogs with their chic collars are especially trendy here.
About a year ago, I was standing online at a Starbucks in Miracle Mile, a neighborhood in L.A.’s Mid-City. A woman got on-line with two Chiweenies topped with decorative bows. The dogs barked in baby-sounding barks, and several customers were cooing and ahhh-ing at the teeny-weeny pooches. A barista said to the woman, “Excuse me, but we only allow guide dogs in this store. Would you please take your dogs outside!” The dog-owner remarked, “I’m just getting a latte. It won’t take long.” The barista came back with, “Please take your dogs outside.” She huffed and puffed about the inconvenience of having to take her dogs outside.
Not long after this experience in Starbucks, I was in a library where a man sat in front of a computer, his dog resting at his feet as he made weird doggie sounds. The dog was old with various medical conditions, I learned. Moreover, I discovered that a number of library patrons had complained about the dog over the past few months, but the various people working at the library made it clear: There’s nothing that can be done because it’s a “companion dog.” The afternoon I was there, a woman seated next to the man with the “companion dog” called the police to make a complaint. When two uniformed officers arrived, they listened politely to the woman for a few minutes; eventually they left after telling her the dog owner had documentation stating that his dog was a “companion dog.”
As someone who grew up with dogs, and cried when my father had to put one down, I love dogs. Yet there needs to be some consideration (or compromise) for those who do not care for dogs in public venues, or prefer not to be having a meal with a dog wagging its tail a few feet away. The woman from the library who called the police on the man with the dog said to the officers, something to this effect: “The law is one-sided. People can just bring a dog into a library, or any public kinda place because they’re lonely! What about people who don’t like–who are scared of–dogs? They come up on you and smell you. They stink! The dog owner thinks it’s cute. But it’s rude!”
The same person who extended the “holiday coffee” invite–she and I had lunch a few months ago. She brought her two dogs. I’d made a comment about her bringing her dogs to a restaurant and she pulled out her iPhone and showed me credentials that indicated her two dogs were “companion dogs!” I am baffled by this word, “companion.” Baffled! The guy from the library sat in front of a computer being quite entertained by online minutia–laughing, talking at the screen! At that moment in the library, that was certainly his companion–the computer! Not his dog which distracted, and annoyed, others seated nearby.
So this brings me back to the “holiday coffee” invite. The person who extended that “holiday coffee” invite; the same person I had lunch with a few months ago? During our lunch, I was her companion! The quality of our time together was limited because of her “companion dogs.” I frequently competed with her fussing at her dogs with, “stop barking”; “stop that!”; “behave!” And I genuinely get it: There are some people who feel deeply sad without their dogs!