Why I Don’t Like Taking My Dogs Out in Public
I know it sounds all wrong, but I don’t like taking my dogs out in public. I’ll take them to work, let them ride around in the car, play the puppy park thing, and I’ll definitely be taking them to the Keys house I’ll be renting for the first two weeks of August … but I usually shy away from taking them to chi-chi doggie hangout spots here in South Beach or Coconut Grove.
Not that I don’t ever take them. In fact, last week I took Vincent to brunch with friends-slash-colleagues at Lulu’s in Coconut Grove. Sitting in the well-ventilated shade with an ice water dish between his paws was a great treat for Vincent. He loved the change of pace (and the bits of fruit I slipped him while no one was looking).
Which begs the question: Why the heck NOT take them as long as they’re well-mannered and predisposed to enjoy themselves in such scenarios? (After all, some dogs don’t do well in public.)
In my case it’s all about a pet peeve I really have to start getting over. Because my dogs tend to get SO much attention whenever they’re in public (an admittedly adorable French bulldog, outgoing min-pin and silly-looking pug-mix are apparently too much of an inducement to resist gawking, cooing and fawning over) that I worry I’m sending the wrong message with my choice of pets.
Not that my dogs aren’t wonderfully deserving of the adulation. They absolutely are. But here’s the part that gets me:
Gaston: His ears are cropped and his tail is docked. And the permanent head tilt everyone loves so much? It’s because of his head trauma. "Yeah, to get one just like this you kind of have to cut up his head and his backside and hit him hard in the noggin with an automobile." Because people ask, you know? They want one just. Like. Him. Head tilt, croppy-dockies and all. OK, so they could dispense with the dry eye he also acquired from his blow to the brain, but that’s easily overlooked…
Vincent: "I’ve always wanted one! Where did you get him? My friend just got one from Romania. Isn’t that cool?" Um, no. Which is when I have to explain that unless you can shoulder an extra ten or twenty grand during his lifetime — or a $150 a month insurance policy — you really shouldn’t own one. And that for every imported dog there are two back home who live in puppy mill conditions and one or two in the litter who died along the way 'cause they were shipped at five weeks.
But that sounds so mean, you know? And how about all the people who just look and get the impression that Vincent is the healthiest dog on the planet despite his two spinal surgeries, one cleft palate surgery, one soft palate resection (another on the way) and my constant battle with his allergic skin disease and impulse control disorder. Prozac, anyone?
Slumdog: OK, so he’s unlikeliest to get the attention he deserves. That’s because he’s so strange-looking that the commonest question is, "What IS he?." And what can I say? Puggle gone wrong? Puppy mill disaster? Who knows? At least no one wants one just. Like. Him. He is, however, the least well-mannered, so he’s also the least likely to get out for brunch at a nice restaurant.
Now all this may sound like I’m being uncharitable towards the bulk of friendly, dog-loving humanity everywhere (I mean, who can resist the cuteness of a small pack of young dogdom?), but I swear it’s not that. I do love that people love them.
That is, unless I’m trying to write on my laptop or read a book. Dog or no, in public or not, to interrupt a quiet worker/reader is rude, IMO. Go ahead, call me a curmudgeon, but I only have so many hours in the day. If I want to interact I know enough about body language to act receptive, and others should know enough about body language to leave someone alone when she obviously doesn’t want your company at this exact moment. But dogs somehow seem to give people license to ignore other social cues. (I get it, but I don’t have to like it.)
Sorry for the grumpy digression. In fact, this whole post is grumpy. Hmmm … Maybe I should crawl back into bed and start the day over again. But then again, perhaps I do have a point: Shouldn’t a veterinarian out in public strive to set a good example?
Dr. Patty Khuly
Pic of the day: Two head tilts, a tongue and a "winkie" by Dr. Khuly
My canine brood: In the front, Slumdog (left) and Vincent (right); in the back, Gaston. Two brain-damaged dogs, one who’s tongue doesn’t fit in his mouth, and, of these, one who lacks all sense of decorum. Sigh.