Why the controversy?
Earlier this week, I asked facebook for recommendations on dog friendly places for dining al fresco. I was supposed to meet my husband for lunch, but had a vet appointment that ran WAY long. I didn’t have time to run the dog home first, and it was a gorgeous, sunny and mild day so why not bring him with us? An increasing number of Capital Region businesses are becoming dog friendly, and welcoming animals and their owners into their shops, cafes and restaurants. I just wanted to know which ones they are. I didn’t realize that one simple question would set off such a heated and nasty debate.
I grew up with dogs but never brought any of them to a restaurant. Our yellow lab was wild and would steal food, so that was never even an option. We now have a 25 pound mini golden doodle (non-shedding and hypoallergenic, if that makes any difference) and he is the calmest, sweetest little guy. I guess that’s why I didn’t expect responses like “How stupid. Its (sic) not only gross but kind of inhumane for the dog with all the food around.” "No Kelly, it's more humane to leave him at HOME! Keep your friggin' pets OUT of stores, restaurants and the like.” Some were concerned about a dog biting or jumping, and another used it as an opportunity to complain about dogs in shopping carts at Lowes (?). And then there was this: “The point behind my comments are to point out this ridiculous entitled atmosphere we are living in. Everyone thinks they should just be able to do whatever they want, regardless of other HUMANS needs desires (sic). Imposing your pet on me in public is a perfect example.”
Ok, I get it… to a point. Except that the LAW allows it. In 2015, the state legislature established guidelines for allowing dogs at restaurants. So if an establishment allows it, and the state allows it, is that really being entitled or imposing on someone else? If you have a problem with a dog lying quietly in the corner of the patio, then choose a restaurant that doesn’t allow dogs. That is your right. Every dog I have ever seen in a restaurant setting has been lying at their owner’s feet, either sleeping, or just chilling out. After calling ahead to make sure it was ok, we went to O’Toole’s in Colonie and my dog slept under my chair in the corner of the patio, disturbing nobody. We ate our salads, and left without incident. Did I impose my dog on anyone else? Or would it be just the mere sight of a sleeping dog that opponents would find so offensive? I think most dog owners can decide for themselves whether their dog should be taken to places like that or not. This is the first dog I have ever felt comfortable enough to do that with. If there was even a remote chance that he could jump on someone, behave badly or even bark once, it would not have been an option. A well-behaved dog, in a place where he is legally allowed to be? OH, THE HORROR!
What it comes down to is being respectful. Dog owners need to be respectful to other diners when deciding if their dog is well behaved enough to bring to a public place. Other people need to be respectful of the fact that those of us who do choose to bring our dog to an outdoor café have the right to do so. If you somehow feel your rights as a human are being violated, blame the restaurant that allows it rather than the dog owner who is just enjoying a quiet meal.
I’d much rather dine with dogs than unruly children whose parents aren’t watching them, people talking loudly into their cell phones, or smokers polluting the air near doorways... But those are topics for another day. In the meantime, I’m off to compile a list dining establishments that my dog loving friends can give their business to, and dog haters can choose to avoid and undoubtedly find something else to complain about.
By the way, Steve Barnes of the Times Union attempted to create a list as well, but the same vitriol developed on his blog too. You can read Table Hopping here. Click on “View Comments” to navigate the nastiness and find some local dog friendly eateries.