UNPOPULAR OPINION: I Don't Want To Look At Your Dog (While Eating, Shopping Or Generally Outside Of A Home)

It’s about common decency, which I think -- in the most Larry David-ish way possible -- does not receive enough thought and attention in our supposedly civilized world.
Publish date:
May 14, 2014
unpopular opinion, pets, dogs, politeness

There are a lot of things in the world that I find “cute”—pink nail color, decorative eggs at Easter, Drake’s new glasses, almost every baby I’ve ever seen. Small animals, though? Not really. Puppies, bear cubs, relatively tiny elephants and any other sort of non-human creature in its infancy do nothing for my—apparently—cold, dead heart.

This may explain another thing that constantly alienates me from the rest of the middle-class, eats-at-restaurants-a-lot crowd with which I usually associate. I don’t think dogs at restaurants are cute. I am not moved by the sight of a furry, tongue-wagging thing anxiously waiting for crumbs while pacing back and forth between tables anywhere near me at a restaurant. This sentiment applies to both indoor or outdoor seating. I am actually very grossed out by the sight. I am also, usually, furious at the owner of the pet for having the hubris and gall and overall lack of courtesy for fellow patrons to bring their animal to an eating establishment.

This general disgust at seeing dogs anywhere but inside of a person’s home carries over to grocery stores, frozen yogurt shops and anywhere that sells food. I’m not happy to see a dog in Home Depot or on the bus, but I generally care less.

Hanging out in Europe for the past few months, I am constantly confronted with dogs staring me down as I try to eat or drink. In the cities where I’ve lived in the United States, it is somewhat of a thing, especially in places like New York or Washington, DC, which can, at times, have a decidedly European feel to them when compared to Southern and Midwestern cities.

I know that I am in the minority when it comes to this view. My friends in Europe all laugh at my extreme displeasure when I find humongous dogs traipsing about the subway or look at me as if I have no capacity to love when I do not reach down to nuzzle some mangy-looking specimen before I consume a tapas meal.

To them: whatever.

I have a few reasons for why I am so vehemently against people bringing pets into spaces that are not specifically designed for them. (An Irish pub with a couple of outdoor tables was not specifically designed for your Golden Retriever, boo.) Some of them have to do with general health and cleanliness. Some of them have to do with the fact that I have relatives and close friends with severe allergies to dogs and cats who are constantly forced to move out of the way as businesses cede more and more territory to people with pets. Some of them have to do with how weirded out I am about the general ethos in this country (and others) that dictates pets be constant companions and dragged around at all times with their owners.

But, mainly, I just find it rude.

And it has nothing to do with the fact that I don’t want to ever own an animal. It also has nothing to do with opposing any sort of movement for animal rights. (Although, just typing that seriously creeps me out, with the state of human rights being what they are everywhere in the entire world.) It’s about common decency, which I think -- in the most Larry David-ish way possible -- does not receive enough thought and attention in our supposedly civilized world.

Contrary to what libertarians and Fox News pundits would have you believe, we all live in a shared community and we’re responsible for our fellow humans. At the very least, we should bring some semblance of thought into how we conduct ourselves as we move about shared spaces, like restaurants and city buses and parks designated for children. Your pet isn’t a part of that community, unless the owner or the collective community decides that, like at PetCo or a vet clinic or a pet-friendly apartment complex.

And, on a kind of related note, your capacity to coo at animals is not, in any way, directly related to your ability to feel emotions or be a normal human who treats other creatures with respect. I don’t understand that correlation.

I’m not a terrible person. I just don’t really like animals as pets or as dinner companions.

So, please spare me whatever bullcrap science about how clean your dog’s mouth is or how you wash him every week or how she’s so friendly and doesn’t bite. Also, yes, I passed third-grade science like everyone else and I know that humans are also animals with similar instincts, blah, blah, blah.

It’s not about that. It’s about being able to go to a place that serves human food and have a reasonable expectation that I won’t have to eat that food while looking at your pit bull’s slobbering jowls. It’s about asthmatics being able board a flight and have a reasonable expectation that they will not have a life-threatening attack in mid-air because someone’s poodle is sitting on their lap. It’s about taking a couple of kids who are afraid of dogs to a park and not be confronted with 60-pound animals running around leash-less that are scaring them out of their minds.

Again, I’m not anti-pets for other people. While I do worry about the collective values of a society that insures pets while uninsured kids die from treatable diseases, I’m still not here to judge you individually for how you choose to approach pet owning. I had a few cute dogs growing up and I hear there is a lot of value in being a pet owner. You do you. Have a dog, a cat, a ferret, a snake, whatever your state legally allows you to have in whatever quantity you would like.

But leave them at home. Or, at least, in the car (with the windows down and stuff... safety) when you go to a restaurant. Pay whatever money you need to pay for them to travel but don’t break the rules and have them sitting on your lap. Take them to parks and obey the law by keeping them on a leash unless it’s a dog park.

In short, just be courteous, please.