Get used to the idea of eating with dogs in your favorite restaurant. California Gov. Jerry Brown (aka the best president America never had) recently signed a law permitting dogs to dine with their owners in restaurants all throughout the Golden State. And as history shows, trends that start in California eventually get to the rest of the country — cutting property taxes in the 1970s, sushi at baseball games in the 1980s, corporate websites in the 1990s and property crashes in this century. At least I like this idea. You can tell a lot about a person based on the way they eat and the way they react to dogs.
The law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, doesn’t permit a canine free-for-all. Any dog in a restaurant must remain in an outdoor-dining section, be on a leash and must not disturb human patrons. And it goes without saying (although the law says it anyway) that no dogs are allowed in the food-preparation area. The law doesn’t forbid local authorities from banning canine customers, nor does it prevent the owner of an establishment from barring puppies. It simply makes it OK to take your dog to dinner.
Now, I have been a dog owner (if you call yourself a pet parent, you should to be beaten with a Millwall Brick till you lose consciousness) most of my life, and I tend to prefer their company to that of humans. Dogs aren’t capable of lying for gain, and no dog has ever deliberately embarrassed me, stiffed me for work performed nor wasted my time on projects I know are going to fail.
By the same token, I don’t take my dogs everywhere I go. Sometimes, you just don’t want the aggravation. Nor do I take my kids or my wife every place either. But if you are one of those people who simply must bring your dog every place you go, I don’t think it’s my place to use the power of the state to stop you.
The arguments against dogs in diners are addressed by the requirements of the law. If the dog isn’t where the food is prepared, there really isn’t a hygiene issue (except among the people who are working back there). The dog can’t actually be inside, so there is a place for you to eat if you don’t want to have the puppy experience. And giving the owners the right to set their own rules is America at its best.
Besides, there is evidence that dogs in restaurants don’t cause the huge problems that many worry over. If you have ever been to France, you know that most bistros allow the chien in with the monsieur and madame. Some restaurateurs even have their own dog lounging around the place.
A great many years ago, I took a break from my studies in London to spend a few days in Paris (OK, to be precise, I decided I’d do my lounging around goofing off in France rather than England — happy now?). I found a little place to eat a few steps from the guest house where I was staying. The food was good, the wine plentiful and the two dogs the owner kept were Newfoundlands. Newfies, if you know your dogs, are on the large side; 100 pounds for females and 140 pounds for the males is about average. They didn’t even look up when I walked in, when the entrée arrived or when I paid my check.
The secret, of course, is having well-behaved dogs. In many respects, those French dogs were better behaved than many tourists are. They didn’t complain loudly about the portions, they didn’t send the wine back, they didn’t whine that they wanted to go to McDonald’s instead, and they didn’t talk too loudly on their cellphone.
The only problem with the California law is that it still permits that kind of behavior among humans.