Malls have already banned smoking, gun-toting, and skateboarding inside the premises. Does this intolerance for disruptive behavior extend to dogs? Sure, they’re on a leash, and okay some of them look cute in their batman costume, but they can bark loudly and snarl at passers-by.
It now seems to be an accepted practice to walk dogs in all sorts of places which used to be limited to neighborhoods of gated communities and public parks. Should dogs be allowed at malls?
It’s even now a valid lifestyle question in a TV interview to ask — are you a cat person or dog person? One is not expected to reply — I’m just a person-person. I like to walk with animals with two legs only who don’t need to be on a leash.
Those who love dogs and even sleep with them for warmth and companionship not available in less hairy substitutes can skip this piece altogether. I mean no offense and do not want to invite rude comments.
Here are some routine actuations of dog owners (and walkers) that make me uncomfortable with canis familaris. As an aside, these are intelligent people who can discuss the anti-Semitism in Merchant of Venice in its portrayal of Shylock, over iced coffee.
“Don’t worry, Sir. She doesn’t bite.” Such assurance from a dog handler to a threatened septuagenarian is intended to allay fears of being attacked. (She only bites those who walk slowly.) The use of the feminine gender for a pet (not the feminine noun for dog) instead of the neuter form shows the walker’s personification of a beast, explaining its behavioral history vis-à-vis the exposed ankles of strangers.
The retractable leash has made the idea of restraining an animal’s radius of aggravation moot. This dog accessory (which has a child-restraining version) allows the animal to stray as the leash reels out, and not drag along its owner. The pet can frolic with unrestrained glee along a bigger radius of passers-by. (In the interest of fairness, some strangers do squat and pet the dog with affectionate gurgling sounds.) The maximum length of the leash is unknown. And the uncertainty principle adds to the delight of the owner in seeing the panic-stricken faces of shoppers, especially those carrying heavy grocery bags which may include pet food… for the terrapin.
Dogs have become mobile accessories, as dogs themselves have been accessorized. There are colorful dog collars, sun glasses, and even tube attire to elicit even from even the hard-hearted non-dog-lovers a grudging admission that there is really a retail boom in Manila — where do they buy these togs for dogs?
As a child growing up in a big family, I had my own exposure to household dogs, mostly to provide security by barking at those who press the wrong passcode at the gate. I was given the opportunity to give our no-breed grubby-looking dogs names after Russian authors. My favorite was Fyodor Mikhailovitch. Whenever I called out his name, he would come to me with his tongue hanging out as if to recite a passage from Crime and Punishment. I was never tempted to pet Fyodor on the head or tickle his belly.
Even the most responsible dog walkers admit the loathsome and to their mind inevitable habit of dogs doing their business, usually in grassy portions of parks, footpaths, or vacant lots. The first three letters of “poodle” summarizes one loathsome aspect of dogs. In Paris, dog owners are required by law to clean up the doggy mess. These upright citizens scoop up dog poo by picking this up with a hand encased in a plastic bag they carry which is then turned inside out to neatly store the feces without needing to touch it directly, in the nearest bin. This same hygienic process is provided to those who dine on oversized hot dogs — a different kind of canine.
While dogs now get to have celebrities to push for their adoption, it may be better for them to contribute scholarships to the needy. Anyway, it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie. But sometimes, they stir, snarl, and bark with wild abandon. Then it’s time to head for the escalator and hope the retractable leash hits its limit… with a gagging trashing sound left far behind.
A. R. Samson is Chairman and CEO, TOUCH xda.