Give America to the Dogs
Let’s Make Dogs Part of Our Lives, Every Day
Why we don’t agree with people who want to keep dogs out of public places: an open letter in response to Farhad Manjoo & Slate.com
Yesterday, I walked into my office with my dog. He was on a leash, and we walked past the reception desk, where he got a friendly greeting and a treat from the receptionist. On my way to my desk, some co-workers stopped to pet him and we exchanged a few words about the day while he waited patiently, happy to get some attention. No one seemed particularly alarmed by his presence. He didn’t jump on anyone. He didn’t slobber. He didn’t bite.
What he did was make the office a little better, a little more social, and a little more productive.
Sure, dogs are allowed more places than they used to be, but their presence isn’t an inconvenience or a threat. Dogs have hardly achieved dominion over America, since they’re not, in fact, allowed in most restaurants, retail establishments, on buses, in malls, or in post offices. Almost every city has a leash law, and most dog owners I know are pretty careful about controlling their pets, whether they’re at home or out in public. Sure, there are a few people who break the rules, who are inconsiderate, and who otherwise make us feel inconvenienced by their choices – but, to be frank, that’s life.
The bottom line is that, while there are dramatic claims out there about dogs, the good far outweigh the bad. They lower stress, may reduce the risk of heart disease, help us visit the doctor less often, and lower our blood pressure, not to mention help thousands of people with disabilities live rich, independent lives.
Full disclosure, though you could probably tell from the first paragraph – I am a dog person. I love dogs. I think they’re beautiful, and loyal, and intelligent, and that they make the world a better place by being in it. The last thing I would ever want would be for America to become somehow dog-free.
I think that the more places my dog can come with me, the better, and I think it’s better for me, him, and everyone around us who has any interest in dogs. But I also think he needs to be a good citizen of the world that I want him to be a part of. He needs to know how to behave himself, to stay away from people who don’t want him nearby, and to remain quiet and under control. I’ll forgive him the occasional bark at a squirrel, just as I’ll forgive a friend the occasional ringing cell phone in a movie theater, because we all get a little excited and make mistakes sometimes.
I work in an office where the culture is all about bringing your pets to work. People do it every day, and yes, there may be an assumption that people love dogs. But never have I seen anyone ignore someone else’s discomfort with a pet, or brush off unwanted interaction by saying, “Don’t worry, he loves people.” Everyone, and I mean every single person, in our office follows the rules – which say that dogs have to be on a leash, and have their own space in your office where they’re under your control. And when they need to run around? We’ve got a dog park for that.
The real problem isn’t that the world is being taken over by dogs, it’s that many of us want to bring our dogs with us out into the world, and we haven’t provided the kind of solutions that can make it possible, convenient, and even beneficial. All it takes is a little foresight, a few rules, and some space that’s designated for our canine companions. If dogs in the park are running around and bothering you, maybe it’s because there’s no dog park in your neighbourhood. If there’s a dog at your gym and you can’t understand why, maybe it’s because there’s nowhere for a dog owner to exercise with his dog in the winter where you live. And at your office? Chances are your company hasn’t thought about what it takes to make dogs at the office part of a successful company culture. (But trust me, they should.)
I don’t expect everyone to love my dog, or any dog. I don’t need you to fawn over him, or tell me how cute he is, or love and worship him. I didn’t bring him to the office, or the park, or even the gym so you could pet him. I brought him because it makes his life a lot more exciting. I brought him because he makes me happier and more productive. I brought him because he’s an important part of my life that I’m not willing to give up for eight or ten hours a day.
So, if you’re a doggie skeptic, think about just how much better a dog can make life – not necessarily for you, but for his owner. And the next time your young, happy co-worker brings in his dog for the day, tell him the office should really have a dog park. It’s time to make that dog feel at home.
Proud to represent my dog, Charlie, and Purina, a company of pet lovers.