I especially like the sign because it perfectly illustrates the cultural attitudes around here regarding dogs and their station in life. Although most dog owners I know view their pets as valued family members (mine very kindly allows Chef Boyardee and me to sleep on his king-sized bed with him), dogs are not allowed in restaurants, and many stores exclude them as well.
The situation was completely different in France, where small dogs in shops and restaurants was a common sight. It made me slightly uneasy every time we went to Les Xaintrailles, our neighbourhood bistro, and were greeted at the door by the owners’ dog.
We ate there quite often, because it was literally around the corner from our house, the food was excellent, and the employees were lovely. They never seemed to mind when the crazy foreigners showed up for dinner at the ungodly hour of 6:30, even though we sometimes interrupted them hastily eating their own meal before the evening rush began. Their crème brûlée was to die for. The dog was pretty cute, too.
When my friend Sally and her daughters visited from Singapore, we took them to Les Xaintrailles one night. Sally, who possesses a bird-like appetite, picked at her meal — until, that is, she spied the scruffy little canine resting by the bar. I soon realized, to my horror, that she was discreetly feeding him under the table. The waiter realized it a moment later, and immediately dashed over with an emphatic “non, non, non!”
I was absolutely mortified. Tiny beads of sweat formed under my arms, and I steeled myself for the ignominy of being kicked out of our local restaurant — the one we walked past every single morning on our way to school. How could I face the kindly owner after this? And more importantly, where was I going to get my crème brûlée fix now?
Once again, I had underestimated the French. Upon reaching our table, the waiter produced a chair with a flourish, nimbly scooped up the dog, and ensconced him at our table. “Et voilà,” he beamed at Sally. “Now you don’t have to bend down to share with him.”
There was a stunned silence at the table for a moment, and then we started laughing hysterically. The honoured guest remained at the head of the table until his plate was clean, at which point he jumped down and trotted elegantly back to his station by the bar, where he promptly fell asleep.
Now that I have a dog of my own — a lumbering, good-natured creature who sheds like a fiend — I often find myself wishing I could pop into Starbucks for a quick latte while we’re out for a walk. The sign reminds me — gently, but firmly — that I can’t. I think wistfully of France at those moments.
Then I remember the dog poop situation, and suddenly Canada doesn’t seem so bad….