No dogs allowed

No dogs allowedThe first time I saw this sign, I had to laugh. I get a kick out of companies using gentle humour to get their point across.

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….

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About Maria

I'm a Canadian repatriate, former expat spouse, mother to two TCKs (and one yellow Lab), mentor to new immigrants, writer, reader, world traveller (grounded for now). I write about expat/repat issues and am still trying to figure out my place in the world.
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4 Responses to No dogs allowed

  1. Sine says:

    What a great story. Now I can’t wait to hear about the “dog poop situation.”

  2. lexy3587 says:

    A mixture of Canadian and European sensibility regarding dogs would be ideal. I loved in europe, how you could take your dog pretty much anywhere, but I love in canada, that most people have figured out that picking up after your dog is a requirement (most… not all. and some think that putting it in a bag and then leaving it there is adequate). I think a combination of these aspects would be ideal. Especially since my sweet-tempered hairy beast makes the most awful wailing noise when he’s tied up outside for me to run in and grab a tea to go or drop a library book off. Canada has taken it too far – a lot of places where a dog wouldn’t be even slightly interfering (book store… library… shops in general that don’t have a meat aisle) or a health issue have bans on dogs.
    great story – I love their solution to your dog-feeding 🙂

  3. As with Canada, America tends to only allow dogs in some of the larger chain pet stores. Perhaps you’ll see a leashed dog here or there on the sidewalk next to their owners’ feet at an outdoor cafe, but it’s rare. The Netherlands is closer to Canada/US than France on this, but you do see dogs in some restaurants/cafes. I say ‘don’t take the dog; who wants to share their creme brulee??’

  4. expatriababy says:

    Ha! That is a classic story. I really enjoyed this post and had a good lol at the image of a dog joining the the dinner table. As much as I am a fan of dogs, I do remember distinctly about ten years ago when I lived in Strasbourg, returning to France after having been traveling in Tunisia for a couple of weeks being struck by a waft of eau de poop as soon as I stepped out of the train station. Sigh.

    Here in Japan, attitudes towards dogs are strange indeed: I regularly see middle aged ladies pushing their dressed up dog babies in strollers, and have also spotted dogs being carried, attachment parenting style, in ring slings while the owners stroll happily in the park.

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