This column will probably annoy if not enrage some of its readers. It is triggered by a recent effort by a St. Louis alderman to overturn a provision of the state health code which prohibits all animals except service dogs from entering the premises of a restaurant, to include outdoor patios and sidewalk cafes. Stating the obvious “People love their dogs,” Lyda Krewson has introduced a doggie friendly bill.
Please excuse my lack of enthusiasm. I love dogs as dearly as the next person; however, I draw the line at inviting them to my dinner table. I have learned to tolerate, as an inevitable consequence of eating out, the annoyance of cell phones and the attendant inane conversations ensuing therefrom, the often incoherent wisdom emanating from those with too much to drink, the rude and boorish conduct of nearby patrons berating a harried waitress and the crying of babies — but, an unequivocal no to dogs.
I can and do sympathize with couples who must bring children into restaurants inasmuch as their limited budget often discourages the option of dining out and paying a baby-sitter to boot. The attempts at relaxing public health and safety concerns and the fact that dogs may be better behaved than some of the customers notwithstanding, there is no reason that diners cannot leave their beloved pets at home.
Why have I addressed this subject? Offhand, two reasons come to mind. First, since this issue has surfaced in the metropolis to our east and on that newspaper’s front page, it requires little imagination to assume that dog aficionados locally might wish to emulate their big city cousins.
Reason number two reveals an ulterior motive in that it provides me a forum for addressing an issue similarly irritating to many if not most Columbia and Boone County citizens.
Each Thursday evening during June and September, we are treated to the downtown Twilight Festival, a truly delightful two hours of music, artistic endeavors, carriage rides, face painting for kids and special interest presentations to mention just a few of the attractions. A testimony to the popularity of these weekly extracurricular treats is the packing of the sidewalks and the blocked off streets with people enjoying a family oriented atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the sidewalk traffic is too often obstructed by dogs, many of which while on a leash, would appear far more adaptive size-wise to the saddle. And, whether they be small, medium or gargantuan, the animal’s concept as to rules of the road, who owns the right of way, or regard for the activities or infirmities of pedestrians is, to put it bluntly, nonexistent.
Additionally, while I am not personally aware of any child or adult having been bitten during the Twilight Festival nor persons injured by tripping over leashes, the potential for that occurring is unquestioned. Many if not most of the dogs I have encountered demonstrate a definite state of unease in this atmosphere of dense crowds and noisy, unpredictable activity.
To my friends, neighbors and others who may bear resentment toward me for expressing these sentiments, come out and enjoy the Twilight Festival but, understand, not all of us are so enamored of the charms of being confronted on sidewalks by Fido or even Lassie as you may believe. Please, in consideration of your fellow pedestrian attendees, leave the dogs at home — you will be appreciated far more than you know.
J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident who can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.