Saturday, July 2, 2011

Europe Vs. America

I’ve been in Europe for five days – one in Milan, two in Budapest, and two in Vienna. And I’ve noticed two main things about dogs in Europe: First, they’re everywhere. Second, I haven’t seen a badly behaved one yet. I wonder if there’s a correlation.

There aren’t many leash laws here (or at least ones that are enforced), yet I haven’t seen any dogs running around. There have been dozens that have politely walked by me with a wag and a smile, and dozens more that just walked by without acknowledgement. But I haven’t seen one jump up, try to eat something that wasn’t theirs, or even bark at a stranger. It didn’t matter how busy or quiet the street was, or how many noisy cars or tourists were whizzing by. The cultures of Milan, Budapest, and Vienna are quite different from each other, but all the dogs seem to behave the same.

There were dogs in supermarkets, on trains, and in restaurants. I can’t imagine it’s very sanitary (especially with lax pooper scooper laws), but it’s certainly friendly.

Right before I left the states, I had to leave Bea outside for the first time. I needed to walk her but I also needed to feed me. Since Sara and I were leaving for Europe soon, there was nothing to eat in the apartment. And pressed for time while running in and out to do laundry, waiting for delivery wasn’t an option either.

While on Bea’s walk, I stopped at a takeout place with a big open doorway, tied her leash to the railing, and went in to order. Though I came outside while they were cooking, the 30 seconds it took to order and 30 more it took to pay just seemed cruel. I could still see Bea while I was inside (and she could see me), but I was terrified someone would steal her before I could act. She is just that adorable.

I see dogs tied outside all the time, and it’s clearly because their owner has business to do inside – and inside is not a dog friendly place. And with what Bea did on the floor of Petco, I’d be terrified to bring her inside any store not designed to accommodate dog pee.

Incidentally, Bea LOVES Duane Reade drug stores. Or at least she thinks she does, she’s never successfully infiltrated one. But Bea tries to go in every Duane Reade we pass. Bea skips most restaurants, supermarkets, even pet stores. But when we pass a Duane Reade, it’s Pavlovian. The strangest part is that it doesn’t happen with CVS or Walgreens – just Duane Reade. Maybe because the first night we had Bea, Sara went in to Duane Reade briefly while we waited outside. It’s possible that Bea has been conditioned to think Sara is always in Duane Reade now, even when she’s the one at the other end of the leash.

While I was outside that takeout place with Bea, I was thinking about how it’s so cruel to leave my baby outside unattended, and everything that could have gone wrong. I also started thinking whether or not people would do that with their children. And my answer is a resounding “yes, they would.” I’ve read stories about the occasional parent leaving their child in a car while at a bar or a strip club. So if babies were not allowed in supermarkets, every Walmart in America would have a few dozen tied to the shopping cart rack.

It was interesting to see how well behaved the dogs were in countries that allowed them to go everywhere and do everything. While I still believe in leashing dogs (especially poorly trained ones), seeing dogs handle freedom gave me a new perspective on leash laws. If you treat people like prisoners, they act like prisoners. Maybe dogs are the same way. And maybe they understand that with great power comes great responsibility.

Or maybe they are just shy because they can’t translate.

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