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Posted by portugalpress on June 04, 2018

Fluffy is legal. That’s right – after years of hanging outside of bars, pubs and restaurants tied to the leg of a bench, a streetlamp or a parking meter, our pet pup is finally legally allowed into certain designated establishments.

There’s a new law in Portugal that basically gives an owner of a business that provides food and drink the prerogative to allow patrons to bring their dogs inside. Of course, it is expected that the canine be well behaved and on a leash.

Showing up with a growling Mastiff, a loud barking Bloodhound, an incontinent Schnauzer or any untethered mongrel is obviously not the intent or spirit of the law, so one wonders how often it will actually happen. I’m confident not never.

My Lovely Wife and I are thrilled because we’re the type of retired expat couple with family far away, who dote on our adorable dog. Fluffy is clearly a beloved member of our small family. She always greets us with great joy if we left home without her, like when we used to go to the pub before the law was changed. We speak to her in complete sentences and she seems to understand. She stays and sits when instructed to do so and often comes when called.

She knows when we’re not feeling or doing well and stays close. She understands that petting is a two-way street with both giving and receiving being a pleasure and a comfort. Good natured about “kidding”, she doesn’t mind being called “a nut” or “a goofball,” as long as the insults are delivered in a pleasant tone of voice.

Not much of a barker, Fluffy likes to run after and catch her toy ball and sleeps a lot. She’s our pet and our pal.

Fluffy has been brought up in café society and likes sitting on outdoor terraces inhaling cigarette smoke and watching Mom’s purse. Now, she’s allowed inside – both the dog and her mistress – which expands her social possibilities, as well as her owners’, on days that are either too cold or too hot or too rainy to sit outside near the curb, enjoying automobile exhaust.

Not everybody is thrilled. Recently, at our local pub, Fluffy received plenty of loving attention from fellow patrons who oohed and aahed, played with her ears and scratched her back. Something, by the way, that’s never happened to me during a lifetime of going out for drinks.

However, two different ladies tripped over her lead on their way to the loo (I wondered if they thought “this is why we had the rule in the first place”); and there were some frowns apparent around the periphery of our jolly gathering.

For this new dog law to really work, it is going to take a combination of tolerance, consideration and compromise. Some people are allergic to dog dander for example. In that case, instead of a sneezing fit throughout dinner, Fluffy will end up outside with her lead attached to an umbrella stand.

On the other hand, some people are afraid of dogs. In that case, they’re going to have to trust me to control an animal that I know would not hurt a flea literally or figuratively. I’m always surprised by how often I’m asked, “Does your dog bite?” What are these people seeing? Are they projecting fears onto a 40-pound, docile-looking fuzzy animal in a harness and collar, attached to an adult male human by a leather strap? And I have a firm grip on her lead.

The conundrum is not unlike dealing with children in a restaurant. Most are fine and worthy of the opportunity to receive sustenance. But, and this is an important but, nobody appreciates screaming kids running in between the tables, while their parents, apparently on holiday, don’t even seem to notice that their progeny are disturbing the peace and actually knocking over glasses.

The point is that, instead of outlawing youngsters from eating out, we as a community have a shared responsibility to make sure everyone has a reasonable chance of enjoying their meal. The exceptions don’t necessarily create the need for a rule.

There is also the issue of more than one patron with a pup. Not all dogs get along with other representatives of their species. Here’s where not-so-common sense comes in. If you have an aggressive watchdog, who won’t give other bitches the time of day, maybe that particular pooch is not an ideal candidate for fine dining. There are certain bars, for example, where fans of one particular football team might be well advised to avoid. People need to use their heads.

Another area where compromise coupled with responsibility is needed is the beach. During the off season, dogs on the beach are generally tolerated, but from now on to apparently November, most signs with a red line cutting across a picture of a dog are strictly enforced. This means no bowsers. The obvious reason for this prohibition is that nobody, and I mean nobody, wants to step in certain evidence that a dog has been there before. This is perfectly understandable whether the beachcomber is barefoot or wearing wellies. It is also a well-established fact that all dogs poop. So, the obvious, quick and easy answer is to restrict pooches, who might poop, from all beaches.

This restriction, however, also prohibits dog lovers from enjoying the pleasure of taking the object of their affection for a delightful walk along the scenic shoreline. I know, you can say “tough luck”, to which I might retort “watch where you’re walking”. Or there might be the possibility for a compromise. My suggestion is that some beaches, not necessarily the most popular, but not the least accessible either, be designated as “dog-friendly” beaches. I didn’t say “droppings friendly”. Dog owners will still be expected and, in fact, required to scoop the poop, bag and carry it away. But at least man’s best friends’ friend will have the freedom to enjoy the coastline in a manner he sees fit.

I think it is reasonable to enforce that if you’re seen running your mutt along the surf, that that means you’re also carrying at least one disposable bag (I have been in the situation when Fluffy has decided to make more than one deposit in the used food bank, so now I try to always carry reserve disposal units in my back pocket). Bagless canine caregivers could and should be fined. The point is, most responsible people who happen to own dogs wouldn’t mind this rule at all and have no trouble with its enforcement.

What ruins things are those people who don’t care or are too oblivious to think about others. There are way too many folks who think it’s okay to simply let their so-called family pet out the back door to become a stray for a day.

Come to think of it, “No dog” signs don’t keep free-range mutts from soiling the beach anyway. So that means that only owners like my Lovely Wife and I are restrained from taking a member of our family, who we rescued literally from the streets of Panama 11 years ago, for a nice walk on the beach.

It seems ironic that now dogs are allowed indoors in some places, where they can wait under tables for scraps, while they’re not permitted in the great outdoors to play in the surf.

By Pat, the expat
|| features@algarveresident.com

For the previous 10 years, Pat lived in Panama which used to be rated above Portugal as a top retirement destination (but not any more), where he wrote a column for a tourist publication.

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