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So Long As the Dogs Are Happy

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Aug 30, 2007 2:45PM

2007_08_Happy_Emmy.jpgIn case some of you may have forgotten, that's Emmy in the picture. Depending on the time of day she's the smartest mammal in our household. She's unusually happy today, because yesterday the City Council inched closer to allowing her the right to join us for meals at outdoor cafés, a notion that flies in the face of common sense, sanitary concerns, arguments posited by a former alderman and the director of food protection for the city's Department of Health, and their own soundbites nearly three months ago.

The ordinance, approved unanimously by the Committee on License and Consumer Protection yesterday, goes before the full council next Wednesday. If approved, the ordinance goes into effect January 1, 2008, when city residents and their dogs can take advantage of the balmy Indian summer which January in Chicago is known. Dog expert Steve Dale, quoted in the Tribune, said that taking a dog to an outdoor café is "a great experience ... part of the Chicago experience. The majority of people in Chicago have a dog [and] consider their dog a member of the family." Now, we were born and raised in Chicago and this is not part of any "Chicago experience" that we can remember. For us, the "Chicago experience" entailed rooting for a baseball team the rest of our family hated (we came to our senses); being told to shut up whenever we questioned why our neighbor who worked for Streets and San never actually went to work; getting the stink eye when our girlfriend asked for ketchup on her hot dog; hanging out at Brickyard Mall and Harlem Irving Plaza working on our layabout skill set; and being told that our cousin's summer school graduation ceremony was a classier affair than when we graduated from Lane Tech in a thunderstorm that made what passed through the area last week seem like a summer shower.

The family dog didn't take part in any of that. You know why? Because we set up boundaries for the family dog. Emmy gets to do way more than our family allowed the family dog, like go to the beach and even accompany us to the neighborhood coffee shop on the weekends. And even that is because it's on the way home during the morning walk and the owner - as a dog lover - allows it. But just as we wouldn't bring a child to a bar (a brewpub is a different matter), we wouldn't bring a dog to an outdoor café to eat. Sanitary issues aside, we have to respect our surroundings, no matter how well behaved other pet owners think their dogs might be. If this ordinance passes into law, it doesn't mean that dog owners suddenly have carte blanche to bring their dogs wherever they damn well please. It'll ultimately be up to the restaurateurs to decide how they'll honor the ordinance, and if they don't want your pets, they'll let you know. Just as you'll have the right to not go anywhere that won't allow your pet to sit next to you outside.