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Proof: American dogs and dining don't mix

Published February 3, 2007


Good thing I'm not the "I told you so" kind of person. Otherwise, I would be saying "I told you so" about Senate Bill 1172, also known as the "doggie dining" bill, passed last year by the state Legislature.

The bill gave "local communities the option of allowing restaurants to permit patrons' dogs when they and their owners are dining outdoors," according to one of the bill's sponsors, state Rep. Sheri McInvale.

I howled in protest.

"I can't fathom a restaurant owner welcoming dogs - unless he has great liability insurance and moonlights as a plaintiff's attorney," I wrote in April.

I envisioned bitten ankles, fighting canines, mangled fingers and tripped waiters spilling scalding coffee over startled patrons.

In the end, though, it was plain old doggie poop that convinced a pioneer doggie-friendly restaurant, St. Petersburg's Moon Under Water, to ban dogs.

It seems a visiting pooch was having, um, "bowel problems," right in the middle of the dining area, an event reminiscent of the uber-gross "Mr. Creosote" vomiting scene in the Monty Python movie The Meaning of Life.

At rush hour, dogs and their human companions lined up to wait for tables. Puppy barking, urinating and worse were not exactly conducive to a fine dining experience for those already seated.

"Ultimately, we're here to serve people, not dogs," Moon Under Water owner Mark Logan told Times reporter Elena Lesley.

I suspected when this bill was proposed that the proposers were thinking about those romantic European bistros where diners and dogs relax literally cheek to jowl. I've been there, seen that, and it was okay.

But those dogs, like their European owners, have been remarkably well-behaved and low-key, not the jumpers, yappers and manglers that we Americans tend to grow (and, sadly, be).

Some other St. Petersburg restaurants have applied for the doggie dining permit, bless their hearts, but even though Tampa gave the okay, no restaurant there has applied.

A blessed event

After five months of a rather lonely household, Richey Suncoast Theatre stalwarts Marie and Charlie Skelton are once more hearing the patter of little feet throughout their house.

They've named the new arrival Buttercup. She weighed in about 7 pounds, and, as Charlie tells it, "is very, very long."

No, it's not a baby; it's a beautiful, heretofore homeless cat who wandered into their back yard and their lives exactly five months after their 19-year-old cat, Bigfoot, died and seven years after the death of their 17-year-old Peanut.

"Buttercup is the reincarnation of our other two cats," Charlie said. "She's a mix of their personalities."

After checking around to make sure she didn't already have a home, the Skeltons took her to the veterinarian for spaying and inoculations.

A few days later, the happy trio boarded an airplane for a holiday trip out west, which turned into a 21-hour airplane ordeal, complete with delays and detours.

But Buttercup handled it all like a pro, at one point accepting the pilot's invitation to sit in a seat instead of her cramped box.

"He ruined her," Charlie said. "From now on, that cat is going to want her own seat."

Probably in first class.

Take a seat on time

The community theater in my hometown of Abbeville, La., the Abbey Players, has the right idea.

"For SOLD-OUT shows, Abbey Players reserves the right to sell seats not checked in within 10 minutes of performance start time," it announces on its Web site.

I wish they and all other theaters would take it one step further, like the U.S. Marine Band: Those who are not in their seats 15 minutes before the start of the show forfeit their seats.

I must say that in recent years, patrons at Richey Suncoast and Stage West Community Playhouse have gotten better about arriving before the show starts.

Now, if we can only get people to wait until after the curtain calls to leave.

[Last modified February 2, 2007, 20:37:05]

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