Saratoga as ‘dog-friendly’ as they come

As for the campaign to allow dogs in downtown Saratoga stores, I took note of the letter to the edit

As for the campaign to allow dogs in downtown Saratoga stores, I took note of the letter to the editor the other day from a reader in Princetown: “Please do publish a listing of the establishments (especially the restaurants) who will welcome these four-legged guests so I can boycott them,” and I thought, well, there’s someone who’s out of step, someone who obviously doesn’t appreciate Broadway in Saratoga Springs as upstate New York capital of dogdom.

I mean, it is already THE place to cruise with your dog and try to attract the notice of people who will make a fuss over it. That’s a regular ritual in Saratoga, like the evening promenade around the central plaza used to be in Mexican towns, the young ladies moving in one direction, the young men in the other, flirting as they passed each other.

In Saratoga it’s the dog-owners, cruising up one side and down the other of Broadway, with a freakishly inbred Chihuahua or poodle or Great Dane at the end of a leash, waiting for another dog-owner or just dog-lover to make the distinctive goo-goo eyes that they all recognize. Then they stop, and socialize, often talking babytalk to the dog, which is part of the ritual, before moving on in search of another score.

It’s the Broadway scene, and bringing the dogs inside stores is just the logical next step. Who better to promote it than Melanie Dallas, owner of the Broadway “dog boutique” Sloppy Kisses, and her friend Adrianna Flax of the Saratoga Arts Council?

Sloppy kisses? You know, a dog licking your face — that kind of sloppy kisses. The store, or boutique, features a bakery for these surrogate humans, with all sorts of cookies and doughnuts made of “human grade” ingredients like peanut butter, and birthday cakes at $14.95 a pop.

Not to mention coats, sweaters and bandannas, some with sports-team logos; rubber boots at $13.95 to $18.95 a set, depending on size; nail polish in a choice of six colors at $4.95 a container; and other such delights of the dog-owner. Even a stroller, just like for a human infant, at $159.95, in case you want to spare your dog the rigors of walking.

Melanie and Adrianna have cooked up a promotion called Dog-Friendly Downtown, which includes a decal that store-owners can put in their window advising everyone that they are dog-friendly, meaning dogs are welcome inside.

Which means, of course, that you, the innocent customer, in the course of thumbing through a magazine or trying to pick out an objet d’art, might suddenly find your butt getting sniffed, but what the hey, friendly is friendly. Because, let’s face it, dog-owners are not exactly celebrated for their sensitivity to other people. If you jump in surprise, they’re sure to tell you not to worry, he’s just being friendly.

Despite the Princetown writer’s concern, dogs will not be admitted inside enclosed restaurants; that would be a violation of state health regulations, so let’s be grateful for something.

They will, however, be admitted to the outdoor eating areas that have become popular in Saratoga, if the restaurateurs choose to be dog-friendly, so you might want to bear that in mind before you take a table. You might find one of these freakish creatures salivating on your sandals before you finish your Fettucini Alfredo.

I say “freak” not in a derogatory way but just descriptively. The dogs on Broadway in Saratoga, having been inbred for many generations, bear little resemblance to natural dogs. They are as strange and unnatural as humans would be who had been artificially selected for big ears, or short legs, or profuse hair growth, for example, over thousands of years, and that is not to put them down. It’s just what they are.

You can see real dogs in Third World countries, scratching their sores and trying to stay out of the way of people, and they don’t look anything like what you see on Broadway. They do not wear bandannas, for one thing, and if you made goo-goo eyes at them they would probably run for cover.

But that’s neither here nor there. Saratoga, as I say, is upstate capital of dogdom, going so far as to allow dog-cruising in its Farmers Market.

Why, I remember a few years ago the City Council solemnly considered banning dogs from crowded downtown special events like the Victorian Street Walk, and it caused such deep offense that the only way they could pass it was by arguing it was in the best interests of the dogs themselves.

Yes. They said in a big crowd like you get at First Night or the Fourth of July or the Street Walk, a dog might get agitated and lunge out and bite a child, and that wouldn’t be fair to the dog! That’s actually what they said, and that’s actually how they got the measure passed. I was there, in City Hall, in March of 2006, and I heard it.

Of course in the end it meant nothing, because who in Saratoga was going to enforce such a thing? No one. So if you go to any of the five restricted events now, you see as many dogs as you saw before. No one pays any attention to it, including police officers on duty.

Which gives you a pretty good idea how dog-friendly Saratoga is to begin with. As I say, welcoming dogs in stores is just the logical next step — though I hate to think what the next step after that might be.

Categories: Opinion

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