Going to the Dogs

I live in a kennel. At least it feels that way much of the time.

Take my block, for instance. Neighbor on my left has two dogs that bark the whole livelong day. Neighbor on my right has three pooches, all real yelpers.

Across the street, they have some nasty Rottweilers that the family sometimes lets loose. And in my back, they have only one, but he barks incessantly.

Now you probably have tons of dogs in your neighborhood too. So you might wondering what I’m bellyaching about. But please remember that while you live on 1/4 acre, maybe a full one or even more, we in the Bay Area are squashed together like sardines.

So when my neighbor next door walks outside and, perhaps, coughs, I hear it loud and clear in my living room. When Rover is barking his head off all day and night, no peace is ever possible.

I get why everyone and his brother own barking canines around here. It’s a dangerous place to live. No wonder people have large and sometimes vicious dogs guarding their houses.

But it makes for a stressful, noisy, and chaotic place to live. . . unless one enjoys the relentless howls, cries and barks. And the cacophonous dogs all over the neighborhoods are just the beginning.

In this area, dogs not only rule the neighborhoods and streets. But they are omnipresent in retail establishments, restaurants, and grocery stores. So you can’t get away from the furry creatures, even if you want to.

True story: I was in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond in a tony suburb. I entered the store and saw, to my shock and revulsion, fresh dog excrement on the floor.

I raced over to Customer Service to tell them. The staff looked up, rolled their eyes in disgust, and kept on working. The look on their faces: “I don’t get paid enough to clean up dog poop.”

Feeling frantic that some poor customer would step in the manure, I stood watch over it as people walked in. Then I pointed to the ground and observed their horrified faces enveloped in a “euww.” Luckily, a few minutes later, a woman with the “perpetuator” (a straggly, ugly little mutt) bent down and removed much of the poop with a tissue.

The reason why there are dogs wherever you eat or shop is twofold. For one, people don’t feel that the rules apply to them. So they will stride defiantly into a store, walking right past the large sign that reads, “No pets allowed.”

The second reason has to do with the next line on the sign, which reads: “Service animals allowed.” And that provides a wide opening for Fido to join us shopping at Marshall’s.

Service animal refers to a California law for people who have some sort of disorder (usually mental). The doctors write a letter allowing them to have a service animal with them at all times for solace. That means at bars, restaurants, planes, movies, doctor’s offices, etc. etc.

We’re not talking about a blind person with a seeing-eye dog. . nor a wheelchair-bound paraplegic whose dog helps them safely traverse the streets. Service animals assist the depressed and lonely to — I guess, not feel so depressed and lonely.

Now the problems with the law include the following: 1. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Most people can handle ten minutes alone at the bank.

2. If someone is so distressed that he can’t handle a few minutes alone, how does it help to reinforce that sense of helplessness? Wouldn’t fostering independence be key to his improvement?

3. The law is totally exploited and manipulated by tons of people. I know a lady who is happy as a clam with a charmed life. But somehow she talked her doc into a signing a letter; so now her pooch can join her at the gynecologist and at yoga class.

And finally, 4: Tons of people don’t have service animals but lie that they do. And weirdly enough, the law forbids the shop owners to actually ask anyone for any documentation. That means that most of the so-called “service dogs” aren’t.

But the fact that dogs rule the streets isn’t surprising if you’ve been here any length of time. Here dog rights trump those of the lowly human.

So, for instance, there have been fiery battles between dog owners and parents regarding city parks. The former insist that parks be opened up to their German Shepherds, while the parents plead for clean, safe parks where their children can play. You can guess who usually wins: The four legged ones.

Along with the concerned parents, what about others who may object to mutts all over the place? What about people with animal allergies, with asthma, or people who are scared of dogs? (ironically, all the law allows the dog phobic to do is to get a service dog). And what about those of us who don’t want to put our fresh, new towels or our broccoli in the same cart where a dog just sat?

That this area has become one big kennel is par for the course. Berkeley, et al. are sad spectacles, in free fall.

We’ve got a horrific amount of crime; people living in every nick and cranny; and filth worse than cities in the Third World. And, yes, we’ve got man’s best friend doing number two in Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

Do you need any more proof that Berkeley — actually the whole, sorry state of California — has gone to the dogs?

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