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Talking It Over -- Pets can be friends and foes

During the last few months I have had many opportunities to spend time with pets, especially dogs. Right up front, I am going to tell you that I am not a dog lover, but the time I have spent with these pets has not been all bad. In many ways, I can see what people enjoy about the animals, but I sometimes think it just goes too far.

My husband and I have a cat, not really by choice but more by inheritance. We inherited her from our son when he moved to an apartment that did not allow pets. She is not a friendly or cuddly cat. At times she will snuggle up to you and want to be petted, but when she decides it is enough, she lets you know in a not-too-friendly manner. We understand each other, deal with the mood swings and for some reason she thinks the sun rises and sets by me, probably because I am the one to feed her. This can cause a problem when other people, especially my grandchildren, are around as she gets a bit jealous.

I can see why people easily get attached to their pets. This kind of total love, acceptance and understanding can be very addicting and even ego-building. A pet can quickly understand your mood and either avoid you or cuddle up to comfort you. I can recall times when I was very depressed, sad or sick, my cat refused to leave my side. In a way, it was comforting.

But I have also had my share of problems with pets and have heard of some troubling things that have happened. I don't feel that pets need to accompany their owners to public places. I compare it in some ways to how some people feel about smoking in public places. There is no reason that everyone around you needs to deal with your pet when they may not want to. Pets can be a health hazard to people with allergies and could conceivably be provoked to harm others.

One thing that I witnessed a few years ago regarding pets and how they are treated in public has haunted me for years. We were dining at a nice restaurant that looked out over an outdoor patio and lake. As we sat by the window, we noticed a couple at a table on the patio with three poodles all dressed up in bandannas and ribbons. The couple ate their meal outside with the dogs and as they were eating they were spoon feeding the dogs from their plates and allowing them to lick food off the silverware and dinnerware. It almost made me ill to realize that the public also eats off those same utensils.

I imagine the couple believes those dogs are like children, but not everyone views them the same way. Just like someone complaining about second-hand smoke, I have to suggest that dealing with pets in public can also be an infringement upon our rights and our health.

It is fine to take your pets places or do things with them, but when it comes to taking them to public places where there are a lot of people with varying ideas or health issues, some common courtesies should be in place. If your pet does not need to be with you for health reasons, it may be better off to simply leave them at home. While that pet may be a best friend, like a child or faithful companion to you, it may turn out to be an enemy to others.