By Dave Coulter
I contend that we are now living in the Golden Age For Dogs.
This opinion began slowly - as a hunch - maybe a couple of years ago. It started to crystalize when I noticed dog spas and dog day care operations opening their doors. Remember the little grocery store on Chicago Avenue that became a doggie day care facility? Sure, there could be other factors in play there, but is anyone other than me worried about an economy that swaps food for wholesome pet frolic?
Bless her heart, E is a dog owner. And thank goodness she is from the old school of pet ownership: she is somewhere just this side of Old Yeller - which means she is normal about this stuff. Naturally she has had to endure the ongoing exploration and expansion of my GAFD theories. Sometimes this is humorous but other times I’m sure it's tedious.
Unlike her, I am blissfully unaware of many of society’s subsets. I don’t care to know the specifics but clearly there is a demographic of dog owners that has pushed dog care into hyper drive. I kid around about the GAFD, but even she would have to admit this theory of mine came to glorious fruition yesterday during our wanderings in the city.
It is true that we were in a tonier neighborhood (Bucktown, maybe?) marking time before a concert. Walking back to the car we spotted a vehicle owned by this dog care vendor! I’m sure they’re nice people (and that I’m becoming more of a curmudgeon) but we now pay 4-something a gallon to drive dogs around for natural (dare I say unstructured) play time? We spent the next five minutes laughing so hard our bellies hurt. My childhood dog, Rusty, is surely spinning in his grave.
This business model seems to echo the Leave No Child Inside movement that is very popular these days. Modern life has become so screwed up that we now have to teach teachers to teach kids how to go outside for unstructured nature play. Looks structured to me. My mom would tell me to just scram and go outside. This concern about nature deficit disorder has now seeped into the world of dog walkers.
Later in the afternoon we cooled our heels in the park across from the Newberry where there was at least a dozen dogs interacting with their peers. Was it a canine play date? Apart from their human keepers there wasn’t a mongrel among them. And later (still) in the afternoon - on an entirely different sidewalk - we overheard two dog owners comparing notes on their dog day care providers. Sometimes I think I’m cynical, and other times I think I’m not cynical enough.