Where in world...?

An old friend phoned the other day. He never phones. But this time he just had to know: "What are you doing living in Florence?"
He thought I was in Florence, Italy. I told him it was Florence, Massachusetts.
Here are some answers -- my occasional wanderings through Florence, MA and the surrounding Pioneer Valley.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dogs in Space

Not Joey, but same breed.
I'm sure they both like chicken wings.
N.B.: I have had to redact information about my pet because of security and safety. There is someone who has been overeager about him. Sorry.
This morning's New York Times featured an article on how air travel now has services dedicated to transporting pets. Perhaps I would have thought this a bit odd at one time, but now that I have Joey around, I have to consider when I can take him somewhere, or if I have to leave him with a reliable caretaker. These days we are lucky to have the little man going off to a place he feels is like a really fun summer camp or Walt Disney World for him.

A French Bulldog puppy.
One of the questions that comes from this article, "Banned by Many Airlines, These Bulldogs Fly Private," is why certain dogs have been banned, and how this need has been met, albeit with a somewhat pricey way. Christine Haughney looks at how Pet Jets and Pet Airways have sprung up to fill a need created by various major airlines who have banned the transport of brachycephalic breeds. To you and me, that's various kinds of bulldogs and those who have the snub-nose look, rather than the longer snout such as the one found on Joey above. If you have ever had to get on a flight with stuffed-up sinuses, post-nasal drip, or any kind of upper respiratory problem, imagine being a little dog loaded into an airplane in your carrier, in the cold compartment. The airlines banning these dogs have done so because a number of these poor dogs have died in transit. I always feel terrible for dogs who are getting loaded into the cargo. It's bad enough to be a passenger on a crowded flight, and to be separated from one's parent would be hard.
See Charley assume the
traditional dog pose in this automobile.

Why are pets needing to travel so much? This is an interesting question that arises from reading how these pet guardians are so intent on having such services available. One big reason lies in the role played by pets in American life today: they are family members. Therefore, you wouldn't let your grandmother sit in cargo, would you? (N.B.: I am paraphrasing a bumper sticker I saw last week that asked, "You wouldn't tie your grandma in the yard, would you?") However, though we might have airline services available to transport pets, we would do well to consider how well some pets do with reliable, trusted caretakers closer to home, especially if it grants your pet a sense of comfort or, in Joey's case, a little vacation with someone he loves.

The article does refer to those bulldog owners who have decided to take the high road -- literally. Pet owners have driven their dogs around since the start of the automobile age, and we have some rather memorable titles about this topic: John Steinbeck, anyone? Charley was a poodle who drove across America with Steinbeck in 1960. From Sag Harbor, New York to Salinas Valley, California, Steinbeck and his faithful hound, Charley, logged nearly 10,000 miles. Bill Steigerwald recently revisited this epic journey for the New York Times, and debunks some of the rugged individual-plus-dog myth of this travel narrative.

While I don't have any hesitation in supporting these folks who simply wish to get their pets transported safely, I would like to stick closer to home with Joey, and bring him into a restaurant. I'd love to see pet owners act on this possibly controversial issue in American pet culture. I would love to see a restaurant with dogs sitting under the table next to his parent's feet, just as I did in Paris. Alas, the only way we can see this happening in America is at outdoor cafes. Admittedly, I can't see dogs gaining admittance to some really fancy restaurants (Nobu in New York City, for one), but I'd be happier to see some looser attitudes in this respect. It's also good training for young chefs to cook for the dogs: I think Daniel Boulud and Jacques Pepin talk about this in their memoirs as young chefs. Please correct me if I'm wrong about this last bit!

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