Dog Culture Has Gone Too Far
“What happened to dogs being dogs?” My exasperated father complained as we had cocktails surrounded by dogs in San Francisco. My parents’ visit from the New Jersey suburbs was allowing me to see urban dog culture with fresh eyes. “They don’t need to come to dinner.”
In the past few years — perhaps due to the surge of pandemic puppies or the increased moral and financial cost of bringing human children into a troubled world — it seems we have witnessed a dramatic spike in dog ownership. I recently saw an engagement photoshoot from a high school classmate, prominently featuring her dog wearing a shirt that proclaimed “my parents are getting married!” On a recent trip to New York, another set of engaged friends commented on their shared resemblance to their fur-child: “He’s a dead even combination of the two of us.” You hear this kind of thing often: “Murphy is looking so handsome this summer; his hair is getting bleached from so much time in the sun” or “Bowie has his blueberry facial once a week.”
Part of my problem is that dogs get more respect than humans. Allow me to share an example I witnessed just a few months ago in Alamo Square: A man was taking several (!!) Rottweilers for a walk when he encountered a homeless person wearing a blanket, spinning in circles and mumbling to himself. The dog-walker addressed the homeless man: “Not today man, not in front of my dogs!” and to my shock, the homeless man gave him a little wave of acknowledgment — an apology, I guess, for his very existence inconveniencing or tainting the dogs’ innocence — and went twirling back to wherever he came from.
For nine months this past year, I had the pleasure of working at one of the hottest new restaurants in San Francisco’s notorious Marina district, a popular stomping ground for ladies who lunch, new money tech lords, and Soul Cycle hot girls and their golden doodles. My duties as a hostess included doling out complimentary vegan doggy treats and refilling dog bowls from a glass carafe.
In my short tenure, I have seen dogs in strollers, dogs in purses, and dogs in leather jackets and shoes. I have seen a puppy pusher station himself in prime outdoor real estate during happy hour, nursing a single beer alongside his wagon full of Frenchies going for $1500 each. I have seen my manager pick up a loose Pomeranian by the harness in the middle of dinner service, holding him at shoulder height and yelling, “whose dog is this?” But the memory that haunts me most is that of a large golden retriever sitting upright in a parklet, a bandana around its neck, having a taste of Pinot Grigio from its owner’s glass.
I’ll leave you with that image. Whatever happened to dogs being dogs?
*For each moot, we generate a cover image using DALL·E, an AI art platform that generates images using natural language processing. This image on the right was generated using the title, 'Dog Culture Has Gone Too Far' in the style of Richard Diebenkorn, Abbey's artist of choice.*