I am a cat person, but we remain feline less for the moment. My oldest developed an allergy recently, and I chose my offspring over my rat decapitator we had had since a wee kitten rescued post-K, all mangy and feral. Not a tough call, but have you ever been brought a headless rodent with its noggin neatly next to its lifeless body? It’s impressive. And repulsive. And in short, quite a skill. Her name was Rita (yes, named after the storm – she did have a sister named Katrina who died a few years ago), and like most cats, self sufficient and less than encourageable; such are these creatures. And therefore and in my experience quite unlike the other preferred domesticated pet: your household dog.
All this said, I did grow up with a number of dogs. We had a collie named Brandy, a black lab dubbed Splash, and golden retriever mix called Honey. Too, up until our second child we had a rescue greyhound, Bijou, but her jealousy for our attention grew too great, so we found her a new home. Her jealousy specifically manifested itself in insatiably destroying every pair of shoes our then babies had. It’s bad enough children’s footwear is outgrown quickly, but to routinely steal away with the new dress shoes, sandals or what have you and mangle it beyond use, one day we had just had enough. Bijou wasn’t going to stop, and we were done. Uncle Tommy took her in, and that was that.
These days my children attend the International School of Louisiana in the Lower Garden across from Coliseum Square, where recently a canine symposium of sorts took place in a “dog bowl” to spell out pet owners and their pets use of public spaces. And boy, it needed to, but frankly I’m unclear what if any impact it had. I did not attend, but the gist of it was to go over laws and such — I think basically to provide a warm fuzzy for all those who use the park. On any given day, it remains a rarity to see a leashed dog. Really. As recently as yesterday as we crossed the park to our car, a nicely dressed man neatly removed the fresh poo his ginormous black Great Dane had deposited leashlessly. An ordinary spectacle for Coliseum Square, yet I’m always left wondering, why?
Sure, sure, your dog is the greatest and has never bitten anyone, been set off, caused a bicycle or automobile accident, and can complete the New Dork Times crossword in record time for the furrball set, so why should you leash them, right? Well, for starters, it’s the law. And secondly, despite your best effort or intentions, dogs — your dog, all dogs — will react or behave accordingly given the situation, and you my dear dog owner are doubtfully unable to prognosticate future events, so there’s that. Which leaves me wondering further if dog owners these days carry any liability insurance or even realize they maybe should. Dog bites still happen, don’t they?
But I get it: people love their pets. It’s obvious, it’s clear, and Americans spend more now on the care of their four legged friends than they ever have. The business therein transformed into a juggernaut of an industry embodied in destination big-box pet depots like PetCo and PetSmart. Eerily even rocker Bret Michaels got in on some sweet, sweet disposable pet dollar in with a clothing line. One might conjure up other lines in Trent Reznor trendier pet duds or maybe get a little steampunk thing going in some doggy goggles, tiny top hats, or the like. Whatever it is, there would appear to be no end that pet owners won’t go to to provide for their hairy people, so it therefore strikes me as odd as their safety wouldn’t be right up there.
Leash laws and fecal collection for better or for worse provide the foundation of dog ownership in the 21st century, so get with it. Maybe you won’t get ticketed, and maybe no one will address you, but for the health and safety of everyone that uses public spaces — Coliseum Square or wherever — adhering to these standards should be priority. The space is for everyone. Not just you and your pooch. And no one likes stepping in poo, not even you, so clean it up. And if you find you simply can’t abide, then maybe you will get ticketed, or maybe somebody will say something, and maybe just maybe you should just get a cat. Some behead rats, I hear, well, the better ones anyway, and that can’t be easy.
Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and Du Mois Gallery on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.