An American Couple in Delft
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European Dogs

After almost two years here, it occurs to me that I havenít said much about European dogs. I am remiss in this and want to rectify the situation. For the sake of full disclosure, I have to let it be known that as a thing that exists on the earth, dogs are not in my top 10 list. Or even the top 50. Some of you will not read another word wondering what kind of character flaw exists in a person who doesnít like dogs. I donít know. It isnít that I hate dogs; I just donít want to be around them. We never had dogs when I was a kid and as an adult the thought of anything with four legs defecating in my house was unpleasant. While many of you love your dogs and the affection that they give you, I canít begin to express how unappealing it is to me to think of some mutt rubbing his tongue all over my face. So they cost a lot of money to feed, require lots of attention, make a mess, and donít smell so good. But enough about me.

When we first arrived in the Netherlands, I was surprised, and not too happy, to discover that dogs are welcome everywhere. When you go to the supermarket, dogs are there. When you go to the movies, dogs are there. Perhaps most amazing of all, dogs are welcome in restaurants. How can anybody take a dog to a restaurant? They bark, beg for food off the table, and move around disturbing other diners who may not love the dog the way the owner does. It turns out that I was boxed into my American way of thinking about dogs. Perhaps though, and I think there is something to this, European dogs are different. I may not have been thinking so much about dogs in an American way, but rather only thinking about American dogs.

In my admittedly not-so-objective observation, American dogs live the life of Riley. Theyíre pretty spoiled. If they want something, they make some noise and some obedient human gets whatever it is the dog desires. Most people recognize that this kind of behavior isnít acceptable in supermarkets, movie theaters, and restaurants and wouldnít think of taking a dog there. Itís probably a misdemeanor offense anyway. Dutch dogs, however, know their place and therefore donít behave in a way that will annoy other people, even me. A Dutch dog is quiet. One can go for days and see many dogs around town and they donít make a sound. I donít know why. In the supermarkets they are quiet and follow their masters with no resistance. In the movies and restaurants, they lie quietly on the floor and make no attempt at begging for food from the table. A Dutch dog knows that table food is not for him. Good boy. This is more than I can say for some owners because while dogs can go anywhere and donít make noise in restaurants, they do eat somewhere and there is a result of all that eating. That result can be seen in neat, and not so neat, piles on the streets and sidewalks. Since dogs are almost always on a leash, the owners see the creation of the piles and donít seem to care. A pox on their houses; I donít blame the dog for doing what he has to do.

Irish dogs, the only other kind Iíve actively observed, are altogether different from American or Dutch dogs. Irish dogs have a purpose, a reason for being. Just ask one, heíll tell you. In Ireland we saw lots of dogs walking unleashed but they didnít meander all over the place sniffing at all kinds of different things. Irish dogs walk briskly down the street as if itís 9:58 and they have a 10 oíclock appointment. They have somewhere to be and they move with expedience. They have no need for handouts of scrap food, no need for constant affection, and no need to bother anyone else. This is my kind of pooch. As long as he lives somewhere else.


© 2008 Rick Wexler   last updated February 21, 2008