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Life and times of Key Biscayne florida
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opinion

July 10th, 2014

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 friend visited me shortly after I’d arrived back ay my northern home. Since he knows I write for The Islander News, one of the first things he asked was, “What have you been writing about?”
“I’m writing about the dog park controversy,” I replied.
“What kind of dog park controversy?” he wondered. “Why would a dog park be important enough for you to write about? Why would a dog park be controversial?”
Clearly, this man never has owned a dog. And certainly, he hasn’t been on Key Biscayne recently or ever. Since he and I last discussed the dog park issue, hundreds of residents have signed a petition to reverse the Village Council’s approval of a dog park within the confines of a planned people park at 530 Crandon. They hope to make this a referendum at the next election. Wait until I tell my friend about that!
My friend’s astonishment at a dog park becoming a major community issue made me think about why dogs have become so important in Key Biscayne as well as in other communities. As I read newspapers and magazines and watch TV, I realize dogs are, in many ways, replacing children. For example, there still are cute little kids doing TV commercials, but there are an increasing number of adorable dogs performing tricks, happily lapping up bowls of dog food and generally just looking fetching. Are there modeling agencies for dogs? Do people assemble portfolios for agents in the hope their dog will be chosen for stardom? Is the money earned by these photogenic dogs being invested for their future good and welfare?
According to the U.S.­­ Pet Ownership and Demographic Sourcebook, in 2012, 43,346,000 U.S. households owned dogs, and 40 percent of those households owned more than one dog. Have you ever stepped inside a PetSmart store? More than 1,300 of these big box stores in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico sell dog toys, dog medicines and dog food. In my neighborhood, PetSmart sports a Doggie Daycare Center where people drop off their dogs to socialize with fellow canines. Services also include pet grooming, obedience training and boarding; veterinary services are included in 810 PetSmart stores. While also catering to owners of cats, birds and assorted reptiles, the stores carry far more goodies designed to attract dog lovers and their faithful companions, many of whom shop at PetSmart right along with their owners. PetSmart’s estimated 2014 revenues are expected to exceed $1.7 billion.
I‘ve heard of a group which advocates that pets shouldn’t be “owned” and that certain civil rights should be accorded to them. I’ve noticed TV commercials for prescription medications for dogs. People are buying health insurance for their dogs. The Petplan Pet Insurance site reveals: “Pet parents [!!!] will spend $12.2 million on veterinary care this year.”
In the June 29 issue of the Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine, there are three separate items directed to dog owners. Item No. 1 is headlined “Dog’s Day Out.” It reads “Mercury Canine Cruise welcomes well-behaved and leashed dogs and their owners for a scenic outing on the water. The cruise is 90 minutes and includes water bowls and a newspaper-lined restroom.” (No, I didn’t make this up!)
Item No. 2 is headlined “Fireworks and Pets: Not a Reason to Celebrate.” Warning against the dire effect 4th of July fireworks may have on Fido, we’re advised: “To minimize a pet’s anxiety, consider asking your veterinarian for a tranquilizer.” And we should create a “cool quiet spot away from the noise,” perhaps with music and a favorite toy for Fido. “Calming wraps for pets…may also help.” (I didn’t make this up either.)
In Item No. 3, a reader asks an advice columnist what a dog is doing in the cosmetics section of a Chicago Nordstrom store. The columnist then asks a Nordstrom spokeswoman to explain the dogs-in-stores policy. The spokesperson’s partial response “… if a dog were to become aggressive or disruptive, threaten customers or cause a mess, we’d ask the owner to take the dog outside. For sanitary reasons, we also ask that customers not allow their dogs on counters or chairs.” Sounds reasonable to me.
I’m sure there’ll shortly be a movement to allow dogs to sit on airplane seats rather than being confined in a crate on the floor underneath their owners’ feet. Having paid more than $200 each way to cram my late poodle, Sabaka, into a crate under my seat, I’m all for that. Some dog owners have kept their dogs from being confined on planes by fraudulently claiming they (the owners) are disabled; their dogs then can be declared service dogs and thus are allowed to stand in the aisles or in front of airplane seats. I understand there’s a website that provides phony disability certificates for that purpose. On my most recent flight from Miami to Chicago, an enormous German shepherd was standing in the First Class section. When the plane landed, that dog’s owner was the first one off the plane, going at quite a brisk pace. I wonder if that pet parent got her service dog disability certificate online.
The latest government statistics shows only 20 percent of American households made up of married couples contained children under 18. Since dogs doubtless are taking the place of children in many households, I’m not surprised a dog park in the center of Key Biscayne has become such a hotly debated issue. Tell your son or daughter to forget about becoming a doctor or a lawyer: advise him or her to become a veterinarian instead.

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