Lileks: What makes a city dog-friendly?

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 31, 2014 - 11:18 PM

Dog Fancy, a magazine that put Dog Ordinary right out of business, has named Minneapolis “one of the top five dog-friendliest cities” in the country. We were 31st in 2012, which sounds somewhere between dog-indifferent and dog-hostile, as though we were the Cur-Kickin’ Capital of the Upper Midwest. What changed?

1. Minneapolitans have stopped greeting new dogs by saying, Aren’t you a good dog, yes you are, which confuses dogs since it seems to answer the very question you’ve just posed. Why did you ask? Was I not a good dog but then suddenly became a good one in the middle of the query? What do you mean by good, anyway? I have an admirable ethical framework, or have not yet sunk my teeth into your leg?

2. No, that’s not it. Perhaps it’s the numerous dog parks? Well, the closest one to our house is paved with gravel, and for puppy paws that’s like trying to run through a McDonald’s ball pit embedded with torn-off tin-can tops.

3. “Lots of fun activities for dogs and their owners” is one attribute the city of Minneapolis website trumpeted when it noted the story. I know of none, although I’m sure they’re out there. If you Google it, there’s probably an opportunity to bungee-jump off the Stone Arch Bridge with your dog, complete with souvenir photos of your dog’s cheeks rippling with G-forces and horror, but when I ask mine whether he’s interested, I don’t get a definitive answer.

I’ll tell you what it is: We have a thriving newspaper in this town, and that means subscribers get a free bag for picking up That Stuff. We could probably double our circulation if we marketed the paper as a daily home-delivery of Dog Offal bags with a free news summary contained within.

Sure, you can get your information from the Web, but try scooping up heaped leavings with your smartphone. The Star Tribune bag is a sleeve that goes right up to the elbow, knots easily, and contains no subscriber info so you can drop it in someone’s bin in the alley. NOT THAT YOU WOULD.

Maybe that’s it. But did they ask dogs? In dog terms, there are a few things that make for a dog-friendly city:

1. Perpendicular objects every 6 feet doused in urine, to which dogs can add their own contribution. It’s their version of YouTube comments.

2. Lots of shoes stuffed with dead squirrels just lying around everywhere.

3. Fireworks are banned, so you don’t have to claw through the basement floor and hide under the foundation until the dinosaurs stop shouting, please stop, dinosaurs, please.

4. The monthly siren test is not at the frequency that means God Dog is calling His Pack together for the Final Battle, but is just, “Hey there, just checking in.”

5. The weekly “Slow Rabbits Dragging Charred Hamburgers on a String Behind Them” event.

One of the pro-dog attributes in the survey is our Humane Society, and I can vouch for it.

We adopted a dog from the shelter this summer, a remarkably relaxed pup whose gangly limbs and outsized paws indicate we can saddle him up and ride him to the park in a few months. Our previous beloved dog was bought from a pet shop, and you know they can have health problems, and indeed he only lived 19 years. So the Humane Society it was.

Scout, the new dog, was found on a roadside down South, and consequently had every malady a wild dog could have. His stomach couldn’t handle things like “food,” although he would go outside and eat rocks, because puppies are A) not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and B) will try to eat the sharpest knife in the drawer.

We learned that he not only had worms, his worms had worms. He was, more or less, a colony of miserable parasites that hitch a ride on something unbearably cute, like the relationship between photographers and Hollywood stars. We were given pills that had to be cut into four pieces, preferably using an industrial laser, because they were made of ceramic and shattered into useless dust when you sliced them.

These were mixed with special Meaty Glop they shoveled off the slaughterhouse floor and packaged as “Choice Grilled Beef Cuts.” Because you know when they’re cutting up Bossie, there’s a guy with a clipboard who marks off part of the filet mignon and says, “Remember, Alpo has dibs.”

The shelter had an exchange policy, if the dog turned out to have expensive issues. You could swap the beast for a credit to get another one. But you know how that goes. Once you have them home, the vet could say, “Here’s what it will cost,” push a serrated knife over the counter, and you’d ask, “How many fingers?” Because you loved the little creature the moment they brought him out to take home.

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