Touted as "the first of its kind in the US," Dog Day in Port Washington was held on Saturday Dec. 12. Participating restaurants invited dog owners to lunch inside their eateries, and, in the European mode, allowed them to bring their "well-behaved" dogs with them. The event was sponsored by the Dog Project---a non-profit, volunteer organization supported by private contributions from individuals helping to end the need to put to death millions of healthy dogs in the US each year.
"Kids are dogs best friends!" Pictured here is "Ginger" with some of her best pals.
However, despite these noble intentions, the event drew a lot of criticism. Many participating restaurants received threatening, anonymous phone calls the week before the event. Threats like "I won't patronize your restaurant again," were reported by one of the owners of a participating establishment .One restaurant had a reservation for eight cancel when the party learned of the eatery's participation. One coffeehouse, Perks, even backed out.
Two restaurant owners informed us that an actual organization of avowed animal haters exists and, as would be expected, levelled a barrage of criticism at them.
Some participating restaurant owners were nervous, like Armond Saidai of Northwinds, but decided to participate anyway. He wasn't sure why, except to say that he loved dogs (even though his dog was too rowdy to come to his store) and that he thought it was a worthy cause.
Ambivalence seemed to be the feeling most expressed by the proprietors of the restaurants. Ayhan Hassan, owner of Fish Kebab and Shish Kebab, said that he was "torn," between keeping patrons on both sides of the issue happy. "We made a separate part of the restaurant available for the dogs, with a separate entrance. We hoped this would be a good compromise."
Catherine O'Neill at Finn's noted that the dogs were contained on the black and white tiled area of the restaurant, and again, emphasized that it was a one-time event and that she was trying to accommodate everyone's wishes."
For the dog lovers, though, the day was a real treat. Many were seen strolling around town, chatting with fellow dog owners they'd never met before. Many loved the European ambiance of the event. Anita Goldsmith, Magic's owner, related that she treasures a picture she took of a dog sitting on a chair in an elegant restaurant in Italy. Pet owners told us of a few restaurants in New York and one out East have policies that allow dogs in their eateries. Barbara Russell commented that she felt she could include the "whole" family while dining out.
Those who opposed the "take your dog to lunch" day, however, found it perplexing and outrageous that the Nassau County Board of Health approved this "frivolous" event. Critics thought it "jeopardized the heath and safety of the majority in favor of the few."
Restaurant owners and defenders of the "special one-day-only dispensation" given by the Board of Health point to the strict requirements set down by the BOH officials:
1- Food service employees are not to touch or handle animals.
2- Wait stations and condiments are not be located in areas where dogs will be present.
3- Clean equipment, utensils, and linens, and unwrapped single-service articles can not be stored or kept in an area where dogs will be allowed.
4- Effective partitioning and self-closing doors must separate the dining area from food storage or food preparation areas.
5- Dining areas including tables, countertops, and similar surfaces must be effectively cleaned and sanitized before the next meal service.
6- Animals are not be allowed on tables or seats.
7- Feeding of dogs from tableware and utensils is prohibited.
As a point of information, Port News reporters did observe Board of Health officials enforcing the rules.
In addition, the BOH asked that a sign be placed on all entrances notifying the general public that dogs may be present in the establishment. It also recommended that the restaurant set aside an area for people with dogs to allow for the safety and convenience of patrons who are not participants in the event.
However, one critic of the event, citing from a Q&A piece by Dr. Jacob Philias, Director of the Allergy and Asthma Center of Arizona in Tucson and Chair of the Aeribiology Committee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, stated the following:
1- Dog dander is microscopic.
2- Smaller particles can become airborne and remain airborne for months.
3- It can remain on carpet and upholstery for four to six weeks.
4- Some people are allergic to dog secretions. These can coat the animals' hair and, when they dry, flake off and become airborne.
Most people we interviewed prefaced their remarks by saying that they like animals, but felt they didn't belong in restaurants. Some feel that there's nothing wrong with holding the event on a "once-in-a-while" basis.
Some dog owners commented that they would have liked to have brought their dogs out, but didn't think they fell into the category of "well-behaved." "My dog is a bit too friendly and excitable," said one real dog lover, "but I always take her in the car with me. She loves to be out."
Of course, the wise cracks flew around all day. One woman said, "It's a little hairy." Another said, "If you want Dog Day Afternoon, go rent the movie" Anita Goldsmith had a good one. She said, "It's better than watching the impeachment hearings."