By: Emma Livingston, Staff Writer
I am sitting in a chic, Italian-style breakfast café near Wenceslas Square in Prague, attempting to keep egg yoke from running down my chin. Suddenly, I hear a yip and a growl and look up to see two good-sized dogs confronting each other beneath one of the breakfast tables. All of the other diners continue to placidly chew their food and sip their coffee, as though nothing abnormal is going on. The waiters continue to amble about the restaurant without casting even one disparaging glance towards the animals. Am I the only one who thinks animals are not supposed to be in restaurants? In America, as much as we love our dogs, our love for them is not allowed to extend beyond the front doors of a public building. I scan the restaurant and count at least four dogs lying at their owners’ feet under the table. And here’s a fifth one, a little lap dog sitting in between the couple next to me, patiently waiting to be fed bits of the leftovers.
Praguers love their dogs. They take them everywhere. And let them run, free and leashless through the busy streets, across the tram tracks and in the lovely parks that dot the city. I’ve been told that technically, the law calls for all dogs to be on leash and muzzled at all times in public, but this seems made to be broken.
I have seen dogs riding the tram. I have seen dogs in beer gardens. I have seen dogs guarding the outside of castles. I have seen tiny dogs struggling to keep up with their biking owner. I have seen packs of mammoth dogs being walked all together by a crowd of people. I have seen a man on the Charles Bridge with a puppy poking out of every pocket. I’ve even seen a dog loping happily about the ticket office of the opera house. The ticket sellers only smiled indulgently and let the dog run free.
The character of the Czech dog seems to be similar to that of the Czech people: quiet, calm, and self-contained. Even though you are bound to see one in every single restaurant you go to, it’s very easy to forget that they are there. With very rare exceptions, these dogs lie quietly at their owner’s feet or on their owner’s lap and wait patiently for when it’s time to get up and go outside again.
I can only speculate why there is such a difference in dog culture between America and the Czech Republic. My working theory is that rules about dogs are affected by Americans’ litigious nature, and businesses and transportation companies do not allow them inside because they are worried that their company will get sued if a dog bites a customer. However, further studies will have to be conducted if we are to truly get at the heart of this important issue.
In the mean time, look at this cute doggie!!!