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Honolulu Lite

Charles Memminger

Thursday, February 19, 2004


Fred says
let restaurants
go to the dogs


Forget the war, terrorism, unemployment, gay marriage and the appropriateness of a woman baring one of her breasts at a nationally televised sporting event in which overpaid, steroid-chomping visigoths try to knock each other's heads off. Hawaii finally is addressing one of the most controversial questions of our time: Should dogs be allowed into local restaurants?

By this, of course, we mean should dogs be allowed to accompany their masters into restaurants, not should dogs be allowed into restaurants as part of the menu. Dogs, thankfully, are no longer considered food in this country, although I have visited other countries where the term "puppy chow" has no connection to the product manufactured by Purina.

Dogs are put on pedestals in America, which they really hate. They'd much rather be out on the deck or under the car gnawing on a bone from an animal less esteemed by their masters.

Dogs have it so good now that their masters are not even called masters anymore. They are called "parents" or "protectors" or "dwelling co-inhabitants." A dog is considered a member of the family. True, he's a member of the family who drinks out of the toilet and licks himself in inappropriate places when company visits, but after half a bottle of scotch, Aunt Maude is no Martha Stewart, either.

The dog is the only member of the family, however, that gets left behind when the family goes out to eat. But state Sen. Fred Hemmings wants to change that.

HEMMINGS WANTS state health rules changed so that dogs can go to restaurants. They won't be allowed to wander across the buffet table or order from the wine list ("We'll have the Chateau De Latrine, s'il vous plait"). But they would be allowed to sit with their family at the outdoor portion of the restaurant.

This would be perfect for my dog Boomer. He would never be allowed at one of the inside tables because, well, he smokes. But he'd love hanging at one of the outside tables with me waiting for the occasional escargot to "accidentally" fall to the floor.

It has surprised some that Hemmings would be pursuing this issue since he's a Republican and "dog access to restaurants" is rarely mentioned as part of the national Republican platform. You never hear President Bush, for instance, list his concerns as 1. Axis of Evil 2. Keep Cheney's Heart Working 3. Create Jobs in Jakarta 4. Dog Access to Restaurants 5. Tax breaks for "everyone" ...

So Hemmings is in the forefront of the animal/dining-out question. As political stands go, it could backfire on him.

Already, critics are asking why only dogs should be allowed to eat out with their human buddies. What about cats, gerbils and geckos?

It's mainly a philosophical argument when it comes to cats. They would never want to be seen in public with the people they own. But geckos like a good smorgasbord every once in a while.




See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. E-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com



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