Yesterday I wrote a review of the Fundle Ultimate Pet Carrier, and mentioned that I’d been asked by a reader to evaluate it as a potential “stealth” bag for her Cavalier puppy. One of my more dedicated readers objected to the word “stealth,” commenting that the “tag implies you are using the bag to take your dog where it is prohibited. Doing so, and getting caught, may further hold back people and places from adopting a pet friendly attitude.”
If you look back through my posts, you’ll hear me deploring the poor behavior of dog owners who sneak dogs onto planes, or into hotels that do not welcome pets. I’ve urged readers to follow the rules while they’re traveling with their dog, so that people who dislike dogs won’t have a reason to be offensive. However, you’ll also learn that we have snuck Chloe into several restaurants around the country. I took her into a small museum at Shiloh Battlefield. I’ve given serious consideration to sneaking her on board an Amtrak train. Making a full confession, I will tell you that we also brought a very young Chloe, concealed in her messenger bag, to a high-school musical we found ourselves attending in Brooklyn.
How do I reconcile those two kinds of behavior? Not comfortably, since I am by nature an obedient person. At the same time, however, not every rule makes sense to me in every situation. I understand that, generally speaking, rules forbidding a dog’s presence in a particular location are meant to prevent people from being annoyed or hurt by the physical characteristics or behavior of a dog. I make the choices I do in the belief that I am observing the intent of the rule even if I am breaking the actual rule.
In her messenger bag, Chloe is invisible and completely contained. She cannot lick, drool, chew, pee, poop, jump, or shed. She is also — and this is our good fortune — silent (she finds her messenger bag comforting, and immediately goes to sleep in it). Please note that this would not work for every dog. Large dogs cannot be be tucked into a discreet carrier, and many small dogs are too active or noisy to “disappear.”
The only possible objection there could be to Chloe’s being present in a particular location while she’s in her messenger bag is that some dander may escape the bag and cause trouble for an allergy sufferer. I think it’s more likely that an allergy sufferer would be affected by the thick coating of cat and dog hair that typically covers our clothing (we own four cats and a dog), but nevertheless I would never sneak Chloe into a hospital or a health care facility, where people are grappling with health issues and may be extra-vulnerable to allergens.
I would also never sneak Chloe onto a plane. The air filters in planes are remarkably effective, despite all their bad press, but the fact is that airplane passengers are locked for hours at a stretch in a room high in the air. An allergy sufferer should be given the chance to be relocated before everyone is settled into their seats. I would not sneak Chloe into a hotel that does not welcome dogs, because a hotel like that may not have the deep-cleaning equipment that pet-friendly hotels have (and wouldn’t realize that deep cleaning was necessary).
A restaurant, by contrast, is located at ground level, and has open doors. We never spend more than 45 minutes on the kind of meal we’ve eaten with Chloe at our feet, but we could leave sooner if our presence caused another diner concern or trouble. I spent no more than 10 minutes walking through the Shiloh Battlefield museum, and I could have left instantly if Chloe had caused a problem. In each instance, I evaluated whether Chloe (in her carrier) was likely to cause the kind of problem the rules are designed to prevent, and decided that she wasn’t — and that I could easily cure the problem if I had made the wrong decision.
As my husband points out, we make similar decisions all the time. I think speeding, for example, is unsafe, but I will drive over the speed limit when I believe that I am not creating an undue risk for myself or for others, and when I don’t anticipate being caught. But what about the bigger question my reader raised — if I am caught breaking the rules, will I set back the cause of pet travel?
I don’t think so. I believe that businesses become pet-friendly because they think that they will bring in more revenue by welcoming pet owners. A restaurant that asks us and Chloe to leave is no less pet-friendly than it was when we walked in the door. If anything, the incident might remind a restaurateur that he could enjoy our patronage, and that of other dog owners, if the restaurant became pet-friendly. I think the real harm happens when a business — like a hotel — declares itself to be pet-friendly, and then pet owners abuse the situation by making unreasonable demands or by failing to control their pets.