Letter from Prague The Dogs of Prague

12-04-2014 02:01 | Sonia Aviv

When I first saw a little maltese puppy happily trotting alongside its owner, my first thought was – “where the heck is its leash?” The pair waited on the corner of a busy street, and when the pedestrian crossing’s green man appeared, the dog knew it was time, following his owner without a word of instruction. Both made it across the street without a scratch.

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Photo: Barbora KmentováPhoto: Barbora Kmentová Had my previous expectations been met, the dog would have darted senselessly into the middle of traffic and met a very unfortunate end. Strangely enough, I had never seen such a well-behaved and independent pet. I soon learned that this was the case with most of the dogs of Prague, a rare breed of obedient pets I have never before come into contact with.

My second shocking experience happened when I was eating dinner at a local restaurant and felt something tickling at my feet. I looked down to find a puppy, clearly belonging to the woman at the table beside me. She picked the pup up, stuffed it in her bag, and continued on with her meal as if there was nothing unusual. I shortly discovered that this indeed was nothing out of the ordinary. The dog sat quietly and happily, never once whimpering or begging for food. Had this experience happened somewhere in my hometown, the restaurant would have been shut down before it had a chance to serve its first meal.

Simply put, the dogs here are different. They are trusted to walk by themselves, to accompany their owners on a dinner date and sometimes, even shop alongside them. I have seen more dogs walking freely than those constrained to a leash. They are polite, they don’t bark and they seem to always follow the rules. I would argue that they could possibly exhibit better behavior than some people I know.

Perhaps this special behavior comes from the city’s tolerance of them and their permission in various establishments. As mentioned before, it is not unusual to find dogs in public places like trams, grocery stores, restaurants and of course, walking the streets. They are very accepted among the community and are a part of daily life. Unlike other pets, they are able to enjoy life alongside their owners, serving as true companions. However, the companionship of a dog at all times does come with a price. If the dog doesn’t fit in a bag, it requires a reduce-priced transportation ticket and a muzzle. It is suggested to disguise the dog as a baby and wheel it around in a carriage to avoid this fee.

Living in such a dog-friendly city has been a treat, since I was never able to have one of my own due to my mother’s allergies. While I do seem to see more small dogs than big ones, they come in all sizes and colors, and I find myself increasingly impressed with their manners. I sometimes wonder – if I took one to dinner, would their table etiquette too, be up to par? I wouldn’t be surprised if they could use a fork and knife more glamorously than myself.

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