Tuesday, April 26, 2011

We Love Your Dog!

The signs of the city can tell you a lot about what's happening socially. About a decade ago, we started seeing "Shut Up" signs all over the place. Clearly, they were necessary, and so we must assume that people needed to be told to shut up because they were getting louder and louder, caring less and less about their impact on others.

There's another breed of sign that's been cropping up everywhere more recently. It's the "We Love Your Dog" sign. It might also be the "We Love Your Baby" or "We Love You and Your Laptop" sign, but most often it has to do with dogs. ("Pets" really means dogs, since cat people don't usually bring Fluffy on errands.)

Years ago, businesses that sold food had signs on the door that said "No Dogs Allowed." Simple, straightforward, unassailable.

But today, more and more, they say something along the lines of: "We love your dog! Unfortunately, the big bad laws of the land say we can't let your dog inside. Please don't get mad at us--it's not our fault! To placate you and contain your narcissistic rage, here's a bowl of water and some treats. Really, truly, we LOVE your dog. Please don't get mad." (I am paraphrasing.)

You see these signs everywhere--I've collected quite a few--on the doors of big chain stores and little coffee shops. On grocery stores and Chinese restaurants. Many of them come with pictures of cute dogs. See? We really, really like them! (Please don't get mad.)

"Love" is the operative word here. The signs typically say we "love" your dog, pets, etc. Not: we're tolerant, or we don't mind, but we LOVE. The message is: We're not "haters" filled with negativity.

The signs almost always say "your" dog/pets. We love YOUR dog, not dogs in general. "We love dogs" could actually be true, but "We love your dog" is almost impossible. "We don't know your dog, so how could we love it," would be more accurate. But the words "you" and "your" have taken over marketing. They make people feel special, so there it is, the appeasing "your."

And then comes the turn, usually in the form of the word "unfortunately." It has a stammering quality, like a big gulp before the delivery of bad news you're afraid will get you slapped in the face. Don't upset the dog owner!

In this climate, some businesses just want to be the good guy. Like Ricky's, where they don't sell food, and so can allow pets. They make the most of it with this sign, basically saying, "Hey, we're not dog-hating jerks like a lot of other people in this neighborhood. We're cool."

So what are these signs telling us about human interactions in the city today?

It seems obvious that they are revealing a trend: Entitled people with dogs are getting very upset when they walk into a food establishment with their pet and are asked to take the animal outside. Maybe the dog person throws a fit. Maybe they go home and attack the business on their blog or give them a scathing review on Yelp. This happens frequently enough, and causes enough disruption, that the business has been forced to put up an ass-kissing sign.

We see a variation of the sign, though less frequently, with babies and strollers. "We really love your baby" they say, but the fire code says we can't have strollers in here. Again, the subtext is: "Please don't blame us! Please don't get angry! It's not our fault! Blame the government. We are not baby haters."

With good reason they cover their asses--we know what the stroller brigade did to the anti-babies in bars people.

But one of my absolute favorites in this genre of signage comes from a popular coffee shop in Park Slope, the New York neighborhood that is perhaps the epicenter of entitlement, and home to many dogs and strollers. It's a very long, funny, ass-kissing, walk-on-eggshells explanation about why they don't want customers hanging out for hours on their laptops, and it begins, "We're absolutely thrilled that you like us so much that you want to spend the day...and we love having you here, believe you me!"

It goes on to apologize in advance for having to "say something" to people who don't follow the rules, and "we really dislike that sort of thing, it is so not 'us' and makes everyone uneasy." Once again, the message is: Please don't make us be bad guys.

There's something pathetically simpering about all these signs. When did businesses get so afraid to be the heavy? It's like the Mom or Dad who wants to be pals and buddies with their children, rather than the authority figures who say what's what. In fact, I'm inclined to blame those Moms and Dads for the behaviors that led to the necessity for these signs.

Finally, here's how it should be done. This sign--in parent-coddling Park Slope, no less--is not afraid to assert itself and tell it like it is. "This is a doctors office, not a playground!!" But maybe you have to be a needle-wielding M.D. to get away with that?


  1. Great collection. And I think you're right: the doctor's office has more leeway. Business owners don't want to end up being flamed on local boards or derided on local blogs, so they let everyone know they, and their chosen companions, are loved.

    I like your "Post a Comment" note; it fits right in with this posting.

  2. maybe it should start with "I love your comments, unfortunately..."

  3. A dog is a dog is a dog. Not your baby, not your daughter, not your son. A dog. So all you faux New Yorkers, get over yourselves and business owners, grow a pair.

  4. I love the Doctor's Office sign, but unfortunately they spelled children wrong.

  5. Hi Grumbler,

    Yeah, I noticed this recently as well. A certain kind of upper middle class person really demands this kind of smarmy niceness. Possibly the recession is a part of it. Even in well-off areas, business owners must be feeling the pinch, and very wary of alienating whatever customers they have, whatever their ilk. A little sad that people feel the need to be catered to like this though . . .


  6. Nice article! Well, I've been going to the same cafe for years. And I've seen over and over how abusive dog owners can be of the guy who runs this cafe. ("Whaddya mean I can't bring in MY dog?" "I'll only be here a minute, I'm just getting a damn coffee!" etc.) This guy has done everything possible to accommodate the dogs outside—but the fact is, he can get a violation from the Health Department (and did eight years ago) if they spot someone with a dog inside. The dog owners just heap abuse on him when he or his staff ask them to take the dog outside. They could not care less about others—it's all about the dog.

    Meanwhile, I've seen dog owners take their dogs in to chain stores like CVS and Duane Reade, which prominently post the signs on the outside doors. The staff don't even bother to say anything because they know they will be berated, and earning minimum wage there isn't worth the fight.

  7. Nice post and great collection of signs. I love the Doctor's sign! I'd really like to see a "We love your dog, he tasted like chicken" sign on a store.

  8. There's enough contempt in this post to fill a pool. Fantastic.

    I share your contempt, times ten.

  9. The "no stroller due to fire code" sign has driven me crazy for years. It is from a luggage store on Broadway. It's such a blatant lie. I once asked a fireman about it and he didn't know what I was talking about.

  10. Not two days ago I had a woman scream at me because I wouldn't help her find a place to charge her phone. I said "No, Ma'am, this is a store--you need to charge your phone at home."

    What the hell is wrong with people?

  11. somehow, i never tire of hearing stories about entitled dog owners (and stroller pushers, and cell-phone junkies) in stores and restaurants. it always enthralls me. more, more!

  12. this is more politically correct repressive dishonest speech. "swarmy niceness" says it all. its patronizing. "we love dogs", is enough. lets not get so up close & personal about it. OK???

  13. I blame the entitled Paris Hilton masses and their teacup dogs they keep in their handbags for this odd behavior.

    Born and raised in NY throughout the crudy 70's, I've been a full-time downtown dweller most of my life and only recently became a part-time NYC resident - I have never, in all my years, attempted to bring my dogs into an establishment that wasn't a vet's office, or a pet related store.

    The only time I've ever been out dining with my pooches is if we're sitting on a park bench sharing a dirty water dog or a semisoft pretzel.

    I love my dogs, like people love their human children. Really. The sad thing is that I have to tolerate ill behaved children when I'm having quiet brunch with my husband. But I'd never expect other people to have to tolerate my pooches. C'est la vie.


  14. This might be because that "No dogs allowed" signs are so commonplace that they are easily ignored. While a big image of a sweet cute puppy accompanied by a message about loving your dog sticks with you. Or rather, it sticks with you the first time. The first time I saw a sign like that, I thought it was clever. But now that EVERY shop has one it's back to being commonplace again.

    I always open the door and ask a staff person if I can bring my dog in. It's just common courtesy.

  15. Unfortunately, even these signs don't work. Here in California, apparently, people can designate ANY animal a service animal ("I'm bi-polar and he keeps me calm") and bring it into a store.

    Instead of these signs, all we really need is a good dose of common sense. I was in a supermarket recently and saw a woman and her son. On her son's shoulder was his PET RAT.

  16. Great post. It's the coy, cute cheeriness of the signs - sickening. Once in a store (yes, it had to be Park Slope), after I bought something, the woman gave me my change, beamed, & said, "And I hope this is the happiest day of your life!" I wanted to choke her.

  17. I'm sick to death of people allowing their slobbering dogs to run up and jump all over you while they say "don't worry, he loves people". Well, not everyone loves dogs. I like them, grew up with them, but we never brought our dog to a restaurant or bar or store for crying out loud.

  18. Great post, very perceptive. If it really is the case, it sucks that our economy is such that business owners feel they have to suck up to their customers, most of all the ones who can't come to terms with basic health codes.

  19. Though the Doctor's Office sign spelled wrong, I still love them:)

  20. LOVE, love, love this blog. I live in Boston's South End (the "Coach Bag District," as I call it) in a "dog-friendly" building, which is actually dog-obsessed. I think I'm the only non-dog owner.

    We have very clear instructions that dogs are supposed to take the service (freight) elevator, yet almost no one pays attnetion to this rule. I cannot tell you how many times I have been slobbered on, licked, drooled upon by someone's filthy dog - esp. when I'm all dressed up. The owners, in their narcissitic haze, looking up from testing, think its sooooo cute!

    Additionally, we live right next door to the planet's most fabulous dog park. At a cost of almost 1/2 a million, local donors paid for this ridiculousness while local schools and playgrounds (attended by those poor local minorities and not the ocupants of the triple strollers) fall into disrepair because of local funds. Priorities, priorities.

    Now I know why all the local businesses provide water bowls, dog treat, dog toys, etc. Its to placate the latte-sipping dog "parents" who would otherwise wreak havoc on the business.

    My question is this: Why aren't the dog bakeries in my neighborhood (yes, we have more dog bakeries than human bakeries here) leaving human treats outside their doors?

    I've been known to kick over a doggie bowl of water or a bowl of "treats" at these establishments, and I encourage everyone to do the same. These businesses shouldn't have to be so pussy-whipped. Or is it doggie-whipped?

  21. people are sickening. J, are you still doing this blog?

  22. Why should businesses suck up to their customers on a valid point of principle; that dogs are simply unhygienic for a restaurant environment where people with differing views and opinions will meet to eat food and probably all agree unanimously that IF they are paying they will want to eat their food in a fabulously clean and relaxed environment and not go home possibly to regurgitate their meal and then have a doctors note for food poisoning or a bad reaction to allergy or flea bites.

    Man-Up restaurants!! If somebody decides to pan you on TA or someother social network for not letting their beloved pooch in well GREAT at least they are spreading the word that you dont take dogs.....and save you the grief of having to reject as many who perhaps read it and now know better!!! VOILA AN ACTUAL USE OF TRIP ADVISOR!!!! HURRAH


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