Why This Veterinarian Keeps Her Dogs Out Of the Public Eye

Dr. Patty Khuly

Taking Pets in Public

At the present, I have five gorgeous dogs who love nothing better than to climb into the car, get strapped into their seats, and feel the wind blow back their ears. When faced with the alternative (laying in a patch of sunlight on a tile floor while mom makes her rounds), who wouldn’t?

My three guys and two girls include one adorable French Bulldog, an outgoing Min-Pin, an older English Bulldog (a foster, in case you’re interested), one exuberant Belgian Malinois pup and a goofy-looking Pug. They’re wonderfully sociable and they love public excursions.

Trouble is, I have a thing about taking my dogs out in public. Sure, I’ll take them to work, their favorite daycare place, the indoor training facility, and to the house we rent down in Islamorada every year, but I usually shy away from taking them to the standard chi-chi doggie spots in South Beach or Coconut Grove.

It’s not that I don’t ever take them to fun public places. In fact, my Malinois (Violet) has been coming out a lot since she’s been in training. And I’ll occasionally take my Frenchie (Vincent) to brunch with friends. Sitting in the well-ventilated shade with an ice water dish between his paws is one of his preferred indulgences. He enjoys the change of pace (along with the stray bits of pineapple I’ll sneak under the table).

It’s also not that they’re ill-behaved. In fact, were it not for Vincent’s deeply-held resentment against children of a certain age (if they stare at him), I’d say all my dogs were well-behaved in public. (And staring is rude, anyway.)

Still, in general, I’d rather not truck them out for all the world to see. Call it a pet peeve or call it a peccadillo, I should probably get over it. In any case, I should explain:

My dogs tend to get so much attention whenever they’re in public that I worry I’m sending the wrong message. My choice of dogs, after all, is by no means representative of what I’d recommend anyone adopt. More so seeing as “adopt” is what I do recommend. And being out in public with a quintet of problem purebreds doesn’t exactly send that message, does it?

After all, I “acquired” all these guys as rescues. They were either discarded, too expensively diseased to be “adoptable,” or on “doggie death row” due to behavioral issues.

Given their humble beginnings, you’d think they deserve a special degree of adulation. And they absolutely do. But here’s the part that gets me:

Gaston (Min-Pin): His ears are cropped and his tail is docked. And the permanent head tilt everyone loves so much? It’s because of his head trauma. "Yeah, to get one just like this you kind of have to cut up his head and his backside and hit him hard in the noggin with an automobile."

Because people ask, you know? They want one just like him. Head tilt, croppy-dockies and all. Okay, so they could dispense with the dry eye he also acquired from his blow to the brain, but that’s easily overlooked…

Vincent (Frenchie): "I’ve always wanted one! Where did you get him? My friend just got one from Romania. Isn’t that cool?" Um, no. Which is when I have to explain that unless you can shoulder an extra ten or twenty grand during his lifetime — or purchase an insurance policy — you really shouldn’t own one. And that for every imported dog, there are two back home who live in puppy mill conditions and one or two in the litter who died along the way because they were shipped at five weeks.

But that sounds so mean, you know? And how about all the people who just look and get the impression that Vincent is the healthiest dog on the planet despite his two spinal surgeries, one cleft palate surgery, one soft palate resection (another on the way) and my constant battle with his allergic skin disease and impulse control disorder. Prozac, anyone?

Slumdog (Pug): He’s unlikeliest to get the attention he deserves. That’s because he’s so strange-looking that the commonest question is, "What IS he?" And what can I say? Puggle gone wrong? Puppy mill disaster? Who knows? At least no one wants one just like him. He is, however, the least well-mannered, so he’s also the least likely to get out for brunch at a nice restaurant.

Now all this may sound like I’m being uncharitable towards the bulk of friendly, dog-loving humanity everywhere (I mean, who can resist the cuteness of a small pack of young dogdom?), but I swear it’s not that. I do love that people love them.

That is, unless I’m trying to write on my laptop or read a book. Dog or no, in public or not, to interrupt a quiet worker/reader is rude, IMO. Go ahead, call me a curmudgeon, but I only have so many hours in the day. If I want to interact, I know enough about body language to act receptive, and others should know enough about body language to leave someone alone when she obviously doesn’t want your company at this exact moment. But dogs somehow seem to give people license to ignore other social cues. (I get it, but I don’t have to like it.)

Sorry for the grumpy digression. In fact, this whole post is grumpy. Hmmm… Maybe I should crawl back into bed and start the day over again. But then again, perhaps I do have a point: Shouldn’t a veterinarian out in public strive to set a good example?

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