Pubs: Dog Days
Any chance of a pork scratching? Photograph: Sean Smith
Over in G2 today, Zoe Williams has done a great piece on pubs that welcome her dog, Spot - a service to dogs and their owners everywhere. Who knew there were so many?
I'm not really a dog person ... in fact I'm barely an animal person. Species I don't eat and I'm not in some way allergic to, either bewilder or terrify me. But reading about all these cheery dog-friendly boozers has helped me realise that I've got no problems with animals in pubs. I don't, for example, object to the huge pit-bull in the corner of my local, accessorising the bloke who looks like a Dickensian prize fighter but is, in fact, a peaceable hair stylist with a penchant for restraints.
When I'm occasionally forced into the country I don't object to the odd labrador steaming by the fire and adding to the miasma of damp tweed and old wellies. In fact, I'm very sanguine about dogs, as long as they don't come up and lick me uninvited - which, to be fair, is what I'd say about humans too.
But there does seem to be an informal yet somehow generally accepted league table of the annoyances that you can and can't bring into a pub. Places that would welcome an irritatingly boisterous puppy, for example are seldom as easygoing about kids.
As he sat me outside the pub with a packet of crisps and a glass of warm lemonade, my father would explain that people went to pubs to get away from their kids, reiterating the dearly held notion of the bar as sanctuary - in fact it's not that long ago that many pubs had a lounge bar where women were welcomed and a saloon bar where they definitely weren't.
Fortunately those days are gone - Though Gordon Ramsay's latest venture 'The Duke of Albany' in Camden Town will apparently feature 'a traditional gentleman's bar'. We have to assume that head chef Angela Hartnett won't be enforcing any kind of 'men only' rule.
Discriminating by gender in pubs is clearly ludicrous today but discriminating by age (for entry if not for drinking) is still debatable. If you can argue that a pub is place where we go to congenially rub along with our fellow humans, it seems strange to keep out our own young while welcoming an entirely different species. Why stop at dogs? "Excuse me landlord, would you object terribly if I brought in my cobras?"
No, I'm happy with all genders and ages of humans and the more manageable of their domestic animals but, while we're wishing, I'd love to make a few other exclusions. I can't, for instance, work out when bars became the natural home for watching sport. I understand sport less than I understand dogs, but I believe it's about running around after things and pubs are now, apparently, the place to go if you want to watch people doing this on a television. Bringing an entirely incontinent dog or child into a pub seems to me far less anti-social than bringing in 20 of your mates to get pissed and shout at the telly.
That aside, where's your favourite dog-friendly boozer, and what makes it special?