This article was first published on May 8, 2014 in The Bold Italic.
By Janine Kahn
Everybody has an opinion in San Francisco, whether it’s about increasingly inflated rents, the state of the N-Judah (go home, N, you’re drunk!), or the kind of citizen you are based on what’s on the other end of your leash.
I am admittedly one of those asshats who is judging you at the dog park (I can’t help it, my day job is running this pub about dogs), but that’s OK because I know you are judging me right back. Here, for your amusement or disdain, are the most common ways dog owners in our fair metropolis shame each other — either out loud or in the privacy of our judgy little minds.
1. Rescue Shaming
This one tops the list for a reason. It’s the most common, and seemingly innocuous of the bunch, and yet somehow the most obnoxious. When someone runs into Mr. Moxie and moi on the street, cocks a head and asks, “Is he a rescue?” I know they’re really asking, “Are you a good person?” And then I have to sadly inform them that I’m a horrible human being who did a ton of homework and sourced him from an incredibly reputable breeder five years back. And that I’ve got ample criteria to qualify exactly what that means.
2. Intact Dog Shaming
If you’ve got a dog with big, swinging testicles running around Lafayette Park, I’ve probably seen and judged you. Sorry. I don’t know what it is about dogs with balls that make me so angry inside. Maybe I immediately assume you’re a backyard breeder who isn’t registered with one of the prominent genetic databases that list pups who’ve been tested for the diseases their breeds are predisposed for. Or that you’re some musclehead who believes a neutered pet emasculates you by proxy. The benefits of spaying and neutering are well-documented, and the resources for each vast in this town, so… yeah.
3. Breed Shaming
Not all Italian Greyhounds are skittish. Not all Australian Cattle Dogs are crazy-eyed busybodies. Not all Pitties are rough and tumble. We cringe at the tiniest mention of racism in this town while managing to be fairly breedist, even in the face of a mutt (once we break down what breeds we think are lurking behind the furry facade and what that could mean for the beast, that is).
4. Dog + Person Stereotype Shaming
Similarly, we make a lot of assumptions about a person based on his or her pup. Are you a hipster if you’ve got a French Bulldog and don skinny jeans? Or high maintenance if you tote your Chinese Crested around in a purse? Once, upon learning that the buff young man I was conversing with at the Runway offices had Shih Tzus at home, I exclaimed, “I didn’t peg you for a Shih Tzu guy!” He was quick to blush and explain that they were his mom’s and that he was much more of a Bernese Mountain Dog kind of man. Sure, honey.
5. Size Shaming
I didn’t realize this was a thing until my friend brought home a Saint Bernard puppy. The woman cannot walk the dog a few feet from her Cole Valley apartment without somebody commenting that he must eat her out of house and home, or that she must live in a mansion or make a mint to justify owning such an enormous creature.
6. Training Shaming
Again, Lafayette Park regulars, if you’ve made the rounds with your pup wearing a shock or prong collar, I’ve probably judged you. I’m sure you have your reasons, but I’m always hoping the positive dog trainers who call this town home spot you and hand you their card.
7. Service Dog Shaming
This is a town where everything from a snarling Chihuahua to an iguana can be named a service animal. And while some argue that it’s a clever way to bypass the anti-pet rules set by strict landlords, it can hurt disabled folks with legitimate service dog needs just by leaving a bad taste in the mouths of owners of local establishments. We see you, chick with the poorly-trained Husky on the retractable leash at the farmer’s market. If you’re going to try and pass your dog off as a service creature, please at least try to make it of some service.