by Mike Todd
If you’re anything like me, sometimes you will find yourself in New York City with a dog in your purse, trying to take her into a fancy restaurant. You will think this is OK because the dog is wearing a pearl necklace and a pink lace gown, so it’s not underdressed, as so many dogs are.
“Please don’t go any further, sir. We could lose our license. Do you have papers for your dog?” the host asked me, stepping out from behind the podium.
I glanced at Coco, whose little white head poked up from the red purse slung over my shoulder.
“My dog?” I asked, as if the suggestion was absurd. I am a 37-year-old dude with a bald spot the size of a Doberman, not Paris Hilton. Can’t a guy carry a dog in a woman’s purse without everyone assuming it’s his? While the host’s assumption was understandable, he could have given me the benefit of the doubt, like the cashier when my wife Kara sends me to the store for wine coolers or feminine hygiene products.
But there I stood, in the foyer of Tavern on the Green in Central Park, trying to figure out what it means for a dog to have papers, and not being able to leave without somehow getting Coco past the bouncer.
We’d come to NYC for a small get-together of family of friends to celebrate the wedding of Kara’s friend, Isabel, to her new husband, Jim, in preparation for a larger celebration in Isabel’s native Spain next year.
Kara and I showed up to Isabel’s apartment early that afternoon to help. Well, Kara was there to help. My job was to keep Kara company and stay quiet, much like a dog in a purse. After they got done doing things I may never understand in the bathroom, Kara and I agreed to head over to the restaurant early to make sure it was all set up, while Isabel and Jim met a wedding photographer in Central Park.
“Oh, Mike, can you bring Coco to the restaurant, too?” Isabel asked on her way out.
When someone in a wedding dress asks you to do something, yours is not to question why. Yours is to do whatever you tell me, pretty drill sergeant.
I’d met Coco once before, on a prior visit. When not in the purse, that dog will trot at Isabel’s feet, without a leash, weaving around the foot traffic and actual traffic, shadowing Isabel’s movements like a fuzzy little fish. If we brought our dog Memphis to New York City and let her off leash, the over-under on her shuffling off this mortal coil would be about three minutes, if the first few cabs had good brakes.
Coco is far better at navigating New York City than I am. I have gotten parking tickets 100% of the times I’ve left my car curbside. If you find an empty parking spot in New York City, it is open because everyone but you understands why it’s illegal to park there.
The signs that explain the rules look like this: METERED PARKING EXCEPT COMMERCIAL VEHICLES AND CARS WITH TIRES, 10-MINUTE LIMIT FOR FIRST 3 HOURS, NO STANDING, NO EXCEPTIONS, EXCEPT ON DAYS WITH VOWELS, RUB YOUR HEAD, PAT YOUR TUMMY, HOW’S YOUR FATHER, VIOLATORS’ VEHICLES WILL BE VAPORIZED 3PM-6PM.
This is all a long way of explaining, of course, how I came to have all eyes in Tavern on the Green on me, the guy with the canine bridesmaid in a purse.
“Does Coco have papers? What kind of papers do dogs have?” I asked Kara.
“Yes; Coco is a real service dog. We have to go find Isabel to get the proof, though,” Kara replied.
We tracked Isabel down in Central Park and got the papers. Coco very much enjoyed sitting under the table for the celebration, which was a great success, as was my first experience bringing a doggie bag INTO a restaurant.
Ed. Note: In case you are wondering, as I was, if Coco is considered a service dog because he officiates at weddings, here is Mike Todd’s explanation: “It’s apparently quite easy to register a dog as a service dog, gaining it access to all sorts of fancy places from which it would otherwise be banned. I think the service Coco actually provides is helping Isabel deal with some anxiety issues — a fluffy kind of service but perhaps even legitimate … The ‘papers’ are actually just a card, the size of a driver’s license (with a picture and everything) that certifies the animal as a service animal.” We all have “anxiety issues” at times. Does that mean that our 16-year-old Maltese, Angel, is a service dog? She will be surprised to hear it.