For the love of old dogs and new

Rituals, September

Neil Breen on how society has gone to the dogs

Many things struck me when I first moved to the Eastern Suburbs from Brisbane in 2003.

But one thing always stood out, and it made me realise how laidback the citizens of Sydney were compared with those of Brisbane.

I’d always been of the belief that Queenslanders were relaxed and went with the flow … because that’s what we always told ourselves. How wrong was I.

Back then I worked on the weekend and always had Thursdays off. So most weeks I would take our kelpie-cattle dog cross for a long walk.

One day I ended up in Steyne Park on the water at Double Bay. I walked down the jetty with Roxy the dog and the ferry came in.

As it was about to leave, a ferry hand shouted: “Are you getting on?”

I reply: “I can’t. I’ve got the dog.”

Worker: “That’s alright. But if she makes a mess it’s your problem, not ours.”



Next thing you know, the dog and I are on the ferry heading toward Watsons Bay.

We got out there, had fish and chips, strolled around and then got the ferry back.

Roxy and I did it many, many times, until my wife and I had kids and that lazy Thursday party ended abruptly.

I can tell you from experience that the chances of taking a dog on a ferry in Brisbane are zero. There’d be a near riot, a fine, public ridicule — you name it.

On the ferry in Sydney, no one batted an eyelid. In fact, most people stopped for a pat.

When we bought an apartment in Edgecliff, I wrote to the owners’ corporation informing them we owned a dog and wanted her, of course, to live in the apartment with us.

The chairman wrote back the most charming letter informing me Roxy would be most welcome in the building and they looked forward to meeting her. We lived there happily for five years.

It’s no surprise to me then that in recent years there has been an explosion of pubs, restaurants and cafes around Sydney that allow you to take your dog inside.

Dog-friendly is the new black. And I haven’t seen or heard a whinge.

In Brisbane, a dog in a pub or restaurant? Please …

It’s recognition that there has been a societal change in attitudes to dogs.

Back in the day, dogs lived outside. They don’t any more. Housing has become smaller and dogs are much more part of the family.

They watch TV with you, go on holidays, go everywhere. So why not come out to dinner?

There has also been a reduction in the amount of dangerous dogs kept as pets. Smaller breeds are in vogue.

Roxy, whom we got from the pound when she was eight weeks old, died at 17 in 2012.

I still miss her, and the adventures we had, dearly. How I’d love to be on a ferry to Watsons Bay with her now.

But in her place in our Paddington terrace is a Frussell — a Jack Russell/French Bulldog cross. A New Age dog for New Age times. I think I might take her out to dinner.