Sunday 25 June 2017

Dog-friendly facilities could fetch tourism out of the ruff

Let's make Ireland a place where people can have a wonderful holiday with their pets, says Louis Jacob

Recently a storm of indignation has been brewing in London due to the fact that certain Muslim bus drivers have objected to allowing guide-dogs on board, stating Sharia law as religious grounds for refusal.

It's infuriating stuff I know. It really is beyond every stretch of the imagination. The question "where are we going?" springs instantly to mind. But on another level, it does make me question the grounds on which more than half of the bars (and all of the restaurants) in Ireland refuse entry to people with dogs, because as far I know, Sharia law has yet to really take off in this country. So what is it? What is it that we have against the canine population?

I have asked a few people about this and the answer I usually get amounts to little more than: "yera, they're dirty little things" or alternatively: "they're dangerous feckers"

If this is true, one would have to wonder why it is that according to research carried out by UCD a few years ago, 36 per cent of homes in Ireland keep a dog (a figure which I'm fairly sure has risen since.) Maybe the truth is that only other peoples' dogs are flea-ridden and rabid?

With that in mind, here are five very interesting facts about dog ownership I got from buzzle.com:

1. Dog owners have lower blood pressure. Several studies have shown that the simple act of stroking a dog can reduce blood pressure.

2. Dog owners have lower cholesterol levels than non-dog owners. Studies done in Australia and England have shown that dog owners have lower cholesterol and triglycerides and are at less risk of developing heart disease or other cardiovascular problems

3. Dog owners are happier in general. Dog ownership has been shown to reduce loneliness and fight depression in their owners.

4. Dog owners live longer. Because dog owners cope with stress better and do not suffer from depression as often; they are more likely to live longer.

5. Dog owners have higher survival rates after serious illness. Some studies have shown that heart attack patients with dogs are twice as likely to be alive one year after their heart attack than their non-dog owning peers.

My physician recently told me it is now accepted medical wisdom, that children who grow up with dogs in the house are far less likely to pick up viruses when they are older, because their immune systems are better developed.

All of the above are facts. That dogs are dirty is not a fact -- it is a mythology. They don't call them man's best friend for nothing.

There's a truly great family bar called Lolek in the Pole Mokotowski park in Warsaw, where they have the dog-friendly thing down to a tee. They bring water in bowls without being asked to and they are openly affectionate to the dogs.

It's a cracking place for adults and kids too. The atmosphere is absolutely magical, easy and so beautifully chilled out. And guess what? They serve food, and lots of it.

Now, coming from a catering background myself, I recently felt compelled to ask the manager if they have ever had any food-poisoning issues. He practically laughed in my face. The truth is they have been operating for 12 years and, on any given summer's day, they have two or three hundred hounds of all sizes and denominations passing through the place, and they've never had a single complaint--- not one.

Needless to say, the dogs are required to be leashed and behaved. These are what I call proper rules, ones which actually work with the situation as it is. It's called dealing with the actual reality of something, not with an irrational phobia or stereotype. If the dog misbehaves, it goes.

It isn't that complicated.

So here's what I propose: Let's cop ourselves on and stop immersing ourselves in this prehistoric mythology of the dirty and dangerous rabies ridden flea-bag. Let's begin to sell Ireland as an honestly dog-friendly country where people can come and have a truly wonderful holiday with their beloved pooches. You can take it from me: People who travel with dogs are dog-lovers and dog-lovers are always responsible and don't tend to run with badly-behaved mutts.

All we have to do are set down a few very simple ground rules. The dogs must be clean. The dogs must behave. The dogs must stay on a leash. Otherwise, they're out. It really is so very simple. So who will take the lead?

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