photos by Isabella Mohr
The first time I stepped on the back of a gondola was in 1993.
Back then we rarely had anyone ask if they could bring a dog on the boat.
Almost without fail we would say "no".
It was always in a nice way, but with the exception of seeing-eye dogs,
we upheld a no animals policy.
As I write this, it occurs to me that I've known many dogs who were more
well-behaved than people, and I've definitely had my share of passengers
who's behaviour wasn't fit to be compared with that of a noble dog.
It wasn't that we had anything against dogs, Heck, I worked with
sled dogs when I lived in Alaska - I love dogs.
This was just an issue of wear and tear - many of our boats at the time had varnished mahogony floors, which we worried about getting scratched.
While it wasn't often, people did ask, and it was usually a larger dog.
They weren't put off when we said their dog couldn't come, and that was that.
Well, times have changed.
In the past few years we've gotten more requests than we did twenty years ago. People were surprised that we said "no", and were either irritated or determined to change our minds on the subject.
We started asking about the dog:
How big? Is he or she well behaved? Is the dog house-trained?
After all, I can't have anyone (human or canine) peeing in my gondola.
I've also been seeing a lot more small dogs, even, dare I say "purse dogs" these days.
Our stance on dogs is beginning to change.
Of course it's in the interest of commerce, but also because I recognize a shift on a much deeper level:
Dogs are the new children.
It may be a bold statement, and I'm not sure I like or agree with it,
but more and more it is the case.
I could try to soften the statement by saying that "dogs are being welcomed more as true family members" but really, in many cases they are taking the place of children.
Fewer couples are having children early in marriage, choosing instead to add one or two dogs to the family. This seems to resonate with single women, career-minded double-income couples, and it's especially popular with couples who've moved in together, but not yet taken vows.
To a degree, the dog is a trial run at parenting.
A dog is also fun for young couples who are active and like to go running, hiking or camping.
We've had many clients express to us that "the marriage proposal just won't be the same" if their dog isn't there to be part of it.
I still have concerns about any of the breeds that are known for their slobbering, and really, I also think that any dog that is famous for jumping into the water to retrieve ducks could present some problems, but just like trucks - dogs sure seem to like getting out on the water in a boat.
I see them all the time on the harbor in private boats - most of the time they look like they're having more fun than the humans who brought them aboard.
So for these and many other reasons, it's my opinion that a gondola operator in this day and age must love dogs, or at least pretend to...might even want to invest in a nice dog-friendly rug for the floor of the boat, or at least assemble a collection of old towels to throw on the floorboards for those canine passengers.
I haven't opened it up for discussion here on the blog in a while,
but I'm curious to hear the thoughts and opinions of my fellow gondola operators and gondoliers.
What do you all think?
Do you love dogs?
Do you welcome them on board your boats?
Do you find it a relevant issue these days?
Here are a few interesting pieces on the subject:
More young women choosing dogs over motherhood
Dogs are the new kids
Dogs are the new kids - what's the cost of pampering your pooch?