I once lived in Paris for a couple of years and found myself squealing "merde," in the literal sense upon almost placing kitten heels in dog excrement. Parisians don’t give a damn about cleaning up after their dogs, something which bemused and annoyed me after living in the relatively turd-free streets of London- the city of dog-lovers.
However, I do not understand the fascist attitudes that Reykjavík citizens hold for man’s best friend. The ban on dog ownership was lifted only a couple of years ago, and even so, dogs are banned from almost every street in the city. If you own a dog, you have to make sure that you drive your dog up to speficically designed dumping grounds.
Dogs, to an Icelander, are an integral part of country life, and no farm is complete without a couple of bounding, happy sheepdogs, But take a dog to the city, and somehow you’re imparting a large dose of animal cruelty. According to most of the population, dogs should not inhabit apartment buildings nor be seen parading on shopping streets.
I don’t have a dog, so I don’t have a problem. But I’ve been watching the progress of a friend who moved here from Paris and imported her cute Alsatian/ Irish sheepdog mutt. Besides costing an arm and a leg, the poor animal was shipped to a far away island in the north for a few weeks of quarantine.
Fair enough, Iceland has never had a single case of rabies and we have to protect our fragile shores. But then, she discovered, she couldn’t go anywhere with her dog. Used to bringing her dog to cafés and restaurants in Paris she found herself ejected every single time when trying the same thing in Reykjavík.
On several occasions I watched as a panicking waiter ushered her out in the street, and one particularly snotty one threatened to call immigration (whether it was for the dog or her, I’m not sure). On several occasions people stared incredulusly asking, "Is that a dog? " as if she had brought a lion into our midsts.
These occurances amused me, that is, until she asked me to look after her dog last weekend. This of course brought great joy to my two small children, but I went undercover.I found myself skulking around with it, rushing out of the apartment building, avoiding security cameras and any frowning neighbours, avoiding the commonly walked streets, avoiding shops and avoiding cafés.
For two days, all went well, until last night the dog couldn’t retain itself on walking out the door and peed in the garden outside my building. A big, middle-aged lady shouted at me very rudely, " ARE YOU PICKING THAT UP ??!!!"
I stared at a small frozen yellow puddle in the snow and politely replied that it was pee and difficult to clean up. The woman stared at me in angry astonishment and asked me if I lived there. I nodded and pointed to the next building. " NOT WITH... THAT THING ? !!!!!" she shouted.
I tried to explain that the dog was only a brief visitor, but this well dressed lady had turned into evil witch from hell and unleashed a torrent of the rudest dialogue I’ve heard in a very long while. I tried to disappear, and failing that, I walked away, very very quietly.
I later sent my friend a text message telling her I would probably be handed a lawsuit soon by an angry neighbour. My response ? "YOU SHOULD HAVE TOLD DOG TO BITE THIS EVEEL BITCH WOMAN "