It's a dog city.
The birds around me hopp'd and play'd,
Their thoughts I cannot measure,
But the least motion which they made
It seem'd a thrill of pleasure.
Now old Shep has gone where the good doggies go.
Everywhere in Victoria, people walk their dogs. There are even five dog patrol officers to make sure those dogs are licensed. Along parts of Dallas Road the dogs run free, prancing around and chasing each other, fetching balls, and having such fun. Some of them go down to the beach and dive in the sea and proudly swim to shore with a stick or even a small log in their mouths.
Religious sceptic and rational being though I am, evolution doesn't explain for me the ineffable joy these and other animals display as they bound about.
I don't think I've seen so many or such a variety of dogs in any other town.
I used to have a dog with a more outgoing personality than mine. Her name was Tia. Today, when I walk down the street by myself, few people stop and chat. Some even look the other way. But with my dog, it would take me some time just to walk just a few blocks down to the coffee shop. Everyone would stop to pat her. Teenagers would find her cute. Old ladies would tell me about the dog they had lost and we would share our stories.
The veranda of the Moka House on Cook Street was chockers with dogs having coffee with their companions. Big dogs, small dogs, a cross section of the canine kingdom from little lappies to lumbering labs. Tia was less friendly with members of her own species than with humans, so we often had to run the gauntlet to find a spot.
Tia loved the coffee shop. Even in her last days, she wanted to go down for a coffee. Truth to tell, she loved the scraps she would pick up off the floor. She would pull me down the hill in quick time, but on the way back she would take forever. Eventually, it became a one-way trip: I would have to arrange for us to be picked up in the car.
Really, the Moka House is somewhat shabby in appearance, dark inside and rather wooden without, a coffee shop from an earlier time. But the dogs give it colour and character, and you don't notice its dullness. Once, a health inspector banned the dogs from the veranda, and for several months afterwards it was barren and bare. Business dropped off by 25%. Apparently, the health inspector had responded to a complaint from a unsympathetic member of the public. Now who would be so miserable? Eventually reason prevailed, and the dogs came back. I hope the health inspector was reprimanded for not exercising discretion.
I still go to the Moka House from time to time, but it's not the same. I sit alone without a dog.