Before you start thinking that my dog’s won the lottery, packed his bags and traded in his humdrum suburban existence for the wild night life of Ibiza, a Spanish Island and tourist Mecca; Ibiza is also a cafe in Avalon Beach on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
For us, taking our Border Collie, Bilbo, to a cafe was almost as exciting as an international adventure because we’ve never taken him to a cafe before. He’s uninitiated.
To be honest, prior to these school holidays, I’d never thought of taking Bilbo to a cafe.
Although I’m very much a dog person and absolutely adore my dog, taking the dog to a cafe seemed rather crazy. After all, I go to a cafe to chat with friends or to do some writing and dogs are a bit like children…a potential liability. There’s a time and place for the kids and the dog and when I’m at a cafe, I just want to chill out without worrying about who’s doing what. I have spent too many years hiding from my kids in cafes while they’re swinging from the light fittings sucking on those little sachets of sugar and transforming from “Mummies little angels” into humiliating “little devils”. Now that they’ve matured, I don’t need any fresh liabilities. No, I just want to crank up my sagging energy levels with the next best thing to an intravenous caffeine boost and usually chat with my friends until all our ears have fallen off.
However, we’ve been spending the school holidays in Pittwater. While I’ve been into Avalon on various expeditions, I’ve particularly been struck by the incredible number of dogs hanging out in cafes. These cafe dogs have all been very well behaved. They just sit outside by their owner’s feet and don’t cause any trouble at all. They certainly don’t start barking ferociously, knocking down tables and sending cafe staff skywards when they see another dog, although their owners are probably thankful that there aren’t any cats about!
Taking your dog to the cafe in Avalon is almost de rigeur, much the same way Parisians are known for their love affairs with their beloved and very spoilt chiens. These exceptionally pampered pooches even travel inside spectacularly expensive, flashy leather handbags and are often treated even better than children.
As far as Avalon dogs are concerned, I initially saw a preponderance of what could be described as a golden spoodle or perhaps they’re cavoodles. They’re definitely an “oodle” dog of some description. In this instance, the result is a spaniel-sized dog with a curly, light golden coat. They’re gorgeous looking dogs and initially, I desperately wanted one until we saw them en masse and suspected there’s some sort of covert cloning operation down by the waterfront. However, subsequent trips into Avalon have shown a much-broader cross-section of dogs and they haven’t all been designer breeds either. I even spotted a Border Collie in a cafe last week.
Spotting that Border Collie, started turning a few rusty cogs in my brain. I know Bilbo isn’t exactly a salon dog but I started to wonder whether he too could become a cafe dog…!
I wanted to find out.
Hanging out in cafes is quite a lifestyle shift for our Bilbo who is “a bit of a rugged character”. He’s a gorgeous looking dog but he’s a bit rough around the edges, especially after running through the mudflats of Pittwater this afternoon. Bilbo has never seen the inside of a dog salon either. That is unless you count his one encounter with the mobile dog groomer who gave him a rather image-shattering No. 1 two summers ago. The poor dog emerged looking like a totally different dog and even changed colour. Instead of his beautiful, tailor-made black and white tuxedo, he was short-haired and smoky grey. I think he wanted to cry or even bite himself not knowing who he was.
But this clip wasn’t the sort of full puppy pamper treatment some of these canine high flyers enjoy. There was no sweet smelling powder for Bilbo and he was probably thankful too. He’d be just the sort of mutt who’d have to roll in some very dead animal to get rid of a pretty smell.
There were other concerns as well about how Bilbo would go at a cafe.
While he looks perfectly harmless, Bilbo doesn’t always cope well when people visit our house and isn’t exactly what I call friendly. A friend has been giving the kids lifts to school all year and every time she turns up, the dog barks like fury and he just can’t seem to handle her taking the kids away. It also takes him quite awhile to warm up to even regular visitors to our home, except for my mum, of course. She has been feeding him ham scraps even since he was a pup and he always looks forward to sniffing “Grandma’s Hambag”.
Consequently, although Bilbo is largely very placid and happy to go to sleep, he does have “issues” and despite being well-trained, a trouble-free visit to the cafe could not be guaranteed. Taking Bilbo cafe involved the unpredictable unknown.
While I had thought about taking Bilbo to the cafe by myself, I recruited Geoff in case and by the time we’d been for our walk, the kids were on their way home so the whole family accompanied the dog to the cafe.
By the time we arrived in Avalon, it was getting dark and all of the other cafe dogs had gone home. There was just the odd dog walking passed on the other side of the road. That’s all. We didn’t get to find out how Bilbo would behave around other dogs in the cafe setting.
Bilbo’s first trip to the cafe was a bit of an anti-climax. He just sat quietly by our feet enjoying a bit of a pat.
Geoff and I loved our Hot Vienna Chocolates with marshmallows. They were served very elegantly in a tall glass with a handle. The kids had banana milkshakes.
Bilbo was also taken care of. While there weren’t any dog-a-chinos on the menu, Cafe Ibiza takes particular care of its dog clientele and provides a bowl of water on the footpath. Avalon seems to be very community-minded and thoughtful like this in general.
However, although you can lead a dog to water, you can’t make him drink. Bilbo was too busy sniffing other dog smells on the adjacent tree. Parenting of both children and dogs doesn’t always go to plan!
Being a Border Collie, Bilbo is particularly smart and understands words we’ve never taught him so I can’t help wondering whether he could read “Ibiza” on the water bowl and fancied that he was in Spain. Of course, he didn’t care where he was as long as he was with us.
Although, given all the dog scents around Avalon, Bilbo knew he was in doggy heaven. He’s never been on such a sniff-fest in all his life. Nose to the ground, it was a struggle to get him moving and to remind him that life wasn’t just about the journey. That you are actually meant to reach your destination.
While on the subject of destinations, our cafe visit had an unexpected twist. While we all went to the cafe as a family together to be a part of Bilbo’s first cafe visit, we also had a great time connecting ourselves and I guess doing what has become dubbed: “quality time”. The kids were being cheeky trying to drink our hot chocolates, resulting in a bit of a tickle, some hugs and, as usual, Mummy turning into the paparazzi.
I should point out that while we were sitting outside with the dog, Cafe Ibiza had a very enticing open fire going inside and a wonderful ambiance. I was also quite touched that when I went in for a Hot Chocolate yesterday, that the owner recognised me after more than ten years and was particularly helpful when we popped by today offering colouring in books and pencils to keep the kids occupied. We will have to come back for dinner some time soon.
Have you ever taken your pet to a cafe and how did it go?
I look forward to hearing from you!