Duane Hoffmann / MSNBC
By
msnbc.com
updated 7/28/2006 4:42:08 PM ET 2006-07-28T20:42:08

At a recent New York City art gallery exhibition, Harry Johnston brought an uninvited guest: Sally, his boisterous golden retriever. While the gallery owner was introducing the artist, the canine party crasher climbed on the buffet table and gobbled up the seafood canapes and sandwiches, leaving behind only the vegetables crudites for the rest of the guests.

Johnston, who drags his tail-wagging "soul mate" to dinner parties, client meetings and even formal events, oblivious to the grumbles and complaints, was unfazed when the angry owner banned Sally permanently from the gallery.

“There are plenty of other art galleries in the city," he remarked to a friend.

With more owners dragging their four-legged babies everywhere they go, into movie theaters, crowded planes and stores otherwise off-limits to animals, it seems like we've gone barking-mad over our pets.

If cell phone addicts yakking nonstop in restaurants wasn't bad enough, in cities like Chicago pet lovers have succeeded in passing ordinances that would allow dogs to accompany their owners in outdoor areas of restaurants, despite the objections of diners who might want to enjoy a fur-free meal. In Florida, a new law lets every city in the state opt to allow doggie dining.

In New York restaurateurs reportedly are growling about an increasing number of diners who claim their dogs are needed to provide emotional support, taking advantage of laws meant to assist the disabled. Meanwhile, landlords of apartments buildings with no-pet policies are coping with court decisions backing owners who demand the right to keep their animals for emotional reasons.

A real service dog such as a guide dog is highly trained to do specific tasks for the blind or disabled. Undoubtedly, an animal who provides emotional security can help an anxious person cope with troubling situations which would be difficult to negotiate alone.

"However, that's not to be confused with ‘yuppie’ emotional support in which the underlying motivation, conscious or otherwise, is entitlement and repressed arrogance," says New York psychologist Dr. Joel Gavriele-Gold, author of "When Pets Come Between Partners."

Pack mentality
Along with the built-in sense of entitlement, it comes down to a "control issue," he says. "There’s a built-in sense of entitlement in bringing either kids or dogs to functions when their names don’t appear on the invitation."

For some of these people, it's just out of control.

A New York man recently sued for the right to bring his rat terrier on a nude beach , claiming the animal is a "service dog."

Blue Roses, left, and Hal nearly caused a disaster during their owner's company party.

According to animal communicator Dr. Monica Diedrich, of Anaheim, Calif., many of her doggy clients have confided that they would love to go everywhere with their owners.

“That’s their pack mentality,” explains Diedrich. “But some people have no boundaries and don’t understand that bringing your precious pet uninvited is a violation of someone else’s comfort zone.”

It's one thing if it's a miniature pup tucked inside a designer bag, but big breeds can wreck havoc if not kept on a short leash.

“We sneak our Pomeranian Zulu in to movies,” confides Deann Zampelli, a Los Angeles doggy bag designer. “He knows when to hold it in and not pee. He even makes it through long films. Wherever we go, people just think he’s cute.”

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However, it wasn't so cute when a large dog crashed a posh English tea party at a Bel Air, Calif., estate with his invited owner, a well-respected lawyer. While the invited guests made small talk, the canine attacked the lavish spread, polishing off the cucumber sandwiches and cheesecake before lapping up milk from the milk jugs.

"Bringing the dog was plain bad manners and then to  let it run amok," sniffed the disdainful hostess, who asked that her name not be used for fear of dog-lover backlash.

Patti Neff of Seattle stopped bringing her dogs, Hal and Blue Roses to other people's homes after a disaster at the house of one of her company's executives during the annual company picnic. The large mutts terrorized the cat of one of her company's executives and muddied the newly renovated countertop in their kitchen while searching for snacks.

"We've never seen the couple again socially," she sighs.

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